The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on the Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:4-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 22, 2011

Note: This commentary combines elements from all three synoptic accounts of the parable of the sower (also sometimes called Parable of the Seed). Red numbers in the Scripture text are to footnotes which follow immediately after the text. The commentary follows the footnotes.

ONE day when Jesus was near the lake of Genesareth, great crowds came to hear Him; and, sitting down on the shore, He began to teach. But the multitude still increasing, He went into a boat, and thence spoke to the people. And He taught and spoke to them in parables 1.

The Text: “The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it choked it. And some fell upon good ground, and being sprung up, yielded fruit a hundred-fold. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” 2

And His disciples asked Him what this parable might be. To whom He said: “To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.

“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And they by the wayside are they that hear; then the devil cometh, and taketh the word of God out of their heart, lest believing they should be saved. Now they upon the rock 3 are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no roots; who believe for awhile, and in time of temptation fall away 4. And that which fell among thorns are they who have heard, and going their way are choked with the cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. But that on the good ground are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.”

1 Parables. A parable is the narrative of some event in nature or human life, either true or possible, under the form of which some moral or religious truth is taught. Most of our Lord’s parables begin by the words: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto” such and such a thing. Therefore, to understand His parables rightly, we must first know what He meant by “the kingdom of heaven”. The meaning was threefold. Firstly, He meant His external and visible kingdom, or, in other words, His Church ; secondly, His interior and invisible kingdom, or His reign in the souls of men by His grace and truth; and thirdly, He sometimes meant the eternal happiness of heaven, to which His kingdom upon earth is intended to lead us.
2 Let him hear. By these words our Lord shows that he treats in this parable of truths which ought to be taken very seriously to heart.
3 They upon the rock. Those in whose case the seed of the divine word falls on stony ground, which does not allow the seed to take root.
4 Fall away. From faith in the doctrines of Christianity.

COMMENTARY: The different ways of receiving the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, through the apostles and their successors, proclaims the word of God. The field is the heart of man, for which the divine seed is destined. The chief lesson contained in the parable is that the effect of God’s word upon the soul depends entirely on the preparation and disposition of him who hears it, just as the fruitfulness of the natural seed depends on the cultivation and quality of the earth in which it is sown. The three cases mentioned in which the seed brought forth no fruit, point out the chief hindrances which man puts in the way of the efficacy of God’s word.

The first class are those in whom there is wanting a good will to receive God’s word with faith. They hear it indeed, but they will not open their hearts to it, because the devil and his human agents have succeeded by scorn, prejudice and false explanations in so setting them against everything supernatural, that they utterly refuse to believe. Take, for instance, the Pharisees in our Lord’s time, and also the so-called “enlightened” men of the present day.

The second class have a good will and are religious-minded people, but they are shallow and weak in character. They receive the word of God eagerly, but their faith does not penetrate to the depths of their heart and will, and lacks firmness and steadfastness. Therefore they fall away as soon as trials and persecution put their faith to the test. Remember the Israelites in the desert!

The third class are those who have faith and hold fast to it, but who do not live up to it, being quite absorbed in the things of this world. They give themselves up to the concupiscence of the eyes, the concupiscence of the flesh, and the pride of life, and bring forth no fruits worthy of faith. They have faith, but it is dead.

The three principal enemies of faith and the life of faith are, therefore: 1. the devil and his allies, who seek to deprive men of the willingness to believe, 2. weakness and vacillation of heart and will, 3. the three evil passions which govern the world.

The word of God bears fruit in those only who, besides accepting it willingly, cherish it in a heart purified by faith, and patiently and perseveringly live up to their faith.

Religion and grace are, therefore, affairs, not of reason, but chiefly of the heart and will. A powerful understanding is not necessary or even sufficient for salvation, or to enable us to lead a life according to faith. What is indispensable is a good heart, willing to receive what is great and supernatural.

APPLICATION. You see by this parable how necessary it is that your heart should be well prepared for receiving the word of God. Have you always had a desire to hear God’s word? Have you kept what you have heard in your heart, and made corresponding resolutions? Have you thought your religious instruction tedious? To which of the four classes described by our Lord do you think you belong? Pray fervently to the Holy Ghost before you hear any sermon, and listen attentively to it, with the resolve to take to heart and carry out what you hear.

6 Responses to “Bishop Knecht’s Practical Commentary on the Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:4-15”

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