The Required Perseverance For Producing Fruit In Abundance

February 20, 2011
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Luke 8:4-15

The Seed, The Word Of God

1. "Whoever has ears to hear, listen!" That's what Jesus said. The text of The Gospel According To Luke says by deliberate design, "He spoke out loud." This terminology has the meaning, "to shout, to exclaim." I think it means [the Lord] is stating something quite important. By saying, "Whoever has ears to hear, listen!" it suggests that today's lesson will be a discussion about "[open] ears that will listen."

2. [On one side of the equation], the text has "ears that will hear" because on the other side of the equation, there is "a message that is being spoken." That message is, of course, the message that Jesus is giving. It is the words from [his] sermon. Today I read from verse four, but also at the beginning of chapter eight the following is written. "Right after that, while Jesus was proclaiming the kingdom of God and making the good news of it known, he continued traveling around the towns and the villages. The twelve were also with him," (8:1). Jesus was proclaiming "the kingdom of God." He was making known the gospel (the good news).

3. The text had "right after that," but just before it the following text is written. Jesus was invited by a Pharisee over for a meal. Then a certain woman came in. Her name is not given in the text. The text only says, "A sinful woman." She brought an alabaster jar that had perfumed oil in it, "and she came up close to Jesus' feet from behind, and while she wept she began to soak [his] feet with [her] tears, and then she wiped [them] with [her] hair, and she kissed Jesus' feet and anointed [him] with perfumed oil." The developments after that are left out, but at the end Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven," (7:48). Then he adds, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!," (7:50). In this episode it becomes clear what the focus of Jesus' preaching was. It was forgiveness of sin and salvation. Jesus proclaimed the forgiveness of sin with divine authority, and he proclaimed salvation.

4. That's [the message] Jesus gave. He not only proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom of God with words, but he proclaimed it with actions. He not only speaks an invitation to God's forgiveness and salvation, but he proclaims it with actions. That is one of the episodes related to this sinful woman. The very existence and being of Jesus is speaking. Therefore, the very existence and being of Jesus Christ, you could say, is a message from God.

5. Not restricting it to "the word of God," but "words" themselves have power inside them. They have the power to bring things about, to make things happen. But whatever the words bring about is not destined by the words in and of themselves. It is influenced by how others receive them. In fact, it brings about joy to some with certain words. But, it brings sadness and anger to another with the same words. Thus, it is effected by the recipient.

6. In that sense "words" are similar to "seeds." "A seed" has the power to bring about the fruit within it. But the fruit is not destined to be by just "the seed." It is effected by "the soil" which receives it. Therefore, in today's passage Jesus is giving a parable about sowing seeds. God declared the gospel in Christ. By that word, by that action, and ultimately by the cross and the resurrection, he gave the word of God to this world. Right now Christ is being proclaimed through the church. The word of God which is being proclaimed has the power to save human beings, and it has the power to bear fruit, the fruit of salvation, in abundance.

7. But whether or not it brings salvation is not determined by only the word of God. It is effected by the responsibility to hear it. Therefore, Jesus gave the parable of sowing seeds, and he spoke it out loud. He shouted, "Whoever has ears to hear, hear!" The seed was sown. After that, he says it is an issue of the hearing ear.

The Seed Produces Fruit A Hundredfold More

8. The content of the parable is simple. Jesus is speaking about four types of soil upon which the seed fell. "The sower went out to sow seed. While sowing, some seed fell along the side of the road, they were trampled upon by people, and the birds of the air ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, sprouts came up, but since there was no moisture, they dried up. Other seeds fell amid thorny shrubs, and grew with the shrubs, but then they became covered over. Also, other seeds fell on good soil, grew up, and produced a hundredfold fruit," (verses five through eight).

9. In today's agriculture, when they sow, they might not be thinking about seed falling by the side of the road, or on rocky ground, or amid shrubs, but back then, [I'm] told there was a whole lot of that; because they scattered seed randomly onto the fields. After sowing the seed that way, they would till it a bit. Then, part of the seed would be covered over with dirt. That's the way they would sow seed. But then, sometimes [some of] it would also land either on the road or on rocky ground or amid shrubs.

10. Jesus explained about the seed that fell on the side of the road as follows. "The ones on the side of the road are like the people who hear the word of God, but the devil comes afterwards, so that they are not saved by believing, and [the devil] takes the word out of their hearts," (verse twelve). The word of God was sown. But, no fruit was ever seen out of it. This is one instance of that. The roadside means the road where people are going by and so it has become beaten down, a path made in the field. After it was sown there, it wasn't tilled over. The seed remained unreceived [by the soil]. The seed that fell along the side of the road was "trampled upon by people," says the scripture. The feeling expressed in the words of Jesus is one of being treated roughly and going to waste.

11. The words from the preaching of Jesus, the acts of Jesus, the existence of Jesus were not received. These things actually happened. Among the crowds that gathered around Jesus there were always Pharisees and scholars of the law. They heard him with hostility and animosity. They had no interest in receiving him from the very start. Like the road that was trampled upon, they were already hardened but on the interior. They had hardened thoughts and ideas. They would only be receptive to thoughts and ideas which were similar to their own. But if [anything they heard] was different from what they were thinking, they would not accept it. [The opinions] they already had in mind were the standard. Therefore, the gospel could not get in. So, they had evil spirits among them. That's the story. This same kind of thing happened against Jesus, and then in later generations, and it has been happening wherever Christ is proclaimed.

12. Jesus explained about the seed that fell on the rocky soil as follows. "The rocky soil type is when the people hear the word of God and gladly accept it, but since there is no root, they believe for a while but then when they encounter trials, they back out of it," (verse thirteen). In this case the word of God was received. And with joy. But, when one is satisfied only because of the joy that was given when one believes in Jesus, it is like seed with roots which do not go down deep. When it is hardly a sprout popping up, it soon withers away. When trials pop up, they "pull back" to the way things were. "To pull back, to back out of it" means to abandon the faith. Such a thing can and does happen. Such is the case of the seed that has fallen on rocky soil.

13. Jesus explains about the seed that fell amid the thorny shrubbery as follows. "And the ones that fell among the thorny shrubs are the people who hear the word of God, but they become crowded out along the way with life's worries and wealth and pleasures, and they do no make it to when the fruit ripens," (verse fourteen). Thorny shrubs grow faster than wheat and [the good stuff] ends up getting crowded out. Its growth is prevented. He says the shrubs stand first for "worries." Worrying is produced [in] the case of not having enough and being poor. On the other hand, he says the shrubs stand for "wealth and pleasures." Wealth and pleasures become an issue [in] the case where one has too too much. Whether deprivation or destitution, in either case there are things that prevent growth. The great activities of when the word of God is given and when salvation puts forth its buds do take place. However, whenever worries, wealth, and pleasures become bigger than [these great activities], then growth stops dead in its tracks. Such is the seed that has fallen amid the shrubbery.

14. Well, I have this feeling that the next thing [Jesus] is going to ask is, "Which one of these are you?" But I guess that's not what he says in what he wants to say [next]. The Lord shouted, "Whoever has ears to hear, hear!" Yes, indeed, the Lord would have them to listen. And he would have them to receive [the message]. Furthermore, he desires that the seed that was sown bring forth fruit. If you were a farmer, that's what you'd expect. You sow in anticipation of the harvest.

15. We have now taken a look at the three types of soil, the roadside, the rocky, and the shrubbery soils. But, it is not a discussion on three varieties of soil that are in totally different places, it is one field. The one called the roadside [type], as I mentioned earlier, is the road found in the middle of the field. The rocky soil is the place where rocks are left behind, the ones that couldn't be removed from the midst of the field. [Then there] is the part where they couldn't remove the shrubs and their roots either, and so the thorny shrubbery that grew out from the roots that were left behind grew alongside the wheat. Therefore, it doesn't necessarily mean that the roadside soil, the rocky soil, and the thorny soil [are destined to] stay that way for ever. It is one field with the potential to become good soil, all of it.

16. Jesus said, "Also, other seeds fell on good soil, grew up, and produced a hundredfold fruit," (verse eight). With the phrase, "produced a hundredfold fruit," some may be reminded of Paul and Augustine, the religious reformers Luther, John Wesley, pastor Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa. Or we may even be reminded of a believer close to us who shines with the joy of salvation. There are surely visible manifestations in them where one can see abundant fruit which the word of God has produced. Yet, these folks are not special people by any means. The same seed that was sown [in them] is the same seed which has been sown in us. [The seed] sown in us is the same seed that can produce one hundredfold fruit.

17. The Lord said, "What fell on the good soil is the people who heard the word of God with fine and good hearts, they kept it well, and in perseverance they produced fruit," (verse fifteen). First thing is their way of listening. [The people who] "heard the word of God with fine and good hearts." The Lord is not particularly saying we're supposed to be respectable human beings [before we can be a disciple]. It is a discussion on how to listen. These are the words being used when he says "the good soil" [is] both "fine" and "good." To say [they] "heard the word of God with fine and good hearts" should be thought as the opposite of the three kinds of soil that we've seen so far. It [is the kind of receptive vessel which] accepts the word of God and remains in it. Therefore, the text says, "they kept it well, and persevered." They were not just satisfied with the initial joy, but they were seeking for the received seed to have its roots go down deep inside them. Often times there are plenty of things to hinder the faith life and attempts to pull it [out of the soil of the heart]. There are trials, there are hard times. There are temptations towards wealth and pleasures. But, one is to remain and abide in the faith in the midst of these [trials]. Perseverance is required in it. To abide [in the faith] with strong patience is something we have got to do. When we do so, God will grant us fruit in abundance.