The Sower and the Seed, and Your True Extended Family
(Luke chapter 8, verses 1-21, part 1 of 3)
Good day, everyone! As we continue our in-depth study and analysis of the writings of the apostle Luke in their order of appearance in the Bible, we'll be starting on chapter 8 of Luke's gospel. Since this is a fairly lengthy chapter comprised of 56 verses containing quite a bit of subject matter, I will be breaking this commentary of Luke chapter 8 into 3 parts just to make sure we don't miss anything, as well as for the sake of brevity. So without any further introductions, let's begin at verse 1, which reads as follows:
“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna, and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told them this parable: 'A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate them up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.' When he said this, he called out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'” (Luke 8, verses 1-8)
As I said in a previous study from a couple of weeks ago, Jesus had the 1st century equivalent of an entourage, many of whom were people who Jesus had healed. At least three of them, who are listed above in verses 2, 3 and 4, were assisting in bankrolling Jesus' ministry. Notice that Jesus operated his ministry exactly the opposite of modern churches. There is no mention anywhere in the entire Bible of Jesus taking up anoffering when he preached the Word. He relied on private supporters instead. Not only that, but they were all women. This was remarkable for Jesus’ time, when gender equality didn’t exist for the most part. You can be sure that these three women and their families are in some of the choicest palaces in heaven right now! People were being healed by Jesus from all kinds of diseases and ailments, including what Jesus called “unclean spirits”. This term is a carryover from some much older translations than the New International Version and New Living Translation that were used for these studies, and this phrase describes what we now call mental illness. Back then, nobody knew what else to call it, I suppose.
But now the apostle Luke changes the scenery when he does a 'flash forward' to the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. Back then the economy was largely agricultural, and I'm sure Jesus chose this example as a teaching tool because it was something everyone could relate to. So Jesus tells the crowd and the Twelve the story of the seeds and what happened when they fell where they did. When Jesus finishes his tale, the apostles ask him about the meaning of this parable of our Lord's, which is where we will now pick up, beginning at verse 9.
“His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that 'though seeing, they may not see, though hearing, they may not understand'. This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the Word of God. Those that fell along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those that fell on the rock are the ones who receive the Word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in a time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked with life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart who hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering produce a good crop.'” (Luke 8, verses 9-15)
Jesus was quoting from the Bible as it was written back then, long before the New Testament came along. “Though seeing, they may not see, though hearing, they may not understand”, is from the Book of Isaiah chapter 6, verse 9. Our Lord and Savior was quoting this verse as a direct affront to the religious establishment of his day, and the collection of Pharisees and teachers of the law who were following Jesus' every move. This was occurring because, as we saw in an earlier study of chapter 6, verse 11, these opponents of Christ were looking for a way to refute Jesus' ministry, not realizing the impossibility of any such thing ever occurring.
I need not comment at length about the meaning of this 'parable', since Jesus was pretty specific in his explanation to the apostles. But what does need to be examined here is this – which kind of seed are we? Which seed do I want to be? Does this aspiration line up with God’s will for my life, and with what kind of person I aspire to be? Because, you know, if we find upon self-examination that we're anything but the seed that falls on good soil, then we have some work to do. It’s up to us to go and find some good ground somewhere in a church that preaches a fairly literal interpretation of the Bible, and preferably one that is untainted by conservative politics.
Because the keyword in verse 15, the last sentence of the above quote, is 'persevering'. Being a follower of Jesus means that sometimes believers have to put up with derision, being excluded or rejected, and with verbal assaults, particularly on social media. To put it in a not-so-nice way, true followers of Christ sometimes have to put up with a lot of crap. It goes with the territory, so we must prepare ourselves for that eventuality. If those who worship Him in spirit and in truth happen to live in a Muslim country, or in some other repressive regimes such as North Korea, Myanmar or Cuba, their faith can get them executed. You can be absolutely sure that every one of those Christians who fearlessly believe over in those countries are walking in the Spirit of the risen Savior. Let us ask ourselves, then, if our faith is as strong as theirs is. Be honest with yourselves. On that note, let's close out today's study beginning at verse 16.
“'No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even that which he thinks he has will be taken away from them.' Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.' He replied, 'My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.'” (Luke 8, verses 16-21)
As you probably suspect, verse 16 is where the saying “let your light shine” originated. Those who are walking in the Spirit, and who are followers of Jesus rather than main stream religion, have this Light within them. I think Jesus was saying that those who are true and sincere believers have a responsibility to let others see that Light shining from within them. We are charged with the responsibility of letting the light of Christ shine through us, so that others who see may be inspired, and even compelled, to follow the example we set. Not all of us can be pastors or evangelists, but we don't have to win souls from a podium or a pulpit to be considered as soul winners. Leadership by example can be even more effective, and especially when mentoring people.
“There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen.” I can sum this quote up in one short sentence: There is no such thing as concealment from the Lord. If there is anyone reading this who has something from their past that any of their current family or co-workers don't know about, Jesus was telling us that one of two things will happen. That which has been hidden, whether by individuals, businesses, corporations or entire governments, will be found out either in this life or in the one to come. But, it is guaranteed to be found out. The degree of the offense, I suspect, will be directly proportional to the consequences. That's what Jesus meant by, “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even that which he thinks he has will be taken away from them.” Anyone who thinks they are getting away with something in life are actually not. Enough said.
“Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.' He replied, 'My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.” This is part of the good news of the Gospel. To be sure, Jesus' crucifixion, death and resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith, by which we are justified through grace. But there is also unconditional equality. The word 'family' is no longer confined to our immediate relatives, as tradition is replaced with a dedication to all of humanity as one gigantic family, with Jesus Christ as the head of the heavenly household.
So to close out today's lesson, we become family members first by embracing the risen Christ and his shed blood for the forgiveness of sin, and second by putting our fresh new faith into practice by making sure that the light of Christ that now shines within us is seen by as many people as possible. And what is sin? A more modern synonym would be 'offense', whether intentional or otherwise. But by changing ourselves from being like that to being one from where the light of Christ shines from, we will be fulfilling our mission in life, each in his or her individual way. And that's what makes God and each other the happiest of all.
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