Luke made an effort in his gospel to show us the women involved in Jesus’ story. Elizabeth, the mother of John, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were important at the very beginning. There was Anna, who waited at the temple for the birth of the savior. Luke showed us Jesus healing Peter’s mother in law and raising the son of the widow in Nain.
As Jesus traveled and preached, he kept the 12 with him. But, Luke shows us that the disciples were not all men. There were women who followed him also. They were those who had been healed of diseases or demon possession.
Luke named a few. The first is Mary Magdalene, or Mary from Magdala. Jesus had cast seven demons from her and she became a devoted follower. She was there at the cross and at Jesus’ tomb. Her great deliverance created great devotion.
Luke also named Joanna, who was married to Herod’s household manager. She was likely a woman of some means and stature. Also named is Susanna, although nothing is told about her. Luke said there were many others. They not only followed Jesus, but some of them supported him and the disciples financially. This would have been unheard of in Jesus’ day.
Some of Jesus’ most devoted disciples were women. Luke never records a woman doing anything negative against Jesus. It was the women who bravely came to his grave to prepare his body. It was to women that Jesus first revealed himself after his resurrection.
Even though Judaism was a male dominated culture, Jesus showed that women were important to him, that he cared for them and that he desired that they follow him as well as men.
Parable of the Soils
This is often called the parable of the sower, but the point of the parable is the nature of the soils.
On this occasion, another great crowed gathered to here Jesus. As they gathered, he told this parable. A parable is a story, with human characters, that makes a point. Our job is to understand what the parable means and put it into practice.
Here the story is about a sower when went out to sow his seed. In those days, a farmer, or sower, would have a bag of seed. He would walk through his field, grabbing handfuls of the seed and scattering them on the ground. Whether or not the seed grew into a plant depended somewhat on where it landed.
Here there are four different landing places, only one of which is good. The first is the path. The birds would eat the exposed seed before it had a chance to grow. The second is a rock, or rocky soil. The seed might grow a little, but then die because rocky soil does not hold water.
The third fell on the ground, but among thorn bushes. As the plant grew, the thorns also grew and choked it out.
The final soil was good soil. The plant grew and yielded a hundred times more wheat or whatever was planted. It reminds me of a garden I once had, where I worked hard for years to create good soil. One year I planted a zucchini plant. It grew very large and produced so many zucchinis my family could not eat them all and neither could my neighbors. My kids would not eat zucchini again for years.
Since Jesus told this story as a great crowd gathered, we can figure out he was talking about the people in the crowd and saying something about how they would receive his message.
The Purpose of Parables
Jesus did not explain the parable at the time. Evidently, no one understood what it meant. So the disciples later asked him what it meant. Before he told them the meaning, he told them the purpose.
Jesus said the disciples had been given the right to know the secrets of the kingdom of God. (10) In other words, God had granted the disciples, in his grace, the ability to understand the teaching of Jesus and respond to it in belief. For example, when Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said this was not revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven”. (Matthew 16:17)
The Twelve were certainly the most privileged in this regard. They lived with Jesus all day and all night. They heard him teach and preach every day. Doubtless, when everyone else in the crowds had gone home, the Twelve ate dinner with Jesus and sat around the camp fire at night with him, listening and learning. For them, the parables were graphic stories that helped them understand and remember Jesus’ teaching. This would be true of all of the disciples to an extent, but the Twelve especially. You could say, Jesus gave them the gift of saving knowledge. They heard and they believed.
As for others, Jesus said he told parables “that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand”. (10) These words were first spoken by God to Isaiah when he commissioned him to be a prophet. This is recorded in Isaiah 6:9-10. A prophet speaks for God.
God told Isaiah to go and tell Israel to keep hearing but not understanding, to keep seeing but not perceiving. It was a judgment on Israel, who would turn from God. Isaiah’s words, although coming directly from God, would not bring joy to the Israelites. Instead it would harden their hearts.
Jesus was saying that God’s word spoken by Jesus would have the same effect on the Jews as had God’s word spoken by Isaiah. Not all would receive Jesus’ message and his preaching would actually harden their hearts. The parables would conceal from them the message of the gospel.
So, Jesus speaking in parables was a further fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, or God’s word given to Isaiah.
It takes the work of the Holy Spirit on a person to understand spiritual things. 1 Corinthians 2:14 say “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Explanation of the Parable
Next, Jesus explained the parable. The seed in the parable is the word of God. We know something about the power of the word of God: 1 Corinthians 1:18 says “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.
In this parable, there are four different ways the word of God is received.
First, the soil on the path represents those who hear the gospel, but the devil comes and takes it from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. This soil represents the person with the hard heart. He or she may hear the gospel, but it does not penetrate. Many have heard the gospel, but not believed. Despite all of the response to Billy Graham’s preaching in stadiums, many walked back to their cars and their lives without believing in Jesus.
When I was in college, I shared the gospel with a guy in his dorm room. He was willing and listened. But when I finished, he immediately went off on talking about his personal philosophy and never considered the message. The devil came and took it from him in a sense.
Sometimes the hard heart comes from bad experiences in life. Often it is an unwillingness to give up their sin. And some people just have no interest in spiritual things. These are all good tools for the devil to use.
The devil has not been able to prevent the preaching of the gospel in America, for example. It is everywhere: on television, radio, internet, and books. There are Bibles in many hotel rooms. The gospel is every where.
But the devil has been successful in attacking it. Atheists write books ridiculing it. Fallen pastors write books explaining it away. Media personalities redefine it.
The devil has also been successful at creating distractions. Many people have sat in churches while the gospel was preached, but day dreamed about the football game on television, or things they needed to do or almost anything.
Second, the rock or rocky soil represents those who hear and receive it with joy. But they do not fully commit to Christ. When times get hard, they fall away. This represents people of shallow or superficial faith. It makes me think of a couple of popular singers who embraced Christianity, then moved on to other religions. It also reminds me of many people who have “walked the aisle” during a church invitation, but never devoted themselves to Jesus. This is also a picture of the child who made a profession of faith, but left home and Christ for other things.
Third, the soil that full of thorns are those who hear the gospel, but the cares of the world become more important to them than the gospel. So they do not bear fruit. They lose track of following Jesus because they are progressing in careers, raising families and accumulating money.
The fourth is good soil. These people hear and believe, the hold to the faith and the bear fruit. They become more and more like Christ. The fruit of the Spirit becomes more and more evident in their life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22) This person stays in God’s word. He or she strives to live a holy life.
We do not know a person’s heart when we share the gospel with him or her. We do not know what kind of soil the seed will fall onto. The Lord knows, but we do not. And we should not assume. We share the gospel no matter what.