But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. — Luke 8:15
Harold and Sally Barrett loved to tell the testimony of Mool Ajumoni (or “water lady”), whose heart was like the good ground of our focus verse, being receptive to the Word of God. During the Barretts’ early years as missionaries to Korea in the late 1960s, their house had no running water so water had to be brought in every day. The woman who delivered that precious commodity to their hillside neighborhood worked very hard, carrying the water in a big container on her head as she climbed the steep roads between the houses. When she came to the Barretts’ home, they showed her kindness, often inviting her in to rest for a bit and share a cup of tea. There she heard about Jesus and His love for her soul. Her heart responded eagerly to the message of salvation and she soon prayed through to a real, born-again experience. What a change took place! From then on, in spite of her difficult life, her face literally glowed with joy.
The water lady’s family was poor, and lived in a one-room house. Her husband was an alcoholic, and the wine shops were where he would spend the little money he made pushing a fruit cart around the streets. Often he would come home intoxicated and would beat his wife. Before she was saved she had hated him and wished he would die, but after she became a Christian her attitude changed. One day she came running to the missionary’s home and said, “Brother Barrett, please come! My husband is dying!” He went immediately to the small home where the water lady’s husband lay ill, and prayed for him. God raised the man up, and he too prayed through to an experience of real salvation.
The two oldest sons of the couple were alcoholics as well, following in their father’s footsteps, but in time they also were saved. The peace of God began reigning in that humble home! A little daughter was born to the couple, and those in the neighborhood marveled at the difference in the lives of this family. When the missionaries eventually left Korea, the water lady wrote them a note saying, “Thank God He ever sent you to Korea, just for our family.”
In today’s text, Jesus used a parable about soil and seed to teach about receptivity to the Word of God. Though crowds had come out from nearby cities to hear Him, Jesus knew that few of the seemingly eager throng had the “honest and good heart” described in our focus verse. Similarly, during the time the Barretts were in Korea, many in that country claimed to be Christians, but only comparatively few understood true salvation and proved that individuals can live a life without sin. Mool Ajumoni was one of those few.
Jesus’ parable made it clear that while receiving the Word was important, it also must be steadfastly retained, no matter who or what might seek to uproot it from the heart. For more than forty-five years after her conversion, Mool Ajumoni clung to God through good times and hard times. She was faithful in giving her testimony, and her life bore spiritual fruit. In time her husband went home to Heaven, and early in 2016, this faithful woman also passed away. However, the results of her faithfulness remain: recently the daughter who was born after Mool Ajumoni’s conversion — now a grown woman with a family of her own — attended the camp meeting in Portland and rejoiced in her opportunity to visit the home church of the missionaries who brought the Gospel to her parents so many years ago.
Perhaps many of us have been serving the Lord for years. However, we can still learn from Jesus’ parable of the soil. As any gardener knows, good soil takes maintenance. Without monitoring and attention, rocks appear and weeds spring up. In like manner, we must be vigilant about maintaining our spiritual well-being. Today, let us determine that we will absorb the Word of God into our hearts and apply it, and do our best to keep our lives free from the “stones and weeds” which hinder spiritual growth. As we do so, we can be sure that, like Mool Ajumoni, we will bring forth spiritual fruit in our lives.
Today’s text includes the parable commonly referred to as “The Sower and the Seed,” which is also found in Matthew 13 and Mark 4. Of the many parables of Jesus recorded in Scripture, He only clarified the meaning of three, and this is one of them. The parable is recounted in verses 4-8, and the meaning given in verses 10-15. Verses 16-18 concern the responsibility of those who hear the Word. In verses 19-21 of the text, Jesus described His true family.
Verses 1-2 reveal what the daily occupation of Jesus was (“preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom”), where He performed that duty (“throughout every city and village”), and who traveled with Him (“the twelve . . . and certain women”). Jesus did not restrict His message to the rabbis and religious leaders, as was the custom of spiritual teachers in His day. Though women were considered a lower social class, Jesus elevated them from a place of servitude to one of fellowship and evangelistic ministry. Each of these women had a particular reason to be grateful to Jesus, as they had been “healed of evil spirits and infirmities.”
The setting of the parable would have been familiar to the multitude, as they lived in an agricultural society. No fences divided properties; parcels of land were distinguished by natural landmarks and were separated by foot paths of hard-trodden ground, usually just a foot or two wide. Given that setting, when seed was sown by the broadcasting method (as was typical in that era), it easily could have fallen on different types of ground.
Jesus identified four types of soil, each symbolic of types of human hearts and their spiritual receptivity. The wayside soil (verse 5) represented hardened hearts. Rocky soil (verse 6) referred to shallow hearts in which the seed would spring up at first, but quickly die. Soil that was thorn-infested (verse 7) represented those who allow the Gospel to be choked out by other interests. Finally, the good ground soil (verse 8) indicated those who received the truth and nourished healthy plants that produced fruit.
The word translated “mysteries” in verse 10 is derived from a word meaning “to shut the mouth,” and has a sense of secrets that were known only to the initiated. Jesus’ statement indicates that while the truth would be clear to those whose hearts were prepared to receive His words, it would be obscured to those who were resistant. This obscuring was not intended to be punitive but remedial; it was designed to stimulate a deeper search which would result in ultimate acceptance of truth. However, Jesus realized that only a few of His hearers would be truly receptive; the majority of hardened, shallow, and choked hearts would never produce fruit.
The seed is identified in verse 11 as the Word of God — an apt illustration since there is potential of physical life in a seed and potential of spiritual life in the Word of God. Seeds found in the tombs of the Pharaohs are over four thousand years old, yet still germinate, and God’s Word, though written thousands of years ago, still can produce spiritual life. Scientific research has demonstrated that within each small seed exists a much tinier particle which contains the instructions or “blueprint” for the complex life form that will spring from it. Still, the seed needs the right environment in order to grow, which is the point Jesus made in this parable.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The ministry of the Son of Man
C. The climax of the ministry of the Son of Man
3. The authentication of the Son of Man
e. The preaching of the kingdom of God (8:1-21)
(1) The setting (8:1-3)
(2) The parable of the soils (8:4-15)
(a) The parable recited (8:4-8)
(b) The parable explained (8:9-15)
(3) The parable of the lamp (8:16-18)
(a) The parable recited (8:16-17)
(b) The parable applied (8:18)
(4) The resultant implication (8:19-21)
It is wise to periodically evaluate the condition of the soil of our hearts, asking God to help us be “good ground” hearers who bring forth fruit for eternity.