A Parable Of Encouragement

Luke 8: 4-15

The wise farmer knows that all the harvest is not in his hands.
He can only do so much.

When Jesus was among us, He taught His disciples, then sent them out to preach the coming
of the kingdom of God.
Those disciples carried good news.
To the anxious, they brought a gospel of peace.
To the guilty, they presented a gospel that would free them from their sin and guilt.
To all of them whose lives were limited and death was sure, they presented a holy gospel
that would mean eternal life for them.
There is no other hope for them anywhere except in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You would think that every one would hurry to become disciples.
But it did not happen that way.
In spite of the hope and the truth and the integrity of the gospel, only a few people believed,
but most did not.

Why?
What went wrong?
Is the gospel unable to save?
Or did those who delivered the gospel not deliver it in the right way?

By the time the New Testament was written, it had become apparent that most Jews were not
going to recognize Jesus as their Messiah.
In fact, they were openly hostile to Him and opposed Him.
How could this be?
What did it mean?

This was not a surprise to Jesus for He anticipated this.
So, Jesus gave us this parable for our encouragement.
Anyone who has been in Bible study for many years, and has heard the gospel preached
has heard this parable analyzed and dissected.

As preachers, we have preached about the stony ground and the hard paths,
but Jesus was really teaching us so much more.
We should see this as a parable of encouragement.
Jesus will sustain us and equip us for the tasks that He gives us to do.

Jesus was always in complete harmony with Who He was and what He did.
Jesus taught many times in parables.
He did this because so many people were not understanding what He was teaching.
Since He was not reaching them one way, He would use a another method.

Alford Edersheim said all parables had one thing in common:
"They are all occasioned by some unreceptiveness on the part of the hearers."
This would mean that previous methods had produced little fruit.
So, how could the clearest of teachers be misunderstood?

We do know that the hearers of Jesus had divided themselves into 2 groups.
One group believed.
They were open to all He said; they listened with sponge-like minds.
They wanted to hear and to understand.

But right beside them was another group present as Jesus spoke.
These people didn't like Him -- they wished trouble for Him.
They were a die-hard opposition.
They hoped that He would stumble.
They tried to entrap Him as He taught.

So, imagine Jesus has He spoke a parable.
One part of the crowd was open and believing.
The other part of the crowd was hostile.
They believed that His teachings and His miracles were works of the devil.

So, would a parable helped the hostile group to understand?
No!
They had already made up their minds about Him.
Anything He said would only be twisted to conform to their low opinion of Him.

People like this are like the child's verse about pre-judging:
" I do not like thee, Dr. Fell,
How or why I cannot tell;
Only this I know full well,
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell
."

Someone gave an illustration that some parents can understand.
It goes like this: your daughter is a senior in high school.
She is asked out by a boy who attracts her, but disturbs you.
You tried to explain to your daughter why she should not go out with this boy.

Surely, you know how your daughter is going to react to what you say.
You know that she is immediately going to reject what you have to say.
This does not mean that you have not arranged your arguments well.
It does not mean that if you had used an illustration from your youth that she would
have heard you.
She is predisposed not to hear you.
Nothing that you say will change her mind.

Now come back to this parable.
As the seed is sowed, some will surely fall upon a kind of soil that is unresponsive.
This does not mean that the sower or the seed is at fault.
It is the quality of the soil that determines the effectiveness of the seed.
This parable has been called, "The parable of the soils."

The assignment is to sow the good seed.
The size of a harvest is beyond us.

To see the gospel rejected is very difficult for us.
In so many different ways we have tried to explain why people reject the gospel.
What makes people turn away from Jesus?
To those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Saviour, it is unexplainable.
Sometimes, we have become irrational in the face of such an entrenched, unbelief.

As Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for His crucifixion, He passed through a Samaritan village.
His disciples went before Him to tell the people that He was coming,
"But the people there would not receive him." (Luke 9: 53)
At this rejection, two disciples, James and John, lost their composure.
They said to Jesus: "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?"
(Luke 9: 54)

Jesus would never approve such a harsh measure.
But from the beginning, disciples have not known what to do with people who reject Jesus.
There seems to be built in us a quest for a sure thing.
We want to use gospel seed that is 100% guaranteed.
We want all the seed that we sow to come up, mature, and bear abundant fruit.

There are people who are most zealous about evangelism and they are most ingenious
in devising ways to make a harvest certain and abundant.
They will go to elaborate ends to see to it that there will be a harvest when they preach.
And none of this contrived, arranged, managed evangelism is in the New Testament.

Our assignment is not to arrange the harvest.
Our assignment is to sow the good seed.

But since many business methods have been brought into the life of the church,
it is understandable that we want to guarantee that the church will grow.
It must grow!
If it does not grow, we ought to get a a new leader -- a new pastor.
Certainly many decide that the pastors and their people must be at fault if the gospel seed is not
being put to the soil.

But the harvest is not in our hands.

This parable has within it a powerful teaching that is often overlooked.
We are the people who sow the good seed of the gospel which Jesus Christ has given us to do.
We are to sow the seed.
The good seed of the gospel has been entrusted to us.
Our assignment and our mission and our ministry is to sow the good seed.
We are not responsible for the size of the harvest.

The possibilities for the kingdom of God are strong and growth will surely come.
I think the basic meaning of the parable of the sower or has some would call it,
the parable of the soils is that we must have confidence in the good seed of the gospel.
It is going to come up.
Plant it.
It will bring a harvest.
Wait with patience.

There will be times when we know this with our heads and even remind ourselves
with our mouths that the seed is good, and that it will yield the harvest.
We are human, and there will be times when we are weak with our faith.
So, we must not take our doubts too seriously, and we must remember that some
of the giants of faith have also felt faint.

People who saw and heard Jesus in the flesh were no more immune to doubts than we.
John the Baptist identified Jesus, and baptized Him.
But when he was imprisoned by a cruel king, named Herod, John grew faint of heart.
He sent friends to Jesus asking Him, "Are you he who should come,
or should we expect someone else
?" (Luke 7: 19)
John had second thoughts.
He was about to give up on Jesus.

When Peter stepped from the boat onto the water he began to walk on the water as Jesus did.
Then he began to think about what he was doing.
Then, he doubted.
He thought that what he was doing made no sense, and at that point he began to sink.
(See Matthew 14:28-30)

Peter was giving up on the power of Jesus over the natural order.
At the occasion of the death of Jesus, all of the disciples were scattered.
Some went home and began to fish.
Some of us would rather go back to fishing.
Some even long for the innocence of Eden.
Those who were more idealistic among us are tempted to idealism's opposite, which is cynicism.
Cynics would say that all great causes are tarnished, and all sacrifice and self-giving
has an ulterior motive.

Christians, we can't go there.
I will not go there.
I'm not going to adopt an attitude of defeat that is a companion with despair.
God is not dead!
God is still on the throne!
God is still in control of everything that is!

The seed of the gospel is being sown all over the world.
There is life in that seed.
That life will burst forth in God's good time.

It's not the way the we would have done it for we want immediate results.
Where and when we least expect it, the seeds of the gospel will burst forth with life.

A number of years ago, some seed was taken from one of the pyramids in Egypt.
The seed had been stored in a jar.
For some 5000 years it had been quiet, still, and dormant.
Some archeologists found it and planted it.
Then a strange thing happened.
It germinated.
It came up.
It grew!

What seemed to be dead still had life in it.
Our task and our mission is to sow the seed, not to bring in the harvest.
Let us be faithful in our task -- sowing the seed!

Sermon adapted by Dr. Harold L. White