"A farmer went out to sow his seed...." (Luke 8:5-8)

"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. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." (Luke 8:6-8) 

What does the parable of the farmer and seed mean?

We can see this same parable spoken by Jesus in the book of Matthew. The two parables are practically identical, with the exception of the multiple of the crop. In Luke, it says "a hundred times more than was sown." In Matthew, it says "a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

Is this significant? No. But it is notable because the multiple referred to in Matthew indicates there is a unique quantity for different situations. In other words, different situations will produce different crop multiples according to the parable.

Jesus described this meaning to his followers in the coming verses:
"Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." (Luke 8:10-15)


Why are 'seeds' so important in Jesus' parable?

Even with this clear explanation, there have been misunderstandings regarding the meaning of this parable. The key symbolism relates to where the seed fell.

Let's look more closely at the four seeds and where they fell, and what each means:

1) Seeds that fell on the path: "Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved."

2) Seeds that fell on rocky ground: "Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."

3) Seeds that fell among thorns: "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature."

4) Seeds that fell on good soil: "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

In all four scenarios, the issue is what each person did after they heard.

1) "...the ones who hear..."
2) "...the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it..."
3) "...those who hear..."
4) "...who hear the word..."

This means that hearing is the key element that Jesus is relating to.

But hearing what?

He is talking about his students hearing his teachings.

Why are some not getting this?

Yet this concept - that the parable clearly relates to Jesus' teachings - often gets lost. Why? Why wouldn't they want to focus on Jesus' teachings?

The only reasonable explanation relates to those who prefer to push forth their own agenda. Here are some examples of agendas of sectarian teachers that could run contrary to Jesus' teachings:
-To gain followers.
-To have their salaries paid.
-To be respected by others.

How do we know this? Jesus taught us precisely how to understand this:
"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matt. 7:16-20)
And what has been the fruit of the various sects for the past 1800 years? Fighting over territory and struggling to maintain followers; imprisoning people; torturing people; taking people's land; massacring natives in foreign lands; choosing their leaders through political appointments; changing and rearranging scripture to suit their political motives; abusing innocent children.

Are these not enough fruits to be able to understand the tree? Are these activities not enough to figure out whether these sects are thornbushes or figs?

Can Jesus' teachings save us?

Jesus is stating with this parable that indeed, his teachings have the ability to save us.

This is evidenced by this statement that explains the results for those "who hear the word."

Here "word" is being translated from the Greek word λόγος (logos) - which refers to a doctrine or teachings.

Certainly, if all we have to do is accept that Jesus died for my sins, then what would the purpose of his teachings be? Why would we need to bother with learning Jesus' teachings if all we have to do is accept that he died for our sins?

If the main thrust of Jesus' life was to "die for my sins" then why would Jesus teach the meaning of this parable with the statement about not being "saved" after "the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts"? And why would he say, "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

If this teaching (that all we had to do is accept that Jesus died for my sins) were true, then learning Jesus' teachings would be a waste of time. It would have little purpose, because we would already be saved.

The reality is, Jesus never taught that he would save anyone simply by his physical body being crucified. And he never stated that the death of his physical body would in itself relieve our sins.

In fact, the thrust of Jesus' teachings - and this parable - have nothing to do with Jesus' physical body dying on the cross. And here in this parable, we can see that Jesus is speaking of his teachings. And the fact that his teachings can save us.

What about fanatical followers of Jesus?

Jesus also clarified his view of fanatical followers who claim ownership of Jesus' life and the meaning of his life inconsistent with Jesus' teachings:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)
What is Jesus trying to teach with this statement? "Only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." What does this mean? It means only those who worship and serve God will be returning to the spiritual realm.

And what does this teaching mean:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

What is "the word" have to do with the "seed"?

These teachings comprise the essence of "the word" that Jesus is referring to with regard to his parable about the farmer and the seed: Loving God and serving God. Jesus is talking about someone who hears these teachings, retains them, and puts them into practice.

Jesus is speaking of knowledge. Hearing and applying Jesus' teachings.

Let's consider Jesus' teachings for a moment - what hearing is, and what knowledge is:

Most theistic people will certainly agree that God is the Source of all knowledge and Truth, but we must consider this more carefully.

If we accept that God is ultimately a person, then we have to view "knowledge" from a different perspective. A Person has personality, a will, desires, objectives, and so on. This would confirm Jesus' statement, "will of my Father." If God has a will, God must be a person.

If God is the Source of knowledge, then knowledge comes from the Supreme Being. God is a Person, and God can create anything He wants at any time.

And because none of us are capable of completely understanding and knowing God - because He has so many different aspects - different moods, pastimes, forms, and so on - which He can change or produce at will - we can only pray that He will show us Himself as He would like us to see Him. This means revealing our own personal relationship with Him.

In other words, knowledge of the Truth is not a set of facts. It is knowing the Person of God. It is being re-introduced to God and coming to know Him personally - within the context of our personal relationship with Him.

When we know God personally, we will know everything. We may not know all the facts, but we don't need to know all the facts. What we will know is the Person behind everything that exists. We will know what pleases Him. We will know why He does what He does. And because God can and does everything, we can know everything simply by exchanging our unique loving relationship with Him.

If we understand that the Truth is not a set of facts that we hunt down, but rather coming to know a person - God - then we can also understand that only God can reveal Himself to us.

This is the same with anyone. We can only come to know a person when they let us in. They have to trust us enough to open up to us.

The Supreme Being is no different.

And He will only open up to us when He trusts that we are ready and that we are not going to abuse what is opened up to us.

Just consider a person you have known at a distance in your job or school comes to you one day and ask you to open up to them more about yourself. Will you do it? Maybe, maybe not. It depends upon whether you can trust the person not to abuse what has been opened up to them.

God is no different. While He has nothing to fear when it comes to revealing Himself, and He knows whether we will abuse what He reveals to us beforehand; the fact is, we have decided in the past we wanted to get away from Him. We wanted to do our own will rather than His will. We became self-centered and became desirous of having what He has - control and enjoyment.

So He created this temporary physical world for us to get away from Him, and pretend to be who we are not for a while. We were given these temporary physical bodies that give us the illusion that we have some sort of control over something, and that we are enjoying these physical bodies and what is given to them. And most importantly, these bodies shield us from Him. They allow us to ignore His existence.

And that's what most of us do within the physical world. We ignore God. Some of us try to pretend we are religious and join a church or something - but essentially our focus is still upon ourselves. We try to avoid God's personal existence because we are focused on our own desires. We don't want God to interfere with our desires.

This freedom is what we wanted, and this is what has been given to us - graciously, by God. Because He loves us, He readily gives us freedom.

But here we are, empty and lonely without Him. We might even be part of a large family - wife, husband, kids - everything. But we are still lonely without our relationship with the Supreme Being.

"The word" - Jesus' teachings - is what can rescue us from our loneliness and emptiness. This is the purpose of Jesus' teachings. To rescue us because we are drowning in this world without our relationship with the Supreme Being.

What is the "time of testing"?

If we want to regain our relationship with Him - which is nondifferent from gaining knowledge or Truth as indicated above - we have to show Him that we really want to return to our loving relationship with Him.

This means commitment. He doesn't want us to pretend we want to know Him so that we can show off to all our buddies or our church members that we now know God and aren't we so great because we know God and we are the big guy now. He wants us to be serious about returning to our relationship with Him.

Very few people might really be serious about coming to know God as He is and wants to sincerely renew their relationship with Him. Others may seek to be accepted as a sect member or want to be a leader of a sect. While these may not be inherently wrong, they also may miss the focus of Jesus' teachings if those teachings are not taken seriously.

Does God reveal Himself to those who don't want to know Him?

When we are serious about coming to know God, God reveals Himself from within.

For this reason, people may read or hear Jesus' words, and not really hear them at all. Or they may misinterpret them or mistranslate them. Their desires (symbolized by "the devil" in Jesus' discussion above) may interrupt their hearing them. Or they may truly hear them but their commitment or seriousness is not there so what they heard fades away.

In other words, we may be in contact with the Truth by reading or hearing Jesus' words, but because we are not serious enough, we don't see God through those teachings.

If a person is serious about coming to know God, God will guide a person to hear from someone who knows Him. And then will also teach them from within.

This is the way God often operates. He uses those who know Him and lovingly serve Him to introduce Him to others. This was Jesus' role. He was God's representative, and God wanted Jesus to introduce those who were serious about knowing Him - to Him.

But during that introduction process, a person may remain serious or not. They may decide their own desires are more important. This is where the "test of time" comes in. Should we feel serious for a while and try to sincerely hear and follow Jesus' teachings, we can be assured we will be tested through time (the "time of testing").

What did Jesus mean by 'persevering'?

Many desires and temptations will enter the picture in the coming years. These include so many physical things: Name and fame. Wealth. Sensual things. All of these things will be put in front of us to test our seriousness.

This is because God only wants us to return to Him if we remain serious about it. He wants us to become committed to our relationship with Him. This is what Jesus meant by "persevering."

And should we become increasingly serious - persevere - as we follow the teachings of God's representative, God will continue to reveal Himself from within.

And "the crop" Jesus spoke about producing? Quite simply, this is helping others to remember and grow closer to God. This is why Jesus sent his own disciples out to pass on his teachings to others.