The parable of the sower found in Luke 8:5-15 is one of the best known of the gospel texts. But the parable is not really all that much about the sower, Jesus, who sows everything good. All spiritual fruit is by him and for him. AND the parable is not really all that much about the seed, which is constant and without variation. The seed is clearly (and based on verse 11) the Word the God. Going out into all the earth. What is the parable about? The parable is about the 4 soils and how they handle the seed. There are four responses to this preaching of the Word – four kinds of soil. What we want to notice especially is that Jesus interprets every one of them explicitly as four ways of hearing the Word. It’s all about hearing. That is what this text is about. It’s about hearing.
1. Some seed “fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up.” Then in verse 12 Jesus interprets, “Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.” That’s one kind of hearing.
We must not stand by the roadside within the range of passers-by; a certain withdrawal from the world, a certain silence, a certain contemplation will protect what has been divinely sown. We need to practice silence both inner and outer. The teaching of our Church is to quiet oneself and watch your thoughts but not engage them. This is where the practice of a short prayer like the Jesus Prayer can help.
2. Verse 6 says that “Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” Then verse 13 interprets: “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.” That’s a second kind of hearing.
The ground on which the seed falls must have moisture in it, it must be frequently and regularly watered; this means that we must have constant and regular recourse to prayer and to other sources of grace, without depending on moments of emotion or inspiration. We must not lightly reject a fixed framework, such as having a time and place to pray. We should at least be praying the Lord’s Prayer, and other prayers of the Church’s tradition, and attend liturgical services. We need to ask the Lord to teach us, guide us, lead us.” We need to be reading New Testament regularly and slowly.
3. Verse 7 says that “Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.” Verse 14 interprets: “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” That’s a third kind of hearing.
We must not allow the thorns, that is to say the attractions and distractions of the world, to suffocate the word; these are not only the reprehensible passions or earthly riches or ambitions; often entertainments which are not necessarily harmful in themselves but hinder an intimate relationship between God and us. The TV and the Internet are greater dangers than we are willing to admit and limit.
4. Finally, verse 8 says, “Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” And verse 15 interprets: “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” That’s a fourth kind of hearing.
Then at the end of verse 8 Jesus makes sure we got the point about hearing, and says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Basil the Great said, “What should we say concerning this: “He who ears to hear, let him hear”? It is evident that some possess ears better able to hear the words of God. What does he say to those who do not have those ears?” Hear you deaf, and you blind, behold.” All such expressions are used in reference to the inner man.”
This is no small thing. The stakes are very high. There is a hearing that barely gets started and the Word is gone before you get out the door. There is a hearing that lasts until there is a hard time in life, and then one turns from God to other messages. There is a hearing that flourishes until the riches and pleasures of this life choke it off. And there is a hearing that defeats the devil, endures trial, scorns riches and bears fruit unto eternal life.
Let’s ask God for it. Psalm 40:6 says that God opens the ear to hear: “Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; my ears You have opened.” So let us now pray, “Open my ears, that I may hear the Word of God, with an honest and good heart and be saved (Luke 8:12) and bear fruit.