Hear and Do l Luke 8:4-21 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
Last summer a generous benefactor of Montreat offered the use of his spectacularly beautiful cabin for college retreats, and so Paul decided to use that space to host our quarterly executive retreat. Everyone else was carpooling, but I live in the Appalachian holler already so I was just going to meet everyone there. Paul called me the night before to give me these exasperatingly meticulous directions. I of course listened patiently, but for crying out loud I know the area, I live in the mountains, I have an iPhone. I’ll be fine.
My instructions were to meet everybody at the base of the 3-mile, gated dirt road driveway at 8:15am the next morning. And so bright and early I got up, enjoyed a beautiful mountain drive, and arrived at the base of a 3-mile, gated dirt road driveway 10 minutes early, responsible employee that I am. 8:15 rolls around and I don’t see anybody, but it was a caravan so that usually takes a little longer. Then 8:20. Then 8:30. I start to wonder – Paul Maurer is the most Germanic German on the planet, after all – so I drive a little way till I get a cell signal. Then I discover – much to my chagrin – that I had the right mountain and the right road…just the wrong side…I was on the wrong side of the mountain, with a road that would be impassible. It took me 45 minutes to get around. And el Presidente’s executive meeting did not start on time…
There are, of course, different kinds of listening. If you have ever lived in a house with a spouse or siblings or parents or roommates, you are well aware of this. The degree to which we do or do not listen to the people around us dictates the flow and health of our day to day lives. And so often, how we engage our human relationships reflects how we engage with God. Listening is a big deal, and I suspect the stakes are higher than we’d like to admit. And Jesus has something to say about that in our passage today.
At this point in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is out roaming the streets with his squad “proclaiming the good news [gospel/euangellion] of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). In our text this morning we’ll look at a key set of teachings in which Jesus shows us 1) how the kingdom of God works, and 2) who’s in it. And it goes like this:
“While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’” Luke 8:4-8
This is Jesus’ quintessential parable, and all we really know at this point is that it has something to do with the kingdom of God. This parable shows up in three of the Gospels, and according to Mark if you don’t get this one you won’t get any of them (Mark 4:13). Teaching in parables was Jesus’ favorite MO, and he took the art form to a whole new level (the Gospels record about sixty ). He loves them, because parables are tricksy in a good way (one of my best friends, in reference to the confounding and surprising ways of God, sometimes refers to the Lord as ‘Jehovah-Sneaky’). You get sucked into the story, then before you even know what happened truth smacks you in the face. Or it goes completely over your head. One of my very favorite commentators, Dr. Jim Edwards, puts it like this: “Parables are like stained-glass windows in a cathedral, dull and lifeless from the outside, but brilliant and radiant from within.”
And so Jesus invites us into a cute little story about a farmer who apparently enjoys wasting as much seed as possible, flinging it in all kinds of ridiculous places. And at the end of the story he simply says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
If you’re a little confused at this point, so were the disciples. So when they get the chance they ask Jesus to give them a little debrief. And this is what he says: