Jean’s Gospel: The Parable of the Sower
“ ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’
As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’
And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that “seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:5-15)
In his Things I Think column dated 1/30/17, Michael wrote: “I don’t recognize the Jesus of some as the one I worship, nor do they recognize mine.” Does God’s Word present us with different Christs? Or do some Christians remake Christ in their own image? Instead of finding their identity in Him, do they fashion a false Christ who shares their identity?
“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ ” (Luke 8:10)
Most of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries were so certain about what they expected from their Messiah that when they met Him face to face they did not recognize Him. Seeing, they did not see. Hearing, they did not understand.
- His own kinsfolk in Nazareth rejected Jesus because they only saw Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22).
- The scribes and the Pharisees rejected Jesus because they did not acknowledge His authority on earth to forgive sins (Luke 5:21), He dined with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30), and He healed on the Sabbath (Luke 6:11).
These groups saw, but did not see the Kingdom-In-Person in their midst. They heard, but did not understand the grace of God. Therefore, Jesus warned His disciples: “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18)
“Are you the one who [has] come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19)
This is a question for our day too. Who is Jesus Christ? What will He do for us? Will He affirm our life choices? Will He condemn our enemies? Will He bless us with success? Does He share our political ideology? Will He show us a sign?
Our situation today is different than it was for Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries. Jesus preached a pure Word and presented them with a binary choice – acknowledge Him or deny Him – as the Messiah. However, after 2,000 years His Word has been massively “trampled underfoot.” The result is that the world is now filled with false teachers preaching a variety of false Messiahs. To find the true Word of Christ preached is the exception today, not the rule. Some false teachers are more honest than others. Some of them admit they do not consider the Bible to be the Word of God for people today. But others who claim a high view of the Bible nevertheless distort the Word of Christ through false interpretations.
Worshiping a false Messiah may seem life affirming and comforting. But just like Jesus’ contemporaries, what will you see, hear or understand should a true preacher of Christ scatter good seed before you? Where will the seed land? If you are committed to a false Messiah, then good seed may land on the path and the devil will come and snatch it away. On the other hand, maybe you are just infatuated with a false Messiah; then perhaps good seed will land in rocky soil or where the thorns grow. But neither of those places produces the fruit of eternal life.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim 4:3-4)
In our day and age when Christianity is presented as a salad bar, we should recognize that much of the greens and vegetables at the salad bar are poison for the soul. Many of the false Christs being preached in churches today to enthusiastic crowds are making the hearts of people dull, their ears heavy, and their eyes blind.
“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)
But not all of Jesus’ contemporaries were hardened against Him. The four gospels identify many people (in addition to His disciples) who believed in Him. They were the ones who did not reject him on account of His humble birth, itinerant lifestyle, or compassion for sinners, Samaritans and Gentiles. They had ears to hear, and they listened.
Therefore, we must take Jesus seriously when He says “Take care then how you hear….” For His Word is always perfect and effective, but He (i.e., the Christ of the Bible) must be heard if we are to believe in Him. Moreover, Christians with ears to hear should not endure the preaching of a Christ which runs contrary to (or different from) the One portrayed in His Word, because such false teaching damages our hearing and our understanding. Instead we should go to where He and His Gospel are preached according to His Word. This saying is trustworthy: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)
Lord Jesus Christ, make our hearts good fertile soil for your Word. Establish enduring roots in us. Protect us from the devil, false teachers and our own itching ears. Create in us an honest and good heart. Bear fruit in us that leads to eternal life and which reaches out in love for our neighbors. Amen.