Sowing the seed of the Kingdom, 8:1-18

In the passage before us, Luke records the parable of the sower, more rightly called the parable of the soils. Luke also records Jesus' explanation of the parable and three independent sayings which reinforce its message. The parable teaches a simple truth; we must take care how we hear the Word of God. It is all too easy to approach the Word of God distracted, even uninterested. We must approach the Word of God in the right frame of mind, holding it fast, persevering with it; we must hear in faith, or as imaged in the parable, be good soil.

The passage

v1-3. Luke tells us that Jesus is now fully involved in gospel ministry, going from village to village proclaiming the news that the day of God's eternal reign is at hand. Jesus' disciples are assisting him in this ministry and Luke makes particular note of three of the female disciples.

v4. Quite a few people have responded to Jesus' gospel preaching and have now joined together to hear more of what Jesus has to say. So, Jesus tells them a story.

v5-8. The story concerns a Palestinian farmer who, following the usual practice, clears his allotment, tills the soil, sows the seed and awaits the harvest. Only the seed that falls on the good soil bears a fruitful harvest, the rest is lost, trampled on, dried out, or choked by weeds.

v9. The disciples ask the meaning of the story.

v10. Before Jesus explains the meaning of the story, Luke records a general comment on Jesus' use of parables, in particular, those in the form of a riddle. When Jesus first preached the gospel he spoke openly of the coming kingdom, but because people rejected the message, as a sign of judgment, he began to proclaim the gospel in riddles, parables which begin with the phrase "the kingdom of God / heaven is like ...."

v11-15. The parable of the sower is not a riddle, it's just a simple allegory and Jesus now explains its meaning. The seed is the Word of God and as seed responds to different soils, so the Word of God responds to different frames of mind. The Word doesn't even touch the uninterested person, nor take root in the flighty person, or the distracted person. The Word only takes root in the person who grabs hold of it and keeps on wrestling with it. No wonder Jesus ended the parable by asking "Are you listening to this, really listening?"

v16-17. Luke now records two independent sayings of Jesus which make the point that truth will out. Of course, this is obviously true of divine revelation; God's Word cannot be muzzled.

v18. A third saying provides the punch line. Although God's Word is manifest in his world, a disciple still has to be careful in what frame of mind they listen. If we hear with faith, then everything is ours, if we just listen, then everything is lost. Beware!

Right listening to the Word of God

When I was about to take sabbatical leave, my bishop warned me of the sad state of preaching in the diocese. He thought it was a good idea to get around and hear a range of preachers, but my sanity may be tested by the experience. I have to say, my sanity has been tested over the years, but what has really worried me is how many have had their sanity tested by my preaching. I remember with horror my early 40 minute exploits and can only ask for forgiveness. It took me nearly twenty years to work out that most Bible passages contain a single thought and that it should take no more than 15 minutes to explain it.

Of course, it's easy to pick on the preacher. Many a lunch has employed more time chewing on the preacher than the meal. So what of the hearer? I have to be honest and admit that I have heard sermons where it was not possible to draw a single word from God. In fact, I underwent the pain of two sermons recently, one on numerology and another on the life of Pontius Pilate. Yet, in the vast majority of sermons, even if they are rather ordinary, it is possible to find a word from God. It is then we must decide whether we are going to engage with the truth, or simply let it slide into oblivion.

The parable of the sower reminds us to take care how we hear the preached Word of God. Just as it was easy to sit there all those years ago, listen to a story about Palestinian farming life, and take nothing from it, so it is easy to sit and listen to a sermon and leave church with nothing but a few dollars less in our wallet. It's quite easy to sleep through a sermon, or move into a well-practiced dazed state. It's also easy to momentarily take God's Word to heart, but then at the first hurdle, or the first distraction, allow it to recede from view.

When we are touched by God's Word, for instance, when we recognize his grace, his kindness to us in Christ, we must grab it with both hands, hold it fast and keep it close. We must not let that truth seep away, rather we must let it take root in our lives, keep it before us till the day that we die. For you see, everything that is promised to us in God's Word is ours if we hold God to his promise, whereas if we are disinterested, distracted by the journey of life, then we lose even what we have. So, pay attention to how you listen, hold it fast and stick with it; Be good soil.


1. Agree together on the central truth of the parable of the sower / soils and suggest ways you would present the story to a junior Bible class.

2. "Patient endurance", keeping at it, applies to all aspects of life. Discuss how it relates to faith in Christ.

3. Consider the distractions you have encountered when listening to sermons and share any useful techniques for discerning a word from God.