The Book of Luke, The Parable of the Soils, Part I - Lesson 97
Luke 8:4-15, And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 9And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
From parallel accounts of this event given in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark we learn that Jesus was probably at Capernaum when he spoke of the sower and the four kinds of soil.
Matthew tells us regarding this event that “Jesus went out of the house” and sat by the seaside (Matthew 13:1), which at least suggests that this was the house where he usually stayed while at Capernaum, which was the early headquarters for His ministry.
A large crowd from various cities and towns had gathered along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, so that the Lord Jesus found it necessary to speak from a boat, anchored close to the shore according to Matthew 13:2.
We have learned from our study of Luke to this point and we know from the other gospel accounts of the ministry of Jesus, that there was building up a strong resistance to Jesus, His teaching, and His ministry on the part of the Pharisees.
The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was evident in His claim:
to have authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:17-26),
His association with sinners (Luke 5:27-32),
and His failure to keep the Sabbath according to their strict man-made regulations and rules (Luke 6:1-11).
To keep from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah Beelzebub, the prince of demons was give credit according to Mark 3:22.
Every kind of idea was used by his enemies to keep from giving glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 12:14 and Mark 3:6 tell us that by this point in time they had already determined to put Jesus to death.
It was only a question of finding the right place and the right time for plans for his destruction were being made.
We read of this in Matthew 12:14, Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. 15But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;
The parable of the soils is found in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-18).
Synoptic means: affording a general view of the whole, or of the principal parts of a thing.
A similar word is synopsis. The synoptic Gospels are then a synopsis of the life of Christ.
Luke’s account informs us that teaching by parables began with our Lord’s second Galilean campaign (cf. Luke 8:1).
Teaching by means of parables became the Lord’s method of teaching the crowds as we are told in Mark 4:33-34, And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
The “disciples” to whom our Lord revealed everything was the larger group of His followers, including those previously mentioned in Luke 8:1-3.
The Gospel of Mark especially makes this clear:
Mark 4:10-11, And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 11And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
It is important to understand what the Lord was doing here for this is a change as to how he taught the crowds that came to hear him speak for we are told from this point on in his ministry that without a parable spake he not unto them.
Many times we think of a parable as that which clarifies.
It is taking a simple thing to explain a complex thing.
But Jesus at this time chose not to clarify and to make known his message but instead he chose to cloak his message in parables.
And these parables could not be understood unless he explained the meaning and he only explained the meaning to certain people, those given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.
We can infer that the crowds did not understand the meaning of the sower and the soils because his disciples did not understand the meaning and had to be told the meaning by the Lord himself.
Verse 9, And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
This requirement of Jesus to explain his parables to his disciples was not an isolated incident but was repeated on many occasions.
There is a lesson here that we should also grasp that men are unable to grasp God’s truths, apart from divine help.
The disciples were enabled to understand what the parables meant only because Jesus explained their meaning to them at their request (Mark 4:34).
Apart from our Lord’s explanations, the disciples would have been just as much in the dark as the crowds.
Someone has said that divine revelation requires divine interpretation.
This is because God’s truths are vastly above our ability to grasp or comprehend:
As Isa. 55:8-9 tells us, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The difference between the crowds and the disciples is that the disciples had been given a receptor for light and God will always enlighten those who by faith seek light. So were the disciples.
And it is still true today for without the illumination of the word of God by the Holy Spirit we cannot understand the word of God and without the illumination of this parable by Jesus Christ the disciples could not understand it either.
II Cor. 2:14, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Paul preached in a similar way avoiding the use of convincing arguments, excellency of speech and instead relying on the Spirit of God to draw men by faith.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5, And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Jesus Christ could have brought men to him with the most wise of words, the most excellency of speech and they would have heard but not heard, they would have seen but not seen.
They would have been drawn by charisma and not the Spirit of God.
Now the first part of this word parable “para” means to be beside.
The word paraclete describes the Holy Spirit as being alongside.
Parallel lines are alongside one another.
A paralegal is alongside the attorney. So para means to be alongside.
The last part of the word “ble” means to throw.
So the word means to throw beside, it means to have two things alongside to compare.
So a Parable is: A fable or allegorical relation or representation of something real in life or nature, from which a moral is drawn for instruction; such as the parable of the trees choosing a king, the parable of the poor man and his lamb, the parable of the ten virgins.
Jesus Christ preached in parables then not to clarify but to get a separation, a separation of those who could hear by faith from those who could not hear by faith.
He was not interested in maintaining the large crowds but he was interested in purifying the crowds down to those who had ears of faith to hear his words.
That is what Biblical preaching ought to do, don’t you think?
As in the reaping process there is always a gathering in of a large quantity in order to have a separation or a winnowing.
A large group to make a smaller group.
A large sample to get a purer smaller sample.
You ladies do this all the time in the kitchen don’t you.
A large head of lettuce becomes a small head of lettuce.
Some of the tomato is cut off and discarded.
That large piece of meat is trimmed of fat to leave the more lean piece for the meal.
Preaching in parables is remnant preaching.
But this parable of the sower was especially important, for the Lord Jesus told His disciples that if they did not understand this parable, they would not understand any of the parables.
This is what he said in Mark 4:13 referring to the parable of the sower, And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
The understanding of this parable is meant by the Lord to help unlock the meaning of all parables that he intends to preach.
It is a method that the disciples are to learn from and to take that learning and apply it to his other teachings in parables.
Basically it means that if you want to know the mysteries of the kingdom just ask and it shall be given.
Having ears to hear means having a heart that wants to know God and his ways.
It is a heart that moves by faith from the unknown to the known.
It is a heart that is moved to the feet of Jesus where those who have ears to hear will be taught but those who do not, will still live in ignorance for they refuse to walk by faith.
They may want to know God no some intellectual level but God is not interested in that.
When Jesus in verse 10 said “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand” he was quoting Isaiah 6.
Isaiah 6:9-10, And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
This scripture was well known to the multitudes to whom he was preaching for it described a good number of them especially the scribes and the Pharisees.
It is related to why he was preaching in parables which are designed to make the heart of this people fat and to make their ears heavy and to shut their eyes.
For this people were the same as the people who had rejected the prophets.
They continued to have minds and hearts that were not interested in the light that Christ brought.
They continued to have rebellious hearts and were stiff necked and would ultimately stone the messengers that God had sent.
They listened because they wished to argue, they watched in order to criticize.
So it is against this background that we must consider the Lord’s statement.
He did not wish to have a response from these hypocrites for it would not be a response based on a desire to know truth.
He desired to have disciples whose hearts were receptive to the message and who were moved by faith to have their hearts and minds enlightened by the Lord as the disciples did.
Others, who were enemies of the faith; who waited to destroy what they did not desire, would hear in parables,
and failing to be attracted by his sermons would eventually go away and leave the disciples in peace.
So parables were used by the Lord as a winnowing process, a process like the driving off of the chaff from the grain by means of wind.
The parables were a sifting mechanism used to maintain purity in his ranks of disciples.
Jesus desired his message to be known only to the seeking and believing heart.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
It was the heart that would ask, would seek and would knock because it was a heart moved by faith.
Faith is that which pleases God and all things are arranged in order that faith can be exercised.
God could choose to make known the mysteries of the kingdom of God to everyone but he chose to make them known only to those who come to him by faith, those who have been given ears to hear.
Matthew 11:25, At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
And he did it to the people of Israel through the Lord Jesus Christ by the use of parables.