In Luke 8:4-9:6 we are given an opportunity to focus upon the importance of Jesus’ spoken words about the kingdom of God. A key verse in this section of Scripture is found in chapter 8 verse 18: “Therefore, consider carefully how you listen.”
The familiar parable of the sower, the seed and the four soils in Luke 8:4-8 places an emphasis upon the soil. The one sowing is the same. The seed being sown is the same. What is different is the four soils that Jesus describes: the path, the rocky ground, the thorns and the good soil. He concludes the parable by calling out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Luke 8:8).
Everyone in the large crowd heard the parable but it was only the disciples who asked Him to explain the meaning of the parable. I suppose the crowd was left scratching their heads, curious, but walking away while Jesus gathers His disciples together to teach them the deeper truths of the kingdom.
He begins by telling them,
“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.’
The common theme of Jesus’ explanation of the parable is upon the ones who hear (verses 12, 13, 14), concluding with “those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (vs. 15). For those in the final category of listeners, Jesus tells them that their retention of the word will open the doors to more understanding. For the rest, represented by the first three categories of listeners, the little bit they understand will be taken away from them (verse 18).
When Jesus’ mother and brothers come to see Him, Jesus responds to the messenger that His mother and brothers are “those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (verse 18). These are the one who will be given more.
Immediately afterwards Luke presents specific instances where Jesus’ words are spoken and immediate obedience is the result.
First, when Jesus speaks to all nature, it obeys. With the calming of the storm in Luke 8:22-25 the disciples are left in fear and amazement asking each other “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (verse 25).
Second, when Jesus speaks to the demon realm, it obeys. With the demon-possessed man of Luke 8:26-39 He commands the impure spirit–named Legion because there were many–to come out of the man (verse 29). They know He has the power to send them to ‘the Abyss’ (verse 31). Rather, based upon their request, He gives them permission to enter the herd of pigs (verse 32). At the conclusion of the event we find the pigs floating in the water of the lake of Galilee, the terrified residents of the town and countryside, and the man who was now free of his demons “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind” (verse 35). I strongly suspect that Jesus was not just standing there while the man sat there idly with nothing to talk about. Sitting at Jesus’ feet, I suspect that Jesus was speaking about the kingdom to this man as he listened to His words. When Jesus told him to go home and tell how much God had done for him, he obeyed and “told all over town how much Jesus had done for him” (verse 39).
Third, when Jesus speaks to the dead, they hear Him and they obey. In verses 40-42 the crowds are pressing while the synagogue leader, Jairus, falls at His feet and pleads with Him to come to his house because his twelve year old daughter is dying. While Jesus addresses the matter of the woman with the issue of bleeding (verses 43-47) messengers come to tell Jairus that, indeed, his daughter is now dead. With that, all hope evaporated and the synagogue leader is told to not bother ‘the teacher’ further (verse 49). How Jairus’ heart must have shattered with those words. When Jesus hears the news he tells Jairus to not be afraid, “just believe, and she will be healed” (verse 50). Going to his home, Jesus’ takes the little girl by the hand and utters the simple command “My child, get up!” (verse 54), verifying the reality of her reviving with food.
Fourth, Jesus’ presence responds to faith to heal diseases. Sandwiched between the story of Jairus, the woman with the issue of blood knows that if she can only touch the hem of His garment she will be healed (verse 44) because Jesus tells her that it was her faith that healed her (verse 48). How did she know to reach out and touch Him? She heard God’s word and put it into practice, reaching out in faith.
Finally, when Jesus speaks, only men are given the opportunity to hear God’s word and choose whether or not to obey. In Luke 9:1-6 Jesus tells the disciples to go forth with God as their only provider through the hospitality of those who will listen to their words about the kingdom of God. For those who will listen and choose to not welcome them they are to move on as they proclaim the good news to others and heal people everywhere (verse 6).
For Theophilus and those to whom Luke is writing they are being challenged to consider carefully how they listen. By extention, we, too, are being challenged. When Jesus speaks, all nature, the demons, the sick and the dead obey His voice. Is anyone else listening?