“4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8)
I’m gonna skip right over verses 1-3. It’s not that I don’t see anything there, all scripture is God breathed. I’m sure there’s plenty for us to consider in a short description of how Jesus traveled and with whom he traveled. (Did the “sinner” from chapter 7 tag along? What must it have been like when this troop of at least twenty people showed up in town? How did the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager meet Jesus?) It’s just, given my present season of unemployment, I don’t want anyone thinking I’m saying women should be supporting me.
What is infinitely more useful to us here is WHY Jesus was traveling. “8 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” Luke, I’m finding, is delightfully structured. From here to verse twenty-one, he follows one theme-the Word of God.
Jesus is sowing his seed. Freedom for the captives! A light to those living in darkness! Come without money, buy bread from Him. Humble yourselves and fall on God’s mercy and He is faithful to forgive, seventy-times seven! All who come are welcome! The outcasts are now Sons and Daughters! The year of the Lord’s favor has begun! Good News! No more religion! No more, what-you-have-to-do! Now it’s what-God-has-done!
But Jesus is no fool, he’s no sparkle-eyed naïf, so sure his message is going to unilaterally change the world overnight. He knows how his seed will be received. Some hearts are too hard. Too set in their ways. Too settled into their systems. Too packed and full to receive something so … unsettling. Seeds sprout, they push things aside, they demand nutrients, water, resources the ground had other designs for. It is not just the hostile atheist whose ground is too hard, anyone can be too full for Jesus. There the seed will lay on the surface, un-embraced, unloved by the soil, where any unclean bird (demon) can come and snatch it away.
Some hearts will receive it joyfully… at first. It’s novel! It’s new! It’s exciting! We’re gonna change the world! I’m loved! Then the seed starts demanding those nutrients to live. The root reaches down and touches something hard. Some desire. Some coping mechanism. Some habit. Some lust. Some pain. Some addiction. Some one. Some thing, which cannot exist with the Word and the heart has a choice to make. Grab onto this seed, this newcomer, this disturbing revelation or hold onto the known. Sure, it’s abusive, it’s killing me, it’s wrong, it can’t last but it’s mine. The pain, the cold comfort I know is better than the possibly painful cure I don’t. Unfed, unloved, the seed withers and dies.
Some hearts accept the seed just fine… as long as it’s willing to grow in the garden with the other seeds. They are generous hearts. All plants, all philosophies have merit. Come Jesus, you’ll fit right in over here in the corner next to my ambitions and my other concerns. Watch out for those thorns! Haha, aren’t they cute when they draw blood? The Word is in competition here. There’s only so much water and nutrient to go around. There’s too much shade and not enough Son. No one weeds this garden of weeds. The fruit growing here is not good for eating. It blesses no one. The Word is even very little benefit to the soil itself. Easily forgotten amidst the competing foliage. Tragedy, trial and suffering come and this heart is as lost as the unbeliever when the true tragedy is the Truth, Comfort, Peace and Love it craves is right there, hidden among the thorns.
Then there’s the heart Jesus is looking for. Soft, broken, torn up by the plows of life, soaked by the rain, flooded by the river every time it overflows its banks, all of the rocks it leaned on, held onto, was sure of; all of the plants it hoped in, dreamed of, nurtured ripped out and removed. Forgotten. Fallow. Empty. Hungry!
And the seed falls. The seed is embraced! The seed is fed. Sheltered. Loved! Unchallenged, it grows without competition. Everything the soil has belongs to the seed and everything the seed has belongs to the soil until there is so much fruit, the heart overflows!
Those who have ears to hear, let them hear!