Lukeby Mike Raiter
How many people attend your church? How many accepted Christ at your evangelistic service last Sunday? How many converts have you seen this year? These are valid questions, but the church can be obsessed by numbers. While this can reflect a desire to see people come to faith, it can also lead to a superficial understanding of discipleship.
We have seen how people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching and miracles, and how large crowds began to follow Him (v. 4). Not everyone receives God’s words in the right way, so He tells them a parable about how the different kinds of responses reveal who His true followers are.
The parable of the sower, or the soils, paints a picture of a farmer scattering seeds. The seed is God’s word (v. 11). The seed falls on four kinds of ground. The first is the road (v. 12). Here, the seed has no chance to grow. It is trampled by pedestrians and eaten by wild birds. Jesus compares this to the work of Satan, who immediately stops people from hearing God’s word.
Some seed fall on rocky ground (v. 13) where the topsoil is very thin. This represents those who respond enthusiastically at first, but fall away when they face opposition. Other seed fall among weeds (v. 14). These people may still call themselves disciples of Jesus, but instead of following wholeheartedly, they are distracted by the worries, riches, and pleasures of life.
Jesus has already taught the disciples that “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43). Similarly, the good soil (v. 15) represents those followers who listen to God’s Word carefully and receive it fully in faith and, since their hearts have been changed by God’s Word, bear the lasting fruit of godly lives (see 6:27–42).
This insight into the kingdom of God, or God’s rule through Jesus, is a gift of grace given to the disciples who earnestly seek to know the meaning of the parable. For rebellious Israel, who will ultimately reject their king, the cryptic parables hide this important revelation from them, becoming instead an expression of God’s judgment: they will never fully understand His kingdom (vv. 9–10).
Let us not be distracted by the large crowds who claim to be Jesus’ followers. Let us remember that while confession is important, a life of persistent fruit-bearing is the mark of genuine discipleship.
This parable reminds us about the importance of listening to God’s Word carefully. How can we ensure, both as speakers and listeners of God’s Word, that each of us “correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)?
Do you know people who might fit the description of the first three soils (vv. 12–14) described in this parable? Think about how you can pray for them.