Listen to Jesus and do it – Luke 8:1-21

To become a Christian is to listen to Jesus and do it! When I was a teenager and not a Christian, I remember weighing up what it would mean to become a Christian. I knew it would mean church every Sunday for the rest of my life. I was a bit worried God might call me to do something I hadn’t planned.

The reason I thought these things was that it was clear from the Christians I knew that if you’re a Christian then you’re “all in”. There’s no sense of “mostly Christian” or “part-time faith.”

In these verses, Jesus really spells that out for you – how he expects his followers to be “all in”.  And he also spells out the spectacular blessing that that brings.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered at Bromborough Evangelical Church, Wirral in January 2023. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Come and hear Jesus (1-10)

We’re entering a new part of Luke’s gospel where he describes various things Jesus did and taught as he travelled about. He sets the scene: Read Luke 7:1-3.

  • It’s just a few introductory words, and yet Luke is also dropping in a point he makes throughout Luke and Acts.
  • In naming the women and saying there were others, he’s reminding you of how important women were in the life and ministry of Christ.
  • Women would witness his death, burial, and resurrection (when the men are presented as scarpering).
  • The gospel of Christ honours women.
  • Some will tell you otherwise; but Luke is at pains to point out that women shared with men in both blessing and persecution in the early church.
  • Such honouring of women is therefore necessarily a cross-cultural outworking of the gospel. (A big theme!)
  • And, of course, Christ always lifts those in all cultures that are regarded as outsiders, or lowly, or rejected.

Jesus speaks a parable (one of the best-known in the gospels).

Read Luke 8:4-8.

What’s a parable? 

  • Is it simply “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”?
  • Are parables folky, moralistic stories, a bit like Aesop’s fables?

Who’s the audience? Who are they for?

  • Are they for Jesus’ disciples only?
  • Or only for unbelievers? Both?

There is a place for moral tales – illustrations that help your children understand right and wrong. But unless you point your children to Jesus you’re essentially teaching them to “be good” rather than “repent and ask Jesus to forgive.”

Suppose for a moment that Jesus hadn’t explained this parable for us, and that we need to work it out.

Suppose we get it almost 100% wrong, like this:

  • “The seed is a new false teaching.
  • The path is a sound believer that rejects false teaching.
  • The soft ground is a weak gullible person who believes anything and goes with it…
  • So be like the path!”
  • It sounds nonsense because Jesus did tell us the meaning.

And that’s the point: To understand the meaning truly, you need to draw nearer to Jesus to hear him.

Parables cut two ways: On the one hand, they actually hide the plain truth from anyone who can’t be bothered to go to Jesus to find out more. On the other hand, they are an invitation to go to Jesus to learn the truth from him. Jesus explains that even before he explains the parable: Read Luke 8:9-10.

Division and Invitation

Parables give both division and invitation.

Division: Stay away and you’ll remain in the dark.

Invitation: Come to Jesus for truth, and learn.

  • Society in general prefers to mock Jesus and mock you. While he holds out eternal life and bliss and hope and meaning to a lost, twisted, hurting world – they walk away.
  • What will you do? Are you curious to know what this Jesus has to say? Will you go to him, to find out more?
    • That’s what he invites you to!

Listen and shine (11-18)

From what I’ve said, it’s no surprise that the explanation of the parable isn’t given to everyone but only to the disciples. That point is spelt out even more clearly in Matthew & Mark. And the explanation is here, now for you and me to read – if you’ll come here to hear it or open your Bible to read it. Most don’t.

We first learn what the seed is: Read Luke 8:11.

What does it mean that the seed is the “word of God”?

  • It’s a phrase that has appeared already in Luke’s gospel.
  • The phrase “the word of God” is a kind of summary of what Jesus has been teaching:
    • That Jesus is Son of God Most High, Messiah, Saviour and Lord.
    • He is the fulfilment of all the Old Testament teaching that God would come himself to save his people.
    • You are a sinner before God, without hope in your own good works, but Jesus has come to save you.
    • And you are saved only be repenting of your sin (turning from it) and crying to God for forgiveness.
    • He will forgive you. He’s promised it. And he can do that because Jesus came to take the punishment your sins deserve.
  • That’s the good news, the gospel, the “word of God” being told, the seed being sown.
  • Will you hear it? What kind of soil are you, for this seed-word to land in?

Four landing zones

Is your heart a dead path?

  • Read Luke 8:12.
  • The devil is real. If you think not, he’s already got you.
  • What an evil adversary, keeping souls from peace with God. At work preventing people coming here; maybe distracting even you from listening right now.

Or is your heart a hard rock?

  • Read Luke 8:13.
  • Over the years I’ve known a number of people who seem really on fire for Jesus for a while. But when things get tough in life, they’ve fallen away. 
  • Such people have been right here – where you’re sitting.

Is your heart choked up?

  • Read Luke 8:14.
  • It’s not always an obvious open sin that leads people to fall away. Often it’s just a pile of good intentions and reasonable concerns that obscure Jesus from view.
  • You drift; you think you’ll catch up. But you just fall away.

But there is a good soil, a good heart: Read Luke 8:15.

  • When you face trial and trouble and hold on to the word, the promises of God.
  • And you produce fruit – even a hundredfold!
  • (When you think of grapes or tomatoes, a hundredfold is obviously a normal healthy yield – not a spectacularly unexpected one.)
  • Jesus says those who hear his word and trust it in all of life will yield the fruit of a spiritually healthy, godly changed heart.
  • And you’ll hold on because you are held by him.

Liberal sowing

It’s worth noting how liberal the sower was with his seed!

When you grow things from seed you usually choose your soil carefully and only plant where you expect success.

Not this sower: He sowed all over the place!

  • The church is like that.
  • You and I don’t know how different people will respond to the good news of Jesus, so we have no choice but to sow that seed everywhere! The Lord knows.

So here’s a question. Why did Jesus tell and explain this parable to his disciples, when they were presumable all the 4th soil? They’re already in the kingdom, so why do they need to hear it?

This whole parable is actually for the benefit of Jesus’ followers – much more than an evangelistic message.

Jesus is setting expectations for you, his church:

  1. First, it should be obvious that you and I are to sow his good news everywhere. It’s not for us to know who’ll accept and who’ll reject. Just sow.
  2. Second, he’s reminding you to expect rejection. Sometimes that will be immediate rejection. At other times, people will fall away more slowly, and disappoint you, and break your heart. Be ready for that; sow anyway.
  3. Third, Jesus is also setting an expectation of some success! It’s likely a minority, but there’s some.
    1. Not down to the skill of the sower – God himself will determine whether the seed will grow.
  4. Fourthly, Jesus is making it abundantly clear to you that healthy, godly fruitfulness is expected in you.

So Jesus spells this last point out in a different way for you.

Lit lamps are to shine

You’re like a lit lamp, with the light of the Good News in you. What do you do with a lit lamp?

Read Luke 8:16-18.

In the parable of the sower, he as set expectations for you in what you’re likely to get when you tell the gospel to others. But while you’re hoping for fruit in others, make sure you’re seeing it in yourself!

  • Listen to Jesus’ words. They’re light and life. So listen and shine!
  • Take care how you listen. Make sure you do.
  • As you have more of him, you will want more and receive more. More joy, more peace, more hope, more security.
  • You’ll appreciate the blessing of his people more and be a blessing to them.
  • As you listen to him, you’ll become more like him, shining in his holiness and likeness.

But if you come here and just hear and then forget, how will you shine for him? You may find yourself losing what you thought you had.

  • Some of you take notes, some don’t. There’s no “right” thing to do, so long as you listen to Jesus and act on what he says.

The wrong soil?

Now someone might be here worried that you’re the “wrong soil”.

You fall so far short of who you think you ought to be as a Christian that you wonder if you ever were the real thing at all.

  • Been there, done that. It’s normal. You’re normal.
  • Over and over, every day, you can repent of your sin and go to Jesus for forgiveness. He is abounding in grace and steadfast love. He loves you.
  • Do you think those people out there are worried about such things? He has called you here, to himself.
  • Lord Jesus, have mercy and forgive us.

Believer, listen to Jesus. Do what he says, and shine for him.

  • That might be in reliability and honesty in work.
  • Or caring and showing compassion to people others make jokes about.
  • It can even end up changing jobs if you think there’s a moral or spiritual issue at stake.

Do people know you’re a Christian? They might know you go to church, but that’s not what I mean. Do you live Christ out in your life for others to see? Shine!

Hearing and being (19-21)

This whole section has been about hearing Christ’s words, whether as a believer or unbeliever. It closes with this brief mention of Jesus’ mother and brothers (we don’t know what happened to Mary’s husband, Joseph).

Read Luke 8:19-21.

Is Jesus being a bit rude? A bit disrespectful? No, he’s speaking profound truth. Perhaps surprising truth to Mary and the brothers. It’s a key teaching point:

  • On the one hand, participation in the kingdom of God is about your family relationship with Jesus of Nazareth.
  • On the other hand, it’s not a flesh and blood family relationship. You become a brother or sister of Jesus by hearing and doing the word of God.

We heard what the word of God is earlier on. That seed that was sown. The good news of the gospel.

Repent and come to God for forgiveness, and he will forgive.

The richness of the gospel

But ponder the richness of what Jesus is saying:

  • He is Son of God Most High.
  • Jesus is the eternal Son, through whom and for whom everything has been created.
  • His Father is God the Father of all.
  • And as you come in faith to him, Jesus calls you his brother, his sister.
  • As he prays, “Father” so you pray the same, “Father”.
  • Jesus is the eternal Son. You’re an adopted child.
  • But you are a child; Jesus is your brother.

It will take you all eternity to plumb the depths, to contemplate the richness of what it means to be a child of God. It would be enough to be preserved from hell, but God is so much more gracious than that. He calls you his child.

Jesus calls you to listen to him and to shine for him. Listen and do: Repent, and believe, and continue repenting and changing and growing in his likeness.

To be a Christian is to be “all in”. As you draw closer to Jesus you realise there’s nothing you want to hold back. Shine for Jesus before others. Many will reject; some will come to Jesus for themselves.