Luke 8:4-15


Irrepressible Power of Love (1) - Claimed

Luke 8:4-10  -  Jesus Teaches the Parable of the Sower

4 A large crowd gathered and townspeople came to him.
He spoke to them in parables.
5 “A sower went out and sowed seed.
As he sowed, some fell beside a track.
It got trodden in and wild birds ate it.
6 Other seed fell on stony soil
and once germinated died from lack of moisture.
7 Some seed fell in the middle of thistles,
and the thistles sprouted with it and choked it.
8 Other seed fell in good soil
and when it grew
it produced a hundredfold yield.” 
Luke added to what Mark had said that the crowd of townspeople, no doubt to draw the attention of his own urban community. In fact, Jesus’ listeners were far more likely to have been the small rural landholders, tenant farmers and day-labourers, constantly struggling against impossible odds. For them, thought of a hundredfold harvest would have represented life to the full, unthinkable joy and freedom from debt, leading to a radical re-structuring of social relationships. For that to happen, of course, they would need to take on board the message and the mission of Jesus.
Such a social structural meaning would have been lost on urban dwellers, even the poor and oppressed, who at the most would have heard the message as a possibility of reversal of present fortunes, already referred to frequently enough in Luke’s story to date. The interpretation inevitably became more spiritualised over time.
After telling the parable, he cried out,
“May anyone who has ears that can hear that, listen!”
9 When asked by the disciples what the parable was about,
10 he said, “To know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you,
but to others only in parables,
so that seeing they may not see
and hearing they may not comprehend.
While Mark had gone on to tease out further the importance of the parable, Luke was content with Jesus’ general invitation to take the message, whatever it was, seriously.
The text speaks of “mysteries”. Jesus’ message is not some collection of secrets, but mystery – truths whose depth is never exhausted and that require constant reflection against the background of changing experience and deepening wisdom.
Jesus quoted from a passage of Isaiah where the disillusioned prophet was reflecting on the unwillingness of his audience to listen to the invitations and warnings of God. It needs to be read not as though the purpose of the parable was to prevent perception and understanding, but simply as a sad comment on people’s general lack of response to the beauty and attraction of Jesus’ message.
In fact, Jesus used parables because:
  • rich truth is often best expressed by imagery
  • he needed to provoke people’s own questions, since answers to unasked questions can stifle rather than stimulate people’s search for truth


Irrepressible Power of Love (2) - Interpreted

Luke 8:11-15  -  Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower

11 “This is the parable.
The seed is the word of God.
12 The seed beside the track are people who hear,
but the devil comes along and takes the word out of their hearts,
lest they believe and be saved.
13 Those on stony ground are those
who hear and receive the word with joy.
But they have no root system.
They believe for a while but in time of trial they fall away. 
14 The seed that falls in among the thistles
are those people who come under the influence
of the cares and wealth and pleasures of life
and are submerged under them and do not mature. 
15 The seed in good soil
are those who when they hear the word
with an honest sincere heart,
hold on to it
and bear fruit with determined perseverance.
Thoughtful scholars agree that the allegorical interpretation of the parable did not originate from Jesus but from the early Christian communities, particularly those abroad in the Empire where possibility of structural social change was largely beyond comprehension. Those communities sought rather the more personal applications of the imagery. Their focus leaned more towards the pursuit of individual salvation and the needs of the Christian community, and the dangers facing it from within. Among these the allegorical explanation listed:
  • superficiality and immaturity
  • lack of courage
  • attachment to wealth, surface pleasures and unreal needs.
A possible echo of another of the Kingdom parables mentioned by Mark but omitted by Luke may lie behind his encouragement of determined perseverance.
Next >> Luke 8:16-39