A Story about a Farmer
(Mark 4.1-9; Luke 8.4-8)
1That same day Jesus left the house and went out beside Lake Galilee, where he sat down to teach. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he had to sit in a boat, while the people stood on the shore. 3Then he taught them many things by using stories. He said:
A farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. 4While the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell along the road and was eaten by birds. 5Other seeds fell on thin, rocky ground and quickly started growing because the soil wasn't very deep. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and dried up, because they did not have deep roots. 7Some other seeds fell where thornbushes grew up and choked the plants. 8But a few seeds did fall on good ground where the plants produced 100 or 60 or 30 times as much as was scattered. 9If you have ears, pay attention!
Why Jesus Used Stories
(Mark 4.10-12; Luke 8.9,10)
10Jesus' disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you use stories to speak to the people?”
I have explained the secrets about the kingdom of heaven to you, but not to others. 12 Everyone who has something will be given more. But people who don't have anything will lose even what little they have. 13I use stories when I speak to them because when they look, they cannot see, and when they listen, they cannot hear or understand. 14 So God's promise came true, just as the prophet Isaiah had said,
“These people will listen
but never understand.
They will look and look,
but never see.
15All of them have
They refuse to listen;
they cover their eyes.
They cannot see or hear
If they could,
they would turn to me,
and I would heal them.”
16 But God has blessed you, because your eyes can see and your ears can hear! 17Many prophets and good people were eager to see what you see and to hear what you hear. But I tell you they did not see or hear.
Jesus Explains the Story
(Mark 4.13-20; Luke 8.11-15)
18Now listen to the meaning of the story about the farmer:
19The seeds that fell along the road are the people who hear the message about the kingdom, but don't understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches the message from their hearts. 20The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it at once. 21But they don't have deep roots, and they don't last very long. As soon as life gets hard or the message gets them in trouble, they give up.
22The seeds that fell among the thornbushes are also people who hear the message. But they start worrying about the needs of this life and are fooled by the desire to get rich. So the message gets choked out, and they never produce anything. 23The seeds that fell on good ground are the people who hear and understand the message. They produce as much as 100 or 60 or 30 times what was planted.
My wife was getting irked by my oft time failure to hear what she or others were saying. She urged me to talk to the doctor about it, so the next time I went in to see him I mentioned, “My wife thinks I’m hard of hearing.” He checked my ears and said, “Your hearing is fine. Tell them to speak up.”
While I admit to feeling a bit smug on the drive home, if I was honest I’d have to admit that it is possible that I have developed the gift of selective hearing. Combine that with a one-track mind, and you have a problem. Or should I say I have a problem?
In v 9 Jesus says, “If you have ears, pay attention!”
Sometimes we don’t “get” the message because we aren’t paying attention. At other times we don’t “get” it because it requires a deeper kind of hearing—a yearning to understand the message behind the words.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry a division was forming between those who were sincere followers of Jesus, and those who had different motives that did not include a genuine desire to understand spiritual truth. As Jesus spoke in parables, the faith and understanding of those in the former group grew. Their earnest desire to hear what Jesus was saying was rewarded by his revealing the truth to them.
For those who were insincere, Jesus’ use of parables hid the spiritual truths embedded in them.
The impact of the message depends on our openness to receiving it. Hearing without responding makes us vulnerable to losing our ability to understand it as our hearts become hardened.
Eternal God, we thank you that you have made your mysteries known to us. Give us ears to hear and a heart to follow what your Spirit says to us, so that we may become a people blessed with godly wisdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen