Luke 8:1-21, Key Verse: 8:18
“Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”
Happy Mother’s Day! We are grateful to all our mothers who have yielded a crop for mankind. May God bless them to stay healthy and nurture us more and more. Last week, we saw a woman overflowing with gratitude as she believed in Jesus’ acceptance and forgiveness. So much so that that she used her tears and hair to cleanse Jesus’ feet and poured perfume on them. This was an amazing expression of her love for Jesus and we are impressed and desiring to be like her. In today’s passage, we hear one of the most fundamental teachings of Jesus that involves our heart. What type of heart-soil we have tells how much we love Jesus and what blessings we can have. So, let us work on our heart-soil accordingly and take Jesus’ word seriously so as to yield a crop and become more blessed.
Sacrificial Women (1-3)
Look at verse 1. It was right after Jesus announced the forgiveness of sins upon a sinful woman. Maybe, Jesus was deeply touched and encouraged by this woman’s change as she went in peace and began a new life. Jesus wanted to see more such a change and a new life in other places. So, he diligently and extensively traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed him as usual. Who else followed him? Look at verses 2 and 3. Some women coworkers who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. The famous Mary Magdalene was one of them (Magdalene sounds like a last name like McHuge, but it shows where she comes from). She had been released from the grip of seven demons through Jesus’ mighty power. Joanna, Susanna and many others experienced a similar healing through Jesus’ mercy as well. Then an amazing thing happened. They all began to voluntarily support Jesus and his ministry out of their own means. Here, we gain a new insight over how Jesus’ ministry was sustained. Jesus and the Twelve were not priests and thus did not have any regular support from the temple, not even a tax break. But through these sacrificial women’s support, Jesus could continue his gospel work.
In those days, in a man-dominated, strict-middle-eastern society, a job that a woman could get was very limited. Remember Ruth gleaned in the fields to survive. Perhaps, the lack of job opportunity was the reason why the sinful woman in the previous chapter became sinful (to survive). Surely, Joanna was one of the greatest supporters as she was connected with the royal family like King Herod’s household. Nevertheless, these women’s volunteerism was outstanding with all things taken into account.
In our UBF ministry, the role our women coworkers played was truly astounding. The UBF principle is a self-supporting ministry. So, if a missionary was to be sent to a mission field, that person must get a job or open a business to be self-supporting just like Apostle Paul, Aquila and Priscilla were tent-makers by day and evangelists by night. In serving North American students, some women coworkers went the extra mile to be self-supporting. I heard that Msn. Mary Bahn received an alteration machinist training to be sent to Maryland, USA, as a missionary. With her college degree, she could live a comfortable life in Korea. Instead, she chose to be an alteration specialist with the better chance of receiving a visa and serving campus students without any worry. While still in training, she broke many needles and she had to purchase the replacement needles out of her own means. How about Msn. Anastasia? Msn. Anastasia perhaps went through a similar path to be a self-supporting missionary in New Jersey where the basic living cost was sky-rocketed compared with other states in America. I know she taught Physics in tutoring or as a substitute teacher many a time, which was never easy. How about Msn. Mary Kim? She worked to the point of losing her health after obtaining four different licenses in four different states. To me, these women coworkers are more than women. They are like the heroines of faith comparable to the women mentioned here. And Ester Ham, Pauline Kim and Hope Perry are in line to be beautiful women coworkers in the next generation. May God bless our women coworkers on this Mother’s Day and beyond!
The Parable (4-21)
Look at verse 4. Note the expressions such “a large crowd gathering,” and “people from town after town.” Here, we observe that Jesus had to deal with rank-and-file groups of people who had all different walks of life. So, he had a hard time locating his target audience. Would it be young people who had a potential to grow as the future leaders? Or old people who had an urgency to listen to the word of God? To accommodate all those people, our Lord Jesus chose to use a parable. Perhaps, the term, a parable, came from a parabola in geometry where a set of points is equidistant from a line. In other words, the parable Jesus used was equally distanced or equally relevant regardless of their current position. Jesus’ point to their own plane is all equally distanced and adequate. Additionally, this parable can be very familiar to those listening, because they were all in an agricultural society.
Look at verses 5-8. Here, we see the farmer sowing his seed. No matter how accurately he aims to sow, there is a chance that some seed falls on the unintended place. In Jesus’ parable, there were three such places. The first place was “along the path.” The farmer should walk along the path while sowing. So, it was hard and not plowed. Still some seed fell there. It was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. The second place was “on rocky ground.” The seed that fell there at least germinated and grew up. Yet, the plants withered because of lack of moisture. The third place was “among thorns.” It seemed the plants grew well among thorns but the thorns eventually choked the plants. Out of 100%, sadly 75% did not make it. The farmer must have been disappointed. But wait! There is still 25% remaining. This 25% of the seed somehow fell on good soil, came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. After all, the farmer did not suffer loss. Rather, he garnered 2500 by investing initial 100 seed, which is, 2500% ROI (return on investment)!
Then, Jesus added. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” What does this mean? It means this teaching of Jesus is worthy the deepest attention of those who have the spiritual desire to understand it. In other words, contrary to our common belief, Jesus’ teaching is challenging and high-level. In our Friday meeting, Msn. Anastasia mentioned that to some students, Bible passages seem very easy and that is why they do not want to study Bible study. It is like the Buddhist monks think Christianity is an elementary school while theirs is a college. However, that is not the case.
Look at verse 9. Fortunately, the disciples had ears to hear. They knew it was not an elementary school teaching. So, they asked Jesus to teach them the deeper meaning of the parable. Look at verse 10. Before letting them know its meaning, Jesus proudly explains why he uses parables in his teaching. It has a twofold purpose—to reveal the secrets of the kingdom to those who have “ears to hear” while concealing the truth of the kingdom from those who “do not.” In addition, in doing so, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.
Verses 11 through 15 are the meaning of the parable. Note in verse 11 that the seed is the word of God. It means that the seed has no problem in terms of producing a crop. The issue is with the soil. The first three types of the soil represent those whose heart is not ready to accept the word of God. Look at verse 12. The path-like heart-soil refers to the ones who happen to hear the word but the opportunistic devil quickly comes and takes it away from their hearts. This seemingly insignificant act of devil is actually a life and death matter to us. We may blame the devil for losing our salvation. But before doing so, we must not have this path-like heart-soil in the first place. In verse 13, we see that the rocky heart-soil points to the ones who receive the word with joy initially, but have no root. Having no root means having no personal relationship with Jesus. They may fake their belief in Jesus for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. We may blame the testing for our fall, but the lack of personal relationship with Jesus is to be blamed more. In verse 14, the thorny heart-soil represents the ones who hear the word in a right way but as they go on their way, they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures and they do not mature. We may blame the thorns for our choking and not maturing, and yet why have we not taken out those thorns from our heart on the way?
Now in verse 15, we see what good heart-soil stands for. It refers to those who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. That is normal and what we are meant to be. But some may wonder what kind of heart-soil they may get with only 25% chance of having good one. No need to worry! No one is born with good heart-soil. We all need to put our efforts to be good heart-soil. If our heart-soil is compacted with stress and becomes like the path, we need aeration to alleviate such compaction. Let the Holy Spirit’s Air aerate your heart-soil. Give some room like Easter Retreat or Summer Bible Conference. If our heart-soil is with rocks and becomes rocky, break them in pieces by using the hammer of God (Jer 23:29). The strongest rock to break is our pride and our ego. We need to hit the rock bottom of it, and even break its bottom, so that the healthy root may grow down without limit. If our heart-soil is with thorns and becomes thorny, pull them out. If taking thorns out takes too much time, then, use “Weed B Gon” spray. Actually, “We’d B Gone to Heaven” spray works a lot better and more efficiently as it quells all worries and pleasures but truly protects our heart-soil. Note that with all these three steps, we still need to persevere to yield a crop. It is like patience, one of the fruit of the Spirit.
In verses 16 and 17, Jesus mentions about the function of a lamp and its due location. No one puts a lamp in a clary jar or under a bed because its function is to light the room. The due location is on a stand. In a sense, Jesus’ word functions like a lamp, enlightening us and revealing all our hidden things in us. Our heart-soil is invisible and seemingly looks hidden. Yet, as Jesus says nothing is going to be hidden forever, our invisible heart-soil will be revealed through our crop. Bearing fruit or yielding a crop is our life purpose. For that, Jesus gives us a wise direction. When we listen to Jesus, we need to consider carefully. Last Friday, one of our church members called this action as taking it seriously. In this busy, hectic world, we may take Jesus’ word not seriously but live our life casually and lightly, thinking that everything will be all right. But that is not the case, at least, not what Jesus wants. So, Jesus gives us a warning and a blessing in the next verse. Whoever has will be given more while whoever does not have will be taken from them. It is like a spiritual stock market. The stock-holders who have lots of stocks will earn more and more, while those who have less stocks will suffer loss and fluctuate with even small changes of the market.
Besides, when we take Jesus’ words seriously we can become his siblings as he teaches us that those who hear God’s word and put it into practice are his mother and brothers. So, we are all brothers and sisters from different mothers. That is another blessing when we take the word seriously
In conclusion, we learned many sacrificial women who served Jesus’ ministry out of their own means. Their legacy continues with our women coworkers. Jesus used a parable so as to make everyone relevant and equi-distanced to him. And we learned the importance of having good heart-soil to yield a crop. May God strengthen us to take Jesus’ word seriously and make us blessed as we become heavenly family members together.