Luke 8: Seeds and Sowers

The chapter starts off with something I can’t ignore, even though it is but a pre-script historical tidbit in the narrative Luke is sharing with the excellent Theophilus. It’s about the women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of hero’s steward, and Suzanna, and many others, who supported him with their possessions. His mother, Mary, and her cousin, Elizabeth were the first women who celebrated him, and so very many others followed later. Let’s keep an eye out for them.

But the rest of the chapter, as far as I can tell, is a series of parables, teachings and events that show us something about sowers, seeds and harvests.

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The parable of the sower, explained, tells us that the seed Jesus was talking about was the word of God. He’d been busy for a while sowing that seed into the disciples and the people who followed him. He knows not all of the seeds will bring the intended harvest. He tells them that the condition of the heart of the hearer—or in the shared parable, the condition of the ground—is what makes the difference. The heart that sets aside the seed by accepting doubts—brought by conflicting opinions offered by the theologians of the day, or by conditions of life that challenge the truth, or even the cares or pleasures of normal life—bring forth no fruit. Those who keep the seed bear fruit with patience.

The stories:

Jesus and the disciples were in a boat, on their way to the country of Gadara. A storm came up, the disciples were terrified, Jesus slept. Finally, unable to stand it any more, they woke him up, “Master, we perish!”

Jesus spoke to the storm, “Peace! Be still!”, and asked his disciples where was their faith.

Then we meet the madman of Gadara as soon as Jesus’ feet touched dry ground. Full of demons who were identified by the name Legion, the man was living as an outcast, alone in the wilderness. A strange conversation occurred between Jesus and Legion, after which the madman becomes a free man.

And when Jesus permitted Legion to enter the animals, pigs drowned.

The final event in the chapter is actually two miracles, mingled: Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. You know both stories, I am sure. Luke’s letter doesn’t mention that the woman had heard about Jesus and said, “If I touch him, I will be made whole,” and she determined to make it happen. We are just told what happened on the scene. We are also told more elsewhere about Jairus’ process. Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, in effect said to Jesus, “If you come and touch her, she will live.”

When a messenger runs to tell Jairus his daughter is dead, we notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Jairus. We are too late.” He answers the situation right away, telling Jairus, “Don’t fear! Believe only!” Keep the seed, perhaps? As the woman with the issue of blood did when it seemed she was too weak to deal with the crowds pushing against the master?

This brought me back to the teaching in the middle of the chapter that felt random until today.

A Light under a Vessel

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“No one, when he lights a candle, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it out on a candlestick, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that shall not be revealed, not anything hidden that will not be known and revealed. Take heed therefore how you hear, for whoever has, to him will be given, and whoever has not, from him will be taken even what he thinks he has,” (vs 16-18)

Isn’t he still talking here about the sower, the seed and the harvest? Not about sharing the gospel, not about secret sins being exposed, and not about uneven distribution of gifts.

I have no idea why I would have thought it was any of those things, but I did. Read in context, it’s about why the seed is sown It is about God’s light being given, not withheld—revealed, not hidden from us. It is about making sure our hearts keep his words, the light, or they will be stolen, as will the harvest.

We sometimes think of the harvest of the seed as our harvest, and consider our desire for it selfish. But, in fact, it is God’s seed, so God’s harvest. It is His desire, more than ours.

Let’s remember the intended harvest as we read His promises and directions, or hear His “still small voice” in the days ahead. Let’s keep the seed.