I am 99% sure I already posted this at some point in the past, but I was reminded of it again today and felt led to re-post it. It's lengthy but if you hang in there you may benefit from it.
Jesus always communicated in a way that people could identify with, I mean of course there were times where everyone would be gathered around looking for an answer on what to do with the woman that they had just caught in the midst of adultery when Jesus would suddenly get the urge to bend down and start drawing in the dirt and everyone was looking around kind of confused. But generally speaking Jesus used illustrations that meant something to people, he spoke in ways that the people understood, he referenced farming and sheep and mustard seeds, stuff that the common man could identify with.
All of us are a living parable. We’ve had “seed” thrown on us for a long time, but the hardness, shallowness, and crowdedness of our lives inhibits real growth. The good news is this: Hard ground can be broken. Shallow ground can be deepened. And thorny ground can be weeded. We can become more receptive to the Word and more fruitful in our lives. Listen to the words of Jesus from the book of Luke.
Luke 8:4-7 says..."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: “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. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants."
I mean how much more simple could Jesus have been. He’s speaking in terms that are right in the vein of where His listeners lived on a daily basis. I mean even today, we get this. If Jesus walked the earth today and had shared this, even though none of us are farmers, we would all be shaking our heads with understanding because it just makes sense. But Jesus was the consummate teacher because He was always sure to bring along even the slowest member of the class. He was never content to just explain it once, hope everyone caught on, and then move to a different topic. So He goes on in verse 11 by basically explaining what He just said.
Luke 8:11-15 says..."“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 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. 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. 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. 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."
What Jesus is doing here for us is mapping out a couple of different scenarios by which people were not receiving the Word of God into their lives. They’re not growing like they should in a spiritual sense. I love that he differentiates between people who just don’t ever get the seed (Word of God) and those that do. He basically says, “Hey you’ve got plenty of seed, it’s not a lack of seed that’s causing your lack of growth.” In other words, it’s not about the seed, it’s about the soil. Isn’t that our story as well? We’ve got unprecendented access to the Word of God, we’ve got books, websites, sermons, and ministries, events, and magazines, we’ve got Bibles specifically designed for every demographic, we’ve got everything that you could ever ask for in the form of seed. What Jesus is really addressing here is how the seed is taking root in the soil of our lives.
So He proceeds to paint a picture of four different people all receiving the same seed but with very different results.
Luke 8:5 says..."“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."
This verse reminds me of the people in Nazareth. We know that Jesus was raised as a boy and as a young man in the town of Nazareth and the Bible records for us that as His earthly ministry began He was out preaching and teaching in the areas surrounding Nazareth but that at some point He went back to His hometown to visit. And the welcome that He received was less than cordial. People were looking at this guy and thinking, “He’s got nerve showing his face here again.” As He stood in the synagogue preaching the questions whipped through the crowd:
In other words, who does this guy think he is? If we were to attach some descriptive words to these people we would likely go with: Hardness of heart; lack of interest in spiritual things or just a cold un-receptivity to the Word.
When Jesus taught the people of his hometown, they were upset and offended. They could not accept that a common carpenter they had known all their lives could suddenly possess superior wisdom and miraculous power. Though they could see Him work and hear His words, their hardness kept them from receiving the Kingdom.
I wonder if you and I don’t live their sometimes? I doubt that any of us utter the phrase, “Who does this common carpenter think his is? But don’t we question His authority in our lives? Don’t we often hold his way of life for us up against all of the other possibilities out their and question whether or not He really knows what He’s talking about? Even the best seed won’t take root if the dirt’s not right.
He then goes on in the book of Luke with His parable and paints yet another picture of the seed not taking root.
Luke 8:6 says..."Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture."
It’s almost like Jesus is communicating that just because the seed is thrown down doesn’t mean that it’s automatically going to grow. The seed isn’t going to automatically take root and grow deep into the ground without the other necessary ingredients and as a result what we’re left with are some really shallow roots. The book of Mark paints this in a stark light when it records the account of Judas betraying Jesus.
Mark 14:10-11 says..."Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus."
I mean here’s one of Jesus’ closest followers. Out of all of the people that loved Jesus and believed in what He was doing, out of all of the potential disciples, Jesus chose twelve to be His closest followers. They lived, slept, ate, fished, traveled and did life together for three and a half years. I mean imagine what these guys witnessed first hand and the miracles that Jesus performed.
Judas witnessed more than you and I could probably ever imagine yet for some reason his faith didn’t take root. Here’s Judas given just the slightest of opportunities to sell all of that up the river and he jumps on it.
It reeks of shallowness and of a lack of courage and perseverance to stand up under pressure. I mean Judas had all the external characteristics of a true disciple. But he never got past what the kingdom could do for him. In a time of persecution and testing, not only did he flee Jesus but he betrayed Him! Faith had never taken root in his life. He was a temporary and fraudulent disciple.
I wonder if I could ever be described as temporary or fraudulent disciple? Not because I’m trying to betray Jesus but simply because His word has never really taken root in my life. And it’s not for a lack of seed be sown in my life it’s because even the best seed won’t take root if the dirt’s not right.
Jesus goes on in verse seven of chapter eight and suddenly things turn violent. Listen to what He says.
Luke 8:7 says..." Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants."
As I read this particular verse something about it struck a chord with me. It’s the feeling I talked about earlier of everything around me just squeezing my life, it’s almost that boa constrictor effect where life just wraps around you and starts the slow squeeze.
In the book of Mark Jesus tells another story about a rich young man who exemplified this slow squeeze. Listen to this account.
Mark 10:17-22 says..." As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’ “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions."
We can see in the rich young man the evidence of his divided loyalties. This would-be, could-be, potential servant of God was allowing his spiritual life to be choked out by the wealth of the world.
The rich man claimed perfect adherence to the Law and expressed an enthusiastic desire for eternal life. But then Jesus put him to the test. Would he be willing to forsake his old life in order to follow him? After all, Jesus had made it clear that to find eternal life, one must “lose” this life. If a person did not hate his very life, he was not worthy of being a disciple. And the Scripture says that the rich young man went away sad. He chose the temporal over the eternal.
As I think about my own life and my busy schedule, and the pace that I keep on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, I have to question whether or not I’m doing the same thing. I mean if I’m too tired to get up a 30 minutes early or to stay up 30 minutes longer at the end of the day to spend time in the Word of God and to spend time communicating with God aren’t I really guilty of the same thing as the rich young man? Aren’t I also choosing the temporal over the eternal? Am I allowing my schedule to choke out my spiritual growth? It’s not for a lack of having access to the seed, I’ve got like three Bibles, a commentary and devotional book on the night stand right next to my bed, the reality of course is that even the best seed won’t take root if the dirt’s not right.
Jesus ends His parable in the book of Luke with offering us some hope.
Luke 8:8 says..."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.”"
We’re finally given a glimpse of what our soil is really supposed to look like, we’re finally shown what happens when the best seed falls on the right dirt. In the book of John chapter four Jesus has this really unusual interaction with a Samaritan woman at a well in Galilee. Here’s a woman that He’s not even supposed to be talking to, she’s certainly not supposed to be talking to Him.
None of this was right, the conditions were all wrong, there’s no possible way for the seed (the Word of God) to take root in this situation, the soil was all wrong, I mean if there was a worse case scenario for the seed to be sown and not take root, this was it. And yet, this woman’s life is forever changed. Why? Because her dirt was right. Maybe it was the honesty with which Jesus spoke to her that caused her to receive Him. Maybe it was the fact that He knew things about her that no one else knew.
Maybe it was just the fact that He talked to her. Whatever it was, it was clearly a case of the best seed being sown into the right dirt.
I wonder what our lives would look like if our dirt wasn’t so hard? What would be the result if the seed that was sown into our lives wasn’t blown away and gobbled up by birds, before it had a chance to sink in?
I wonder how different our lives would be if our dirt was so shallow? What if at the first sign of stress, we didn’t crumble? What if at the first difficult moment we didn’t throw in the towel?
What if there weren’t so many weeds in our lives choking us out? What if the boa constrictor was putting the slow squeeze on us? What if our spiritual growth wasn’t just another thing on our list, what if it was the list?
What if we never forgot that even the best seed won’t take root if the dirt’s not right?