Monday, March 4, 2013

Luke 8:1-8

Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.

When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus and his closest followers undertake a nomadic ministry, preaching and healing in cities and villages likely in Galilee. Although Israel was a patriarchal society, Jesus allowed women to have key roles in his ministry. Mary Magdalene had good reason to follow Jesus, having been set free from demonic posession. She is among the first to see Jesus after his resurrection, and according to tradition was a leader in the early church. Joanna also appears at the empty tomb of Jesus. Her husband had an important role in Herod's government, and she must have left a life of ease to follow Jesus. Susanna is only mentioned here, but these women as well as others provided much of the support needed for Jesus' ministry to continue. God still calls us today to give sacrificially to further his kingdom.

The parable Jesus tells to this crowd is explained in the following verses. (Many use this passage to argue for and against certain doctrines of salvation, but that is not the point.) The seed represents the Word of God. Like the sower, we should spread the Gospel to everyone - not just to those who seem to have fertile soil. As you walk through the field of your life, spread the seed with which God has entrusted you!

Some seed in the parable is instantly trampled underfoot, only to be eaten by the birds. These seeds never sprout. Like a ravenous bird swooping down from the sky, the devil comes and takes the word away from their heart so that they will not believe. Many reject the gospel instantly and never even seriously consider it.

The second type of seed quickly sprouts in the rocky ground. But not having deep root to obtain moisture, the plant that springs up withers and dies. It never bears fruit. Similarly, other seeds sprout and seem to do well until choked by thorns. Many hear the gospel and receive it eagerly, but unfortunately never spend time in discipleship developing spiritual roots. Others fall away rather than allowing the trials of this life to refine their faith. Or the pleasures and pursuits of this world distract them from truly following God.

The final seed falls on good soil, grows deep roots, and produces fruit and seed that perpetuates forever. This obviously represents those who believe the gospel and develop into strong mature disciples through prayer, Bible Study, evangelism, and walking with God throughout their life.  Mature believers represent only a fraction of those who hear and even those who initially resopond to God's Word.

The sower did not control the type of ground onto which he sowed. But we have control over what type of "soil" our spirit is. Just like gardening requires effort to produce a bountiful crop, spiritual gardening requires belief - taking the seed deep into our soil. We fertilize and water the seed through prayer and Bible Study. We pollinate our seed through interaction with felow believers. Then we spread our seed by becoming sowers ourselves.

What type of soil will you be today?

God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.  - Romans 2:6-8

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