Most of Jesus’ time after His baptism and before His crucifixion is spent traveling from one place to another to proclaim and preach the kingdom of God. His mission is for us to know that the kingdom of God, which He is Lord, is different than the kingdom of this world.
This Bible speaks of two kingdoms; the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of this world. There are no geographical borders for the kingdoms. They are spiritual.
The kingdom of God is a kingdom of light and good. The kingdom of God is an everlasting kingdom. The citizens submit themselves to the government and the laws of God.
The kingdom of this world is a kingdom of darkness and evil. The kingdom of this world is not everlasting, but it is coming to an end. The citizens of the kingdom of this world do not submit to God, but they are in rebellion to His authority.
Jesus came to warn the citizens of the kingdom of this world that God hates the rebellion. A day coming when God will pour out His wrath upon all who rebel against His authority. Jesus tells people they can escape the wrath to come if they put their faith in His salvation, and submit to His authority. Jesus came to save us from the inevitable destruction of the kingdom of darkness and to transfer us into the kingdom of His light.
Jesus travels from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. He is on a mission to let Israel, and all the other nations know how to be saved.
Traveling from one city and village to another costs money. Jesus and the apostles need funding for their ministry so they can eat. All the walking will require new shoes. There are costs associated with the ministry of proclamation and preaching.
Jesus receives money for His ministry. Luke lists an unlikely list of people who give to Jesus from their personal resources. He includes the names of specific people because it helps us know more about Jesus. Those who Luke lists, three women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, is shocking in the ancient world.
Joanna is well connected. Her husband watches over Herod’s money. But, it is not important to know everything about these women. What is important is that Luke lists women and not men. Who foots the bill for Jesus’ ministry? What are the names of those who open their wallet so Jesus can minister? The implication of the text is that their names are Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna.
If you are Luke, and you want people to believe your story about Jesus, you do not want to put that three benefactors of His ministry are women. If you are going to add details to make your story believable, say that Chuza or Joseph of Arimathea gave money for Jesus to preach. Luke writing that women are among Jesus’ benefactor's borders on scandalous.
In the time of Jesus, extending honor to women is not a prevailing attitude. Jesus’ interaction with women is counterculture. But, Jesus didn’t come to fit into the culture. He came to save the lost. Jesus extends the kingdom of God to all. Women can receive forgiveness, love, and grace as freely as men. They participate in the Kingdom of God in the same way as men.
Some people today look at Christianity as prejudiced against women. Nothing can be further than the truth. Jesus’ treatment of women is revolutionary. Jesus breaks with tradition. He elevates women by treating them with dignity and respect.
After including the footnote about the support of Jesus’ ministry, Luke tells us of Jesus' teaching to people who are coming from many surrounding cities. Matthew and Mark’s gospels tell us the crowd is very large.
Jesus speaks a parable about sowing seed onto various soils and what happens to the seed as a result of where it is sown. We will not get into interpreting the parable just yet, as Jesus will reveal to us the meaning in just a moment.
Let’s make a few observations about the parable.
One observation is that it uses imagery familiar to the people of Jesus’ day. In our culture, farming is known to a minority. In Jesus’ day, almost everyone knows about farming and sowing seeds. People will encounter many fields as they journey from one city to the next. They are sowing, reaping, birds eating the seed, good soil, rocky soil, and people trampling seed which falls on the roadside.
Another observation is that there is opposition to getting a seed to bear fruit. People will walk on plants near the road and the birds will eat the seed. Seeds will not grow on rocks and hard soil. Plants and weeds, such as thorn bushes, will choke out a seed and take the nutrients from the soil which the seed needs.
What is striking about the parable is the yield which the good soil produces. It is believed that the expected yield in Palestine during the time of Jesus is seven to ten-fold. This means one seed will produce seven to ten times the amount. Jesus speaks of a hundred-fold yield, which is remarkably good. It is a yield that will grab the attention of the audience.
Jesus ends the parable with a curious phrase. He calls out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” The phrase is enigmatic. Of course, if we have ears, we can hear. Jesus is referring to something much more important than hearing. He is speaking about paying attention and listening.
The parable is about the kingdom of God. There is not a more important subject. Do you have ears? If so, listen to what Jesus is saying. Your eternity depends upon having ears to hear. Listen closely to what Jesus has to say.
Jesus’ disciples desire to know what Jesus teaches. They have ears to hear, but they don’t understand. They want to know everything there is to know about the kingdom of God. They hang onto every word Jesus speaks. They leave their livelihood to hear from this Rabbi.
They don’t understand the meaning of the parable so they ask Jesus to explain it to them.
Jesus explains by quoting from Isaiah. When Isaiah is given his commission as a prophet, God tells Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.' "Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed." (Isaiah 6:9-10)
God reveals the truth to people, but rebellious people who are obstinate and hard-hearted do not listen to God. Instead, they scorn God’s messenger. They scorn Isaiah. In fact, they made fun of Isaiah. The people in Isaiah’s time accuse Isaiah of having simple teaching that is only suitable for children. They tell Isaiah that his teaching is for babies (Isaiah 28:9-10) and not for adults.
It is the same way with Jesus. Jesus tells His disciples that the mysteries of the kingdom of God are made known to them. But to other people, it remains a mystery. The purpose of parables is to hide God’s word from rebellious and hard-hearted people.
Jesus says His disciples are granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. The word mystery in biblical terms is a divine revelation made clear. There are many things, which were once a mystery, but they are now clear because God explains them. The parable of the soils is made clear to those who have ears to hear, but to those whose hearts are hard, it remains a mystery. Not giving understanding is a divine judgment upon hearts that are hard.
What about you? Do you understand the mystery of the kingdom of God? Do you hear Jesus saying that our hearts must be open to hear the truth? If it is unclear, pray and ask God to grant you repentance and to have ears to hear. Otherwise, the mystery of the kingdom of God will forever be a mystery. You will never live in God’s kingdom, and you will forever remain in the kingdom of darkness.
Jesus reveals the mystery of the parable to His disciples. The seed is the word of God. It is the truth of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims and preaches. It is what we proclaim as the gospel.
The soil is a person’s heart. The seed falls upon the soil, or the word of the kingdom falls upon the heart of a person.
The word of the kingdom is proclaimed to many people. On that day, there is a very large crowd who hears the words of Jesus.
Some people hear the word of God, but an enemy stands nearby. The enemy is the devil. Jesus tells us that the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies (John 8:44). The devil deceives Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He deceives people today. He will deceive tomorrow. It is his nature. The enemy takes away the word that sown in the heart so that people will not believe and be saved.
The devil deceives and convinces people that the seed is not good. He will say that Jesus is not God. He will tell people the word of God is wrong. They do not need to repent because they are good and deserve to go to heaven. The devil will say there is no hell. He will say anything and everything so that people do not believe God’s word. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy the seed (John 10:10). Beware of the deception of the enemy.
The second soil in the parable is the seed that falls on rocky soil. When the word of God falls upon the heart, the person receives the word with joy. But, the word does not penetrate into the heart. The word sounds good at first, but it is superficial. It does not penetrate the heart or permeate the life of the person. Temptation comes and the person discards the word about the kingdom. The word fades away.
Temptation feeds lust of the flesh. It is enhanced by a world that teaches right is wrong and wrong is right. There are many temptations pulling people away from worshiping God. People are tempted to indulge their flesh with immorality. There is the temptation of self-indulgence with food and drugs. People are tempted to cheat and deceive to satisfy their flesh rather than submit to God’s purpose and plan. The root of temptation is the unwillingness to submit to God as the authority. Beware of temptations. (There is a reason Jesus teaches us to pray every day that we are not led into temptation).
The third soil is sown among thorny plants. Thorny plants are weeds that steal nutrients from the plants around them. Jesus says the word of God falls to the ground, and the people hear the word, but they allow the worries, riches, and pleasures of life take over. The people hear the word about God’s kingdom, but do not believe there is an eternity. They believe this life is most important.
The desire to be a movie star or celebrity is very great. The enticement to climb the ladder of success is powerful. Few people can resist the attraction to have the world’s treasures. Desires of the flesh overpower the truth of God’s word. The seedling does not mature but eventually dies. Beware of the worries, riches, and pleasure of this world.
Lastly, Jesus speaks of the good soil. When the truth of God is heard, and the word falls upon an honest and good heart, the word holds fast. The seed becomes a plant that grows and reaches maturity and bears fruit. The person holds fast to the word of God and perseveres. Storms may come, but the plant continues to grow. The root of God’s word goes deep into a person’s life.
It is from verses such as this that the reformers coin the phrase, “the perseverance of the saints.” In other words, the true measure of a Christian is whether they continue believing God’s word. Some hear God’s word, and temptation and life pull them away. They appear to believe, but they do not have saving faith. Christians who belong to the kingdom of God do not have a temporary response, but theirs is a lifetime of pressing on to the prize. They run the race with endurance.
Jesus explains further what it means to be a person with an honest and good heart which the word holds fast. The mature believer will bring forth the fruit of the gospel.
Jesus explains using a metaphor of light. When the word of God’s light shines into a heart, the person does not take the light of the word and put it under a container, or under a bed. Rather, the person takes the light and puts it on a lampstand, so that others may see the light and be saved.
Notice what Jesus says. He says, “no one after lighting a lamp covers it.” No one.
Those who have God’s word in their heart will let others see the light. Citizens in the kingdom of God desire that others become citizens of the kingdom. A mature Christian is a Christian that bears the fruit of making disciples.
What will keep us from putting the lamp onto a lampstand? The devil, temptation, and the cares of this world.
We cannot say we believe the word to be true but hide the word. Others around us must see the light of Christianity.
Some people pretend to be Christian, but Jesus says eventually they will be found out. The lack of fruit is seen by God. God looks at the heart and will shine the truth on their heart and it will be seen as a make-believe faith.
Therefore, take care of how we listen. Do we hear Jesus say that the gospel is to be put onto a lampstand? Do we hear Jesus say that we cannot pretend? If you have ears to hear, hear Jesus tell us that we must shine the light of the gospel and prove we are citizens of the kingdom of God.
Jesus says that there is a reward for being faithful with the word and placing it on a lampstand. To those who listen, more will be given. The Bible says Christians are coheirs with Jesus in God’s kingdom. All who enter into the kingdom of God receive all the benefits and blessings of God’s kingdom.
But, those who do not heed Jesus’ words, what they think they have will be taken away. In the end, they stand outside the gates of heaven with nothing. They may be rich in this world, but they are in utter poverty in eternity. It is as Jesus says, “For what does it profit to gain the whole world, and forfeit the soul” (Mark 8:36).
Take care of how we listen. Bearing fruit is not an overnight process. We need to be nurtured in the church. We need to be watered and allow God to give the increase. We need to aspire to putting the light onto a lampstand.
Listen to how the Apostle Paul teaches what Jesus says. He writes to the church in Ephesus and says,
“But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you." Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:13-17)
We will continually be challenged by Satan, temptation, and the pleasures of the world. Don’t go into cruise control. Don’t rely on yesterday’s profession. The Apostle John talks about believing in his gospel, he uses believing in the present tense. The original Greek says “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who are believing in His name” (John 1:12)
Also, remember, as we sow, there are different soils. The words of Jesus are not judged by Jesus' ability to sow, but by the response of those who listen.
Luke’s account ends with an interesting event. As Jesus is teaching, His mother and brothers come to Him. The crowd is very large, and people eventually report to Jesus that His mother and brothers are standing outside, the crowd, and they wish to see Him.
Jesus uses the opportunity to further cement the importance of His teaching. Jesus answers and says,“My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
Jesus is not disparaging His family. Rather, He is making a point. There is one family to which Jesus belongs, and that family has one thing in common, they hear the word of God and do it.
Are you part of the family of God? There is only one way to know, and that is whether or not you are more than someone who hears God’s word. To belong to the family of God requires doing the word of God. It requires maturing into a plant that bears fruit. Being in the family of Jesus requires persevering through the storms. Being in the family of Jesus requires putting the light of the kingdom upon a lampstand.
God’s family will not do God’s word perfectly. We all are imperfect. We have God’s grace. Jesus fills the gap in our failures. When they fail, God’s children will persevere. They will ask for God’s forgiveness, pick themselves up, and continue to run the race and fight the fight.
Jesus reveals how we are to respond to His teaching. He tells us to take heed and listen to the word that is sown. Hear the word. In doing so, we will bear fruit and be given the blessings of the kingdom of God.
Jesus says not to hide the word, but to let it shine so others may come to the light.
Lastly, Jesus says that those who do His words are those who are in union with Him.
Therefore, let us take heed to hear, shine, and do the kingdom word that is sown in our hearts.