Yesterday I preached on the parable of the sower in Luke 8 (also in Matthew 13 and Mark 4). It is probably the third most famous parable (after Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan), it is one of only a couple where Jesus explains his meaning, and it is the parable of parables because Jesus also explains why he preached in parables so much!
As before, I am not going to write about how to preach the parable, but some lessons from the parable that may be applicable to us as preachers.
The parable is very simple. A sower scatters seed. Same sower, same seed, different soils. By the path seed was trodden on and snatched away. Thin soil on rock seed shot up and withered without root. Among thorns seed started to grow, but got choked. Good soil seed grew and was very fruitful. From the perspective of a farmer wanting a crop, only the last category was successful.
Here are a few things for us to ponder:
1. God’s kingdom spreads by the word, not the sword. I think it was Tim Keller who made the helpful observation that Jesus could have chosen other Old Testament analogies for the word of God – a hammer, a fire, etc. But he chose a seed. Every other kingdom that has spread has done so at the edge of the sword, killing and threatening. Christ’s kingdom advances through the weakness of a spoken message. Be encouraged in your preaching, you are part of that advance.
It may seem weak when you look at your preaching, and even at the results of it, but all over the world there are millions of people worshiping Jesus and being transformed day by day who began their journey by hearing a presentation of the gospel from a friend or from a preacher (and most of those presentations were probably not that impressive!)
2. God’s kingdom spreads by profound transformation, not questionable conversion. The parable is so simple, but we may wrestle with the second and third soils. Are the signs of life something to celebrate? Are these people saved? Surely we should count every one we can? Perhaps we would do better to be astonished by the profound crop of the good soil instead of trying to count every sprout as part of the harvest.
Jesus’ hearers would have been stunned at talk of a hundredfold crop. We should be stunned when a life is truly transformed. Jesus turned the world upside down with eleven transformed disciples, plus the women in that inner circle. He was not anxious to count the crowds who only wanted miracles or Judas Iscariot who looked like an insider but ultimately wanted money over Jesus.
3. God’s kingdom spreads, but not to all. We should be bothered that not everyone receives the gospel message with heartfelt response. We should be bothered for their sake. We should be bothered for logic’s sake too – if anyone sees how good the good news is, how wonderful Jesus is, how full life to the full is, then it makes no sense to not give everything in response. But many will not.
CS Lewis said there are two types of people in the world – those who say thy will be done to God, and those to whom God ultimately says, thy will be done. This parable, in part, can encourage you to press on when you are seeing more non-response than you feel you can cope with!
Tomorrow I’ll add some more thoughts.