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Take Care How You Listen

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

As we follow the conversations and interactions of Jesus, we are in (Luke 8). Jesus shares a parable that we typically call the "Parable of the Sower."

One of the primary forms of Jesus' teaching was in the form of parables. These short stories expressed a spiritual truth or an understanding of God's kingdom. More than one-third of Jesus' recorded teaching was in the form of parables.

The Parable of the Sower, as we often call it, misses the point. The parable is not so much about the sower but the soil. We could better understand this as the Parable of the Soils. It is easy to miss Jesus's point because we stop reading too early. So let's dig into familiar teaching and see what new insights we unearth.

The Soils Explained

After this teaching, the disciples come to Jesus and ask him to explain the parable.

Luke 8:10 (NIV)

He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that," 'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.

Jesus, as he begins explaining this parable, quotes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah (6:9-10). Many in Israel had rejected Isaiah's message centuries earlier, and many of Israel will reject the message of Jesus. They will refuse to see the truth of God's kingdom contained within the teaching of Jesus.

We need to be careful and learn from the past. So often, those to whom God has revealed Himself can become hardened to His word. We can become dull to His teaching and instruction. We should never allow ourselves to consider we have God all figured out. We should never cease being amazed and in awe of God working in and through His creation. We must be careful to see, hear, and understand the glorious news of God's kingdom.

Along The Path

Luke 8:11–12 (NIV)

This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

Jesus is looking for those who are genuinely seeking the kingdom of God. He is looking for more than those who desire to follow the crowd. His teaching is designed to sift out those who truly desire to follow him.

Some have been hardened to God's kingdom message along the path. They refuse to see Jesus for who he is and are shut off from the message of God's kingdom he proclaims. As the ministry of Jesus moves forward, each type of soil becomes evident through his various interactions, conversations, and teachings. We are told of many encounters with the Pharisees, some who reject Jesus and refuse to listen to his words. Such are those who have God figured out, and Jesus, to them, is not of God.

Do we have God all figured out? Are we open to His kingdom message?

Rocky Soil

Luke 8:13 (NIV)

Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

Shallow roots don't grow into mature plants. Some receive God's message with excitement and joy. However, when testing and trials come, they quickly abandon the message of Jesus. Growing a healthy and deep root system takes effort. Cultivating the soil, pruning the plants, and allowing sun and nutrients to soak in, we often don't want to make an effort to develop deep roots. Unfortunately, many approach the message of Jesus in the same way. There is excitement but little effort to grow and develop into maturity.

Some people were excited to hear Jesus and witness his miracles. However, after the excitement, they did not continue to follow him.

John 6:64–66 (NIV)

Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them." From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Growing deep roots takes more than excitement.


Luke 8:14 (NIV)

The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

Another type of person is those choked by worries, riches, and pleasure. People are interested in the message of the kingdom of God and are interested in Jesus. However, never grow to maturity. They cannot fully accept the message of Jesus because they are concerned about other things. How often do we let our concerns distract us from fully following Jesus?

Matthew 19:16–22 (NIV)

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." "Which ones?" he inquired. Jesus replied," 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Are we distracted by our concerns?

Good Ground

Luke 8:15 (NIV)

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Jesus desires those who are like the good soil. They are people who listen to the message of Jesus and the kingdom. They hold to his teaching and apply it to their lives producing a rich crop. Their hearts are impacted and changed by the message of Christ.

Some were committed to Jesus and the message of the kingdom. Some stayed with him and supported the work of God in His creation.

Luke 8:1–3 (NIV)

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Are we committed to the message and mission of Jesus?

Bridging the Context

Luke 8:16–18 (NIV)

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.

I believe Jesus summarizes his teaching, "Therefore consider carefully how you listen." (Lk. 8:18a) Having received the good news of God's kingdom, we should reflect his truth. The purpose of a lamp is not to be hidden. Its purpose is to illuminate for others the path Jesus desires.

As Christians, we have been given the message of Christ. However, we are not given the blessings of God's kingdom to keep held in secret. Instead, we are given to share this blessing with others.

Are we listening to Jesus and the message of the kingdom?

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Scripture quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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