Passage: Luke 8:4-15
Why do we feel unfulfilled? How do we know what our purpose is? Who decides? What were we created to do? This passage will help to answer the question, how do I live out my potential?
Hear what God has done in Jesus
In this chapter, Jesus compares the human heart to soil and living out our potential in terms of bearing fruit. This dates back to the beginning when God made the first man from soil. Soil has latent potential. In Genesis 1, the plants and trees contained seeds that when combined with the soil, would grow and multiply. The first man and woman, too were commanded to be fruitful and multiply.
In this chapter, we see Jesus teaching, preaching and healing. Crowds of people are following him. It seems that he is fulfilling His potential but He begins teaching in a strange way. He teaches the crowds using parables. The greek word for parable means “comparison.” A parable isn’t just a metaphor or an illustration of something else. It’s a story of something familiar compared with something unfamiliar. Jesus always talks about the Kingdom of God using parables. They are easy to understand but impossible to fully comprehend.
Jesus compares His life and ministry using the parable of the sower. He wants to help his disciples fulfill their potential. The first step is learning to hear what God has done in Jesus.
4 When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: 5 “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. 8 Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” NASB
Hearing is the only command in this passage. We often ask ourselves how to fulfill our potential but Jesus commands us to hear from him how we are to be fruitful and fulfilled. We can enjoy a fruitful life of satisfaction we really listen and pay attention to what he is saying. The parable is designed to make things simple but also to make it unclear for those who don’t believe. Here, Jesus explain this in verse 9 and 10 when he quotes the prophet Isaiah from Isaiah chapter 6.
9 His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10 And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
Isaiah was a prophet sent by God to speak to His people Israel at a time when God’s people knew the truth and had the knowledge. Yet in their hearts they refused to really hear, understand, and obey. Nowadays, we have a similar problem. Our problem isn’t because we haven’t heard. At times there is a disconnect between what we know and what we actually obey. We hear, yet struggle to really understand. Jesus quotes this verse because the crowds are hearing but they aren’t really understanding who Jesus is and what He came to do.
Here Jesus describes three types of people who fail to really hear and understand by comparing them to three types of soil. Think about yourself and how you hear the Word of God.
The problem with these three soils is that they are too hard. They haven’t been properly tilled. They are too hard and the seed is unable to grab on to the soil and grow.
Let’s take a look at the various types of people that Jesus mentions.
1. First, he describes the soil on the road in verse 5 & 12.
5 “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the [a]air ate it up.
12 Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
This type of soil could describing a Pharisee. Someone who has already decided that they are unable to hear the message. Perhaps this could be someone that could be described as someone who is not really listening, someone who is too distracted or busy to hear what Jesus is saying. Sometimes, we can get so distracted by work, social media or people in my life. Am I this type of soil? When I close my eyes, what can I still see? Do I see an Instagram feed, a game, computer screen? What has so filled my mind and heart that prevents me hearing and receiving what Jesus is saying to me?
2. Next, let’s take a look at the rocky soil in verse 6 & 13.
6 Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.
13 Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
What type of heart can this soil be compared to? This describes the crowd. They seem to be excited and receiving of Jesus. These people might think they are following Jesus because they prayed a prayer or because they come to church, but are they really understanding who Jesus is and what He came to do? Does this describe the condition of your heart? Do you find yourself very excited on Sunday, but doubting, confused and withering by Wednesday? It could because we are rooting ourselves in the wrong things. Maybe we’re coming to Jesus because of what he can do for us but not really understanding who He is.
3. Thirdly, let’s take a look at the thorny soil.
7 Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.
14 The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
Who does this soil describe? They too hear and receive the word of God but for some reason they aren’t able to fulfill their potential and bear fruit. What kind of person would be described here? Perhaps Judas Iscariot. He probably liked following Jesus in the beginning but then greed began to creep into his heart and steal his affection. Perhaps this could describe the Rich Young Ruler who was able to follow Jesus because of his love for money. This person wants to have everything but only according to their own understanding. The things of this world seem beneficial and pleasurable soon begin to choke our faith and prevent our growth.
None of these three types of people were really hearing Jesus. At this point, when we read this we begin to ask ourselves, “which soil am I?” We realize that we don’t reflect the good soil, but rather these other soils. The good news is that we can become good soil. It’s not too late. Even the brother of Jesus, James rejected Jesus initially but later became the lead pastor of the Jerusalem church.
B. Understand in our hearts what Jesus has done for us in the Gospel
How do we really hear and understand what Jesus has done for us in the Gospel? How do we become “good soil” people? How do we live up to our potential that God has intended for us?
8 Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
We must become like the good soil. The good soil are those who are honest, have a good heart, and hold fast to the word of God. It would be easy to end the message here and just tell you to go home, be honest, have a good heart and hold fast to the Word of God and go bear fruit. If this is how we understand this parable then we are no better than the crowd. We would be missing the point. Becoming good soil is impossible for us.
What is Jesus really saying? What is the mystery that he’s explaining?
This parable is found in all three “synoptic gospels:” Matthew 13, Mark 4 and here in Luke 8. In the version found in Mark 4:13 Jesus says,
“13 And He *said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?”
This parable is also called “the Jesus parable.” This parable isn’t actually about us. This parable is about Jesus. It’s not usually called “the parable of the soils” but “the parable of the sower.” The parable is really about the sower, but who is the sower? Jesus himself is the sower. We all want to realize our potential and be good soil people. We want to receive his word and bear fruit, but look what kind of person is required to bear fruit?
Firstly, in verse 15 it says that we have to be honest, good hearted and holding fast to the word. Sorry but none of us have been honest or good hearted. “Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are unable to bear fruit on our own. That’s the first step in understanding this parable.
Jesus not only comes to sow the seed in the world but Jesus himself is the seed that is being sown. If we don’t understand who Jesus is and why he has come then we will not be able to understand any of his teaching.
This parable tells the story of what Jesus has come to do. Jesus tells the disciples that this is a mystery, but if we read this as simple moral teaching then it doesn’t seem that mysterious. Jesus came to earth as a sower, to preach and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. He preaches and heals just like the sower who is casting seed everywhere. The way that Jesus preaches to everyone, even those whom he knows will not believe. He preached to ones like the soil on the road. He preached to the Pharisees who refused to consider who he was. He preached to the ones like the rocky soil. He goes to the crowds and preaches and heals them even those they wither and refuse to understand. Even those like the thorny soil who start to follow but then fall away. Jesus not only preaches to them like the sower but he gives his life for them like the seed that was sown. The seed that fell on each soil died. The soil that feel on the road, died. The seed that fell on the rocks, died. The seed that fell on the thorns, died. Even the seed that feel on the good soil, died but the difference is that in that soil, the seeds’ death brought about life.
When you and I were hard hearted, dead and without salvation, Jesus took our punishment. The punishment that the other soils deserve. The punishment that we deserve was put on Jesus unto death. The good news is that his goodness, honest, good heartedness and holiness was given to us. When we trust in Jesus, he is born in us. We begin to reflect the life of Jesus in our lives. He begins to shine through us as a good heart, as honesty. This parable is really preaching the gospel to us. Jesus came to be reborn in us. The church is called the body of Christ for a reason. Jesus came to sow but also to be the seed that is sown into us. In John 12:23-25, Jesus describes himself as the seed that dies:
23 And Jesus *answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his ife loses it, and he who hates his [b]life in this world will keep it to life eternal.
Jesus was the seed that was sown into our lives. He died but praise be to God that he came back to life! We need to understand that. We need to understand that it’s not through our own efforts and ideas that we can realize our full potential. But it comes from recognizing who he is and who he has now made us to be.
Have you received Jesus?
C. Multiply what Jesus has done in us by making disciples
Now what? There is a reason that Jesus has partnered with us. He came not just that we would hear and understand but we too will multiply. He wants us to multiply what he has done in us by making disciples. What is the fruit that we hope to see in our lives? In the context of this chapter, Jesus is preaching the gospel. Throughout this chapter there are examples of others who become “good soil” people and begin to bear fruit in the form of making disciples. The man filled with evil spirits receives Jesus and begins to share the gospel with everyone he knows throughout the surrounding ten cities. The bleeding woman who was sick for 12 years yet Jesus comes into her life and she begins to bear fruit and give her testimony to everyone.
In Genesis 1:28 God commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.” You are made in God’s image. You reflect his goodness and glory. Make more! Fill the earth with my glory. This was the first command given to man. Fast forward to the last command given by Jesus to the disciples in Matthew 28. He says, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” These disciples have the life of Jesus shining through them. Jesus calls us to go and make disciples.
What is the fruit that Jesus is calling us to bear? It should be the same that was sown into us. If we sow a grain of wheat, do we expect an apple tree to come up? Obviously what is sown is what will grow. What was sown in us? Was is money? Cars? What fruit are we expecting? What do we expect our full potential to look like? It must be the life of Jesus. The life of Jesus was sown into us. We too must sown the life of Jesus into others. They too can experience abundant life where their potential has been realized.
The fruit is more disciples. From you and me and from our church. New City is doing a great job at making disciples. What do we expect our filled potential to look like? What were we created to do? It was to multiply Christ in others.
Once I met a chai wallah named Dharamraj. He had been working at one chai stall for 30 years. I shared my testimony with him and the gospel with him. He said that he had been to church a few times but instead of getting better, he got worse. He had been sick for many years. He complained that his legs were in bad shape, the police beat him, blood pressure problems and vision problems. He said, “God doesn’t love me. He’s never done anything for me.”
I told him, “God does love you and he want to save you and use you to save others.” Dharamraj wasn’t ready to believe but he allowed me to pray for him. As I was praying for him I felt burdened to pray that he would have a dream. I don’t normally do that, but in that moment, I did. The next day, my daughter and I came back and asked whether or not he had a dream. He had!
He said, “last night I saw in my dream I saw this incredibly beautiful tree that was filled with fruit. In my dream, I felt such peace and joy and fulfillment.”
I said, “see, God is revealing himself and his plan to you. He wants you to become this fruitful tree.”
He said, “what fruit? I want to be healed. This is fruit that I want. I am still sick.”
I replied, “look around, there are 20 people standing around your shop all the time waiting for tea. God has called you to bring about the fruit of salvation in their lives. They could know eternal life because you told them.”
He said, “that’s not the fruit that I want.”
Many times, the reason we are unable to bear fruit is because we are working for the wrong things. We keep sowing apple seeds hoping for pears.
This wasn’t the end of the story. Later, we visited Dharmraj’s home when we was very sick and about to die. It just so happened that he lived very close to a local pastor, so we both went and met him. For a week, he was unable to drink water or eat. Every time he tried, he would vomit. So we prayed for him and then miraculously he was able to drink water, have tea and snacks without vomiting. After this, he and his family received the gospel. They are still faithfully coming to that local church there and now he is sharing the good news with others. He’s still pretty sick but at least now he’s bearing fruit.
What about you? Is your potential being realized? Which soil are you? Which soil do you want to become? Are you just going to try harder? We have to trust in Jesus to give us understanding through the gospel. We need to trust in him to transform us into good soil to bear right fruit. We have to submit and obey and love him. Definitely God will bring about great fruit in your life.