In Jesus day there were lots of different ideas about him too. Just glance back to (16) and you’ll see that some people thought he was a prophet, others flock to see him because he can do miracles, the Pharisees aren’t sure what to make of him, and John the Baptist thinks he is God’s Messiah – his long promised King and Saviour, God come to be with his people. And as this crowd (4) gathers round and keeps on growing in response to his travelling preaching the questions buzz around, is this God’s king? Is this the Messiah? Is he the one who will boot the Romans out of Israel and re-establish us as God’s kingdom? The crowd come flocking to hear the words of a dynamic revolutionary leader sketch out his plans for the glorious future of Israel.
But this crowd has a perception problem and it is so serious it will stop them listening to Jesus words – it will stop them really hearing. Their expectations are wrong they come expecting to hear of a triumphant kingdom and instead Jesus speaks of the simple farmer throwing out seed. Instead of glory and rule and reign he talks about the word of God. And it isn’t just them is it. We may think we know what Jesus says so we don’t actually listen to what he is really saying. Do you notice here that Jesus calls the people to listen carefully? (8) “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…” Jesus wants people to listen to his words not let their expectations drown them out – it’s a cry from the Old Testament that should have been familiar to his listeners.
(1)What has Jesus been doing as he has gone from town to town? He has been “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.” He has been telling people how to get into God’s kingdom – it matters, it is important and he longs for people to listen. That good news isn’t of a revolutionary overthrow of the Romans it is of (4:18-19) “the year of the Lord’s favour”. Jesus comes to tell people that they can be forgiven their debts with God.
Sometimes people then and now think that Christianity is spelt DO. In other words Christianity teaches that you have to do this and don’t do that in order to be made right with God. It gives you a picture of God with a balance sheet. But actually as Jesus teaches the word that stands out is not Do but DONE. Just look back at the previous account Luke has given us. Jesus tells this story (41-42). And the shock is that the debt of both parties is wiped out, their un-payable debt is cancelled. And Jesus applied that story to this woman who is a notorious sinner and he says she is saved by faith. Not by what she does, not by do, but just by trusting in him.
Jesus has been proclaiming God’s word, his message of grace to people. God will cancel your debt, God will forgive you for running away from him, for wanting to decide right and wrong for yourself if you will trust in me. At the end of Luke’s gospel we see the price of that forgiveness as Jesus pays for it.
So Jesus tells the expectant crowd this parable as a perception filter, (10) those who want to hear will come near to listen but he knows that actually many though they hear don’t want to understand, in fact they only want what they have come for. For them his words don’t matter.
The big question of the passage is will I listen to Jesus words? Have I got ears that hear words of grace that tell us we can be forgiven for our rebellion against God. Have we stopped listening to God's word of grace and tried to add to it the law? Which of the soils am I most like now? Which was I most like a year or 5 years ago? Which do I most want to be like? Am I fruitful? They are hard questions to ask but they need to be answered. Why not pray right now about your responses.