Summary: God is liberal - and by that I mean generous, ample, extravagent in giving. Jesus told this parable ABOUT the crowd not TO the crowd. What is our response to the message of Jesus from the liberal God? What kind of soil are we?
God is liberal! God is not a Liberal Democrat, but God is liberal! God is not ’wishy-washy’, but God is liberal. God is incredibly generous and extravagant. God does not say, “Anything goes.” God is not that kind of liberal; but when the dictionary says ’abundant, ample, giving freely;[ and] generous’ that describes wonderfully our God who is liberal!
We continue our series ’Jesus the storyteller’; but one important difference about today’s story is that the emphasis is not so much on Jesus telling the story to the crowd of gathering people (8:4). The emphasis is more upon Jesus telling this parable about the crowd of people. Luke, the writer, says that ’while a large crowd was gathering ... [Jesus] told this parable’. So let’s not imagine a crowd of attentive people, but rather imagine Jesus primarily addressing his disciples, referring to the crowd who wanted to be near Jesus and were gathering and overhearing.
In Luke’s Gospel, as Jesus concludes this short parable - talking to his disciples about the crowd, we read this: ‘When [Jesus] said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”’ (8:8). In other words, to those of you who are listening carefully to the words of Jesus - hear them, receive them, seek to understand them, apply them, and live them out.
For us, this particular parable is also a bit different because in the Bible Jesus goes on to tell his disciples its meaning. Understandably, you might not think there is anything remarkable at all about that; but it is remarkable because so often Jesus told his parables and then left it up to people to think it through for themselves. Very rarely did Jesus tell a story and then go on to explain what it meant. His listeners were usually responsible for working out how to apply the parables; but on this occasion the disciples asked Jesus what the parable meant (8:9) and he told them (8:10 to 15).
As this was far more a parable about the crowd than to the crowd, it is also a parable about us, and about all who hear the Jesus-message. So, Jesus calls out to us: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”; “she who has ears to hear, let her hear” (8:8).
The seed is the Word of God (8:11). God’s message is being sown into our lives. Jesus was sowing liberally the message of God into the lives of many people - the crowd; just as he continues to sow seeds of good news into people’s lives today; and just as the church is called to generously sow good news into its local community. (More about the act of sowing, and the generosity of the sower of the seed in a moment)
Some seed falls upon a hardened path. Not concrete, but hardened worn-down earth. The message bounces off and gets gobbled up by the birds, representing the devil - the enemy of our souls who does not want the message to take root (8:12).
Have you become hardened or resistant to the message of Jesus? Has the message being gobbled up by the enemy of our souls?
Some seed fell on rocky ground. Plants were able to grow in between the rocks but due to a lack of soil and a lack of moisture they soon withered up; and they represent people who hear and received the good news of Jesus and believe for a while, but because they do not have strong roots they fall away and stop believing when life becomes hard. Perhaps illness, persecution, misunderstanding, bereavement or unemployment comes along and the believer either feels God has abandoned them, or decides that there must be no God, because surely God looks after those who believe in him; but churches that preach that sort of Gospel only preach half a message. Rocky ground represents the life of a ‘fair-weather’ believer who has little depth to their faith. How deep are your roots? Will you believe through tough times?
When your health fails, or friends desert you, when a family member or friend dies too young will you believe that God is with you? Life with Jesus comes with no guarantees about our personal safety in this life, but the benefits are literally out of this world!
Some seeds fall amongst thorns, representing people who hear and receive the message of Jesus, ‘but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature’ (8:14).
Are worries riches or pleasures ‘strangling’ your faith?
The seed that fell on good soil stands for those who hear the word of God, retain it, act on it, live it out, and by persevering produce a great crop. The seed grows into a fully grown plant and reproduces itself by enabling many other seeds to be sown (8:15). What type of soil are you?