Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke chapter 8, starting at verse 4.
“One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable…” Luke 8:4
Now we’re just going to stop right there. Before we go any further, we need to talk about this verse – specifically about this word “parable” that we just read. Now if you don’t speak Christian-ese, this word “parable” might seem a little foreign. It’s not really a common, everyday-language kind of word. The guys in the coffee shop don’t usually tell ‘parables’. But Jesus did. And lots of them. In fact the count in my Bible says that Jesus told 39 different parables in the books of Matthew, Mark, & Luke. And He probably told more that just weren’t recorded.
So what exactly is a parable? Simply speaking, a parable is really just a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. Jesus would tell a story about something very common like a farmer planting seeds – everybody in that time understood what that was all about – many of his listeners would have been farmers themselves, so they knew about planting seeds. But within that story of a farmer planting seeds, Jesus would have a hidden spiritual truth that would be illustrated by the characters and events that happen in the story.
You could almost think of a parable as a parallel. You know how parallel lines run directly beside each other? Well, the story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you could compare the two. In fact quite often Jesus would begin his parables by saying something like “The kingdom of heaven is like…. THIS” – then He would tell this story – drawing a parallel between the story and the spiritual truth about the Kingdom of heaven that He wanted His listeners to learn.
So when we read in Luke 8:4 that…. “One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable…” we know that Jesus is about to tell us a story about something very common and very familiar – something we already understand – and that in that story will be a parallel, hidden spiritual truth that Jesus wants us to learn and understand.
So let’s try this again: Luke chapter 8 – starting at verse 4:
One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it.6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out,“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Luke 8:4-8
So let’s see if we can wrap our heads around this story. Jesus starts off telling us about this farmer who goes out to plant some seeds in his field. Now of course, he’s not going out with his big John Deere air-seeder, he’s going out with a big pouch of seeds – probably wheat or barley – that was the common crop of that area.
And the system for planting was simple. Reach your hand into the pouch, grab a handful of seeds, and scatter them around as you walk. It was pretty simple. And for the most part, that system worked really good – but there was one problem. You see, with today’s high-tech equipment, a farmer can place each seed exactly where they want it – right down to the cm… But when you’re just flinging handfuls of seed all around, sometimes the seeds don’t end up where you intend them to.
And actually, I experienced this last summer when we were planting the grass seed for the lawn here at the church. I actually had a grass seed spreader – which was basically a pouch with a hole in the bottom that slowly let the seed fall out into spinner. As you turn the crank the spinner would fling the seed all around. But as I was doing this, some of the seed didn’t land in the dirt. Some landed on the sidewalk. Some landed in the parking lot. Some ended up in my shoes – and some even in my hair. Most of the seed landed in the dirt, but certainly not all of it.
And this is what is happening in the story that Jesus is telling. This farmer is out there flinging seed all around and it’s landing in different places – on four different types of soil.
Verse 5 has the first type of soil. It says…
“As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it.” Luke 8:5
Now of course, the footpath would not be prime soil. It would have been packed and baked in the sun like a brick. It would have been rock hard. It would be like this: [jar of baked, hard soil]
That’s what this footpath would have been like. So there is no way those seeds were going to get down into the soil where they could grow. It was just a matter of time until the birds saw them gobbled them up as they lay there on the surface.
Verse 6 has the next type of soil:
“Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture.” Luke 8:6
They would start to grow, but they would never last. They would shrivel up and die. Without the soil to hold the moisture for their roots, they wouldn’t last a day in the hot sun. That’s what happened to the farmer’s seed that fell among the rocks.
Then verse 7 tells us about another kind of soil:
“Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants.” Luke 8:7
Again, back in those days they didn’t have round-up or weed killer. So if the grain seed fell in an area that was full of weeds, there wasn’t much hope. The thorns and weeds would block out it’s sunlight, drink up its water, and use up the available nutrients in the soil. And so basically, the plant would starve and never fully develop.
But there is one more type of soil. Look at verse 8:
“Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Luke 8:8
This is the soil that the farmer was aiming for. The rich black soil where the seeds could sprout, take root, and grow up and produce a fantastic crop.
And so that was it. That was the parable of the farmer scattering his seeds. But what did it mean? What was the parallel? What was the hidden spiritual truth within the story? I think that if I were one of the original listeners to that story – I’d have no idea what the point was. I’d say that hidden truth was hidden pretty good. And I think the disciples would say the same thing, because in verse 9, they ask Jesus to explain what the parable meant. So let’s pick it up in verse 9.
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.’
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.” Luke 8:9-15
That’s pretty good isn’t it? It’s a simple little story of a farmer scattering seeds, yet it packs a pretty pointed message for you and I, doesn’t it? It applies just as much to us today as it did to Jesus’ listeners back then. All of us are like one of those soils – which one are you?
Verse 12 says:
“The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved.” Luke 8:12
Is that you? Are you the hard packed soil on the footpath? Is your heart hard towards God? When you hear God’s Word – do you just block it out – and not allow it to sink into your heart? Maybe you’ve heard the Gospel many times… You’ve heard John 3:16 which says…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
But you don’t let that truly sink in. You’ve heard Romans 10:9 which says…
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
But you just block it out. You’ve heard Proverbs 3:5-6 which says….
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
You’ve heard all those Scriptures. You’ve heard that God loves you like crazy and He’s just waiting for you with open arms – and yet… You still put Him off. You refuse to accept His forgiveness. You refuse to submit your life to Him. You refuse to soften your heart. Are you the hard soil?
Or maybe you’re the rocky soil. Verse 13 says…
“The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.” Luke 8:13
Does that sound like your experience? Matthew, in his account of this same parable, words it just little differently…
“The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.” Matthew 13:20-21
Does that sound like you? At one time you accepted Christ with great joy! It was exciting and new and life would never be the same again! But then some hard times came along. Maybe you were teased at school for being a Christian. Maybe the guys at the shop snickered when you told them you went to church last Sunday. Maybe some other stuff happened. Maybe you got health problems or family problems or financial problems or whatever, but you started doubting the decision that you made to follow Christ. You started falling away from God. Are you the rocky soil?
Perhaps you’re the soil that’s full of weeds? Verse 14 says…
“The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.” Luke 8:14
Maybe you’ve let the good things of this life crowd out the best things? Perhaps your career or your reputation, or a special relationship has stolen your focus from Christ? Being part of the world is just too much fun – and you’re not willing to make the necessary sacrifices to really give your life to God. You want to be in control. You want to set the agenda. You want to do what you want to do. And that’s killing your relationship with God.
If I were to generalize, I’d say this is likely the most common soil for most North American Christians. It is so easy to lose sight of eternity and simply focus on the here and now. How many things that have eternal value do we sacrifice so that we have pleasure for a moment right now? It’s difficult to spend 15 minutes in prayer with God, but it’s easy to sit through a 3 hour movie. We can’t afford to give $500 to overseas missions, but we’ll spend that easily on junk food in a year.
“…all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.” Is that you?
Or are you the good soil?
“And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.” Luke 8:15
The passage in Matthew says the seed on the good soil produces “a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Is your life producing a harvest? Is your life producing fruit? If you’re the good soil, there should be two kinds of fruit evident in your life. One is the fruit of the Spirit. And of course, we don’t produce that, but the Holy Spirit produces that in our lives as we grow in our relationship with God.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
Are those things growing in your life? Here’s how you know if you’re the good soil: If you can say, “Yes, I am more loving than I was last year. Yes, I have more patience than I did last year. Yes, I have greater self-control than I did last year. etc etc…That’s the mark of the good soil.
The other fruit we produce is more disciples of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 28:18-19 we read:
“Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
This is one of our main objectives here on Planet earth. So the second evidence of good soil is someone who is making disciples. At the end of your life will you be able to look back and see a harvest of 30, 60, or 100 people that have come to know and love Jesus because of you? Are you making disciples?
At the Camp Little Red banquet last Saturday, we took some time to remember the life of Howard Crane – one of the camp’s directors – who had passed away earlier this year. And this was a guy who was definitely one of the “good soil” people. He was just a regular guy – But he heard God’s Word, He clung to it, and patiently produced a huge harvest. His life was marked by an ever growing love for God and for people. And I certainly don’t know the numbers, but I would be very confident to say that because of his life, there will be more than 30, 60, or 100 people that will be joining Him in Heaven one day. He was the good soil.
What kind of soil are you?
If this morning you find that your heart has been hard, if to this point, you’ve not responded Jesus, you’ve not accepted his love and his forgiveness, you’ve not submitted your life to Him – well, you can change that today. You can decide right now to soften your heart and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. You can begin a new life. One that’s not always easy – but one that’s absolutely worth it. You can do that today – and I certainly hope that you will.
Or maybe you’re like the rocky soil and because of problems or persecution or temptation or whatever the reason, you’ve been falling away from God. Your relationship with God has been strained or you’re feeling distant from Him. But its not too late to come back. God hasn’t gone anywhere – He’s just waiting for you to look to Him for help – and He’ll be right there. You don’t have to face your problems or your temptations alone. Certainly God is with you all the way and He understands what you’re going through. And not only that, God’s given you a church family to help you along the way too. Believe it or not – there are people right here in this building who know how you feel – they face the same struggles – they fight the same temptations. You’re not alone. And part of our job as church is to help each other grow deep roots, so that we can get through the problems, endure the persecution, and escape the temptation. We’re here to help each other. We want to help you succeed.
I know sometimes its hard to find somebody to talk to about stuff like this, but I’d sure recommend #1. talk to God first – He’s got a lot more answers than any of us do – but #2. talk to me or someone else that you trust – we want to help you get through whatever struggles you’re dealing with.
Or maybe you find yourself a little more like the weedy soil this morning. Maybe there is stuff that you’re allowed to grow up in your life that has taken your focus away from Jesus. Maybe there is stuff that has become more important to you than your relationship with God. The Bible calls those idols. And it tells us to get rid of them. There is a lot of “good stuff” in this world that can choke out our relationship with Christ. Money. Sports. Facebook. Relationships. Career. Possessions. None of those things in themselves are bad. But the minute they start taking priority over our relationship with God, they become idols and they begin to choke the life from us.
If that’s where you’re at this morning, I encourage you to be ruthless. Get rid of any of those “good things” that are hindering your relationship God. Pull the weeds. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be fun. But we have to live with eternity in mind – not just the moment. What’s going to really matter in a 1000 years? How you built your relationship with God – or how you enjoyed all that “good stuff?” Get rid of the weeds that steal your life.
And if, by chance, you’re the good soil this morning, that’s awesome! Keep it up – but be careful. For its very easy for our hearts to become a little hard – a little rocky – or a little weedy.
One final thought before we close: As you reflect on the state of your heart this morning – whether it be hard, rocky, weedy, or even good – know this: When it comes to the soil of our hearts – Jesus is the master gardener. He can soften the hardest hearts. He can de-stone the rockiest soil. He can uproot the most stubborn weeds. And He can produce a harvest in people like you wouldn’t believe. It doesn’t matter what kind of heart you start with, if you give it to Jesus, He can make it rich and productive, producing a harvest in your life of 30, 60, or 100 times as was sown.
We’re going to close this morning with the song – Take my Life and Let it be. And I think the words are absolutely applicable this morning. Let me read just a few snippets.
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my will and make it Thine,?It shall be no longer mine.?
Take my heart, it is Thine own,?It shall be Thy royal throne.?
Take myself and I will be?Ever, only, all for Thee.