Jesus later taught the Parable of the Sower. The disciples asked him what it means. Jesus said,
(Luke 8:9-15) His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 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. 13 Those on the rock 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. 14 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. 15 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.”
The parables are “secrets of the kingdom of God.” These aren’t just fables with morals, they are the heart of what Jesus came to teach. The parables are the good news!
We learn —
- Salvation comes from believing the word of God
- The word doesn’t save until it’s in our hearts
- Some will fall away at the time of testing
- Life’s worries, riches, and pleasures stand opposed to the word.
- The word is effective in a noble and good heart
- Those who persevere produce a good crop
Now, we see the salvation of God in this lesson. But we also see God’s opposition to worries, riches, and pleasures.
The cost of the kingdom
In a series of vignettes, Jesus explains the cost of the kingdom —
(Luke 9:57-62) As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
The kingdom requires a single-mindedness that’s greater that concern for funerals (to the Jew, burial of one’s father was the highest religious duty), family, or comfort.
The sending of missionaries
Jesus sent missionaries with this message, “The kingdom of God is near you” (Luke 10:9). This makes no sense unless you realize the Jews had been anticipating the kingdom for centuries. To the Jews, the kingdom meant the coming of the Messiah, the restoration of the throne of David, and the blessings of God. In short, Jesus wanted the Jews to know that the kingdom that had been for so long prophesied was about to come — be ready!
Jesus explains a miracle
Jesus explained the significance of his miracles to the Pharisees —
(Luke 11:19-20) Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
The defeat of demons proves the coming of the kingdom. You see, it’s “the kingdom of God.” God will reign and God will reign in power.
Moreover, implicit in Jesus’ argument is that the demonic world stands opposed to the coming of the kingdom.
Treasure in heaven
Jesus preaches other kingdom parables —
(Luke 12:29-34) And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
We learn —
- The kingdom is more important than wealth
- We should seek the kingdom first, and God will provide for our needs — but just our needs
Mustard seed and leaven
The parables of the mustard seed and the leaven
(Luke 13:18-21) Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”
20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
We learn —
- The kingdom will grow far beyond its beginnings
- The kingdom will be within the world and will transform the world
One critical part of the parable of the leaven is that the kingdom cannot be separate from the world and influence the world. Rather, the kingdom must be within the world, changing the world to become part of the kingdom.
The narrow gate
(Luke 13:23-30) Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
We learn —
- The kingdom will be a feast (a number of prophesies speak of the Messianic age as a feast)
- The first will be last, the last will be first
- Entry is through a narrow door
- People from all over the world will enter but many Jews will not
The parable of the banquet
(Luke 14:16-24) Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'”
We learn —
- The kingdom is like a banquet
- Many will make excuses and not come. The excuses will be about possessions (a field, oxen — the things a wealthy man might buy) and marriage (the Law excused a newlywed from religious obligations). These will not be good excuses.
- The king will invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, and those on the road — aliens.
The Kingdom is within you
(Luke 17:20-27) Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
We learn —
- The kingdom is not an earthly kingdom — with palaces, armies, and such.
- It won’t arrive in the normal way kingdoms arise.
- The kingdom is more about what’s in us than what someone can see