Luke 8:15

‘“having heard the word, hold it tightly,
and produce fruit with perseverance.”’
(Luke 8:15)

This verse comes from Jesus’ parable of the sower, which could be called a parable of the grounds, or even plants from the various grounds. Viewing the parable from this verse is helpful, since it sums up how to be a healthy plant in ‘“good ground”’(Luke 8:8&15).

The first thing to note is that we must rightly receive the ‘“seed… word of God”’(Luke 8:11) i.e. truly hear it. After telling this parable Jesus ‘called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”’(Luke 8:8). Interestingly, He went on to explain that the purpose of parables is to address such listeners specifically, rather than others who though ‘“‘hearing… may not understand’”’(Luke 8:10, cf. Isaiah 6:9ff.). In this parable ‘“the devil… takes away the word”’(Luke 8:12) from the hearts of some, but ultimately it’s God who determines which hearts and ears ‘“it is given to know”’(Luke 8:10) and ‘listen’(Acts 16:14) savingly. It’s God who graciously ‘has mercy on… and… hardens’(Romans 9:18) hearts, as with ‘Pharaoh’(Romans 9:17) whose ‘heart’(Exodus 7:3) God hardened, so that he would not ‘listen’(Exodus 7:4). However, Pharaoh ‘hardened his heart’(Exodus 8:15) simultaneously, wilfully and culpably; moreover, God ‘desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth’(1 Timothy 2:4). So it’s complex, profound, and apparently paradoxical. Nevertheless, from our perspective as individuals the important thing is to listen very carefully, and ‘call out’ for others to do likewise.

Luke records two further characteristics of those with a ‘“good heart”’(Luke 8:15). They ‘“hold it [the seed/word] tightly, and produce fruit with perseverance.”’

Whereas the initial ‘rightly hearing’ contrasts with seed that fell on hard ground, like a ‘“road”’(Luke 8:5&12), the second characteristic, ‘holding tightly’ contrasts with superficial plants that ‘“have no root”’(Luke 8:13). So beyond rightly hearing, we’re encouraged to rightly hold onto and treasure the word as well. Matthew records this parable alongside several others that Jesus told about the ‘“Kingdom of Heaven”’(Matthew 13:11,24,31,33,44,45&47). Amongst those He likened this ‘good news of God’s Kingdom’(Luke 8:1) to ‘“treasure”’(Matthew 13:44) or ‘“fine pearls”’(Matthew 13:45), worth investing everything into, so as to have and to hold, ‘“tightly”’. Healthy plants grasp this. Deeply rooted in the rich soil of God’s truth they are impossible to pull up.

Beyond that comes the third characteristic. They thrive, bringing forth a rich crop of fruit.

The first thing to note about this fruitfulness, which Luke’s account in particular emphasises, is that it requires ‘“perseverance”’. The crop isn’t instant. Even good plants, from gospel seed, in good soil, take time to bring ‘“fruit to maturity”’(Luke 8:14). These contrast partly with plants ‘“choked”’(Luke 8:14) by spiritually suffocating distractions, but also, unlike the shallow plants again, which lack ‘“moisture”’(Luke 8:6), the healthy plants weather ‘“temptation”’(Luke 8:13) well. The good ground has an amazing ‘water’(Psalm 1:3, cf. Isaiah 44:3-4) supply, so even in adverse weather plants rooted there don’t ‘cease from yielding fruit’(Jeremiah 17:8). In fact they find that ‘suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character’(Romans 5:3-4).

That good character is the same as the ‘goodness’(Galatians 5:22) displayed in the ‘fruit of the Spirit’(Galatians 5:22). When ripe and well-rounded, such fruits include practical ‘love [and] kindness’(Galatians 5:22) etc. too, good plants ‘bearing fruit in every good work’(Colossians 1:10). Note these can’t be tied on; to be authentic they must come from patiently cultivated plants in good soil. As Jesus said elsewhere, ‘“each tree is known by its own fruit… The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good”’(Luke 6:44-45). However, first being planted and grown ‘in Christ Jesus for good works’(Ephesians 2:10), we must ‘not be unfruitful’(Titus 3:14) but careful ‘to maintain good works’(Titus 3:8&14).

Part of that will include sowing further seed. With the field analogy, this will involve some grain from the ‘“one hundred”’(Luke 8:8) fold yield being scattered to produce the next crop. Luke later records that the early Christians themselves were ‘scattered… speaking the word… preaching the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed’(Acts 11:19-21). Interestingly, consistent with the thriving in adversity above, that harvest was assisted by ‘oppression’(Acts 11:19), showing that even those who ‘sow in tears will reap in joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, will certainly come again with joy, carrying his sheaves’(Psalm 126:5-6).

So let’s listen carefully to this word, grasping it with deep roots, and by perseverance produce a crop. Let’s not become ‘weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up’(Galatians 6:9), then rejoice in the eternal harvest, that yields forever.

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