October 15, 2017

Gospel Commentary for the Fourth Sunday of Luke (St. Theophylact of Ochrid)

Fourth Sunday of Luke

The Parable of the Sower

Luke 8:5-15

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke

By Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

4-10. And when many people were gathered together, and were come to Him out of every city, He spake by a parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the way; and it was trodden down, and the winged creatures of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold." And when He had said these things, He cried, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." And His disciples asked Him, saying, "What might this parable be?" And He said, "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand."

What David said of old, speaking prophetically in the person of Christ, has now come to pass: "I will open My mouth in parables." [Ps. 77:2] The Lord speaks in parables for many reasons: to make His listeners more attentive and to stir up their minds to seek the meaning of what is said. For we are apt to be curious about sayings that are obscure in meaning and to disregard sayings that are clear. He also speaks in parables so that those who are unworthy may not understand what is said concerning spiritual mysteries. And there are many other reasons why He speaks in parables. A sower, therefore, went out, that is, the Son of God went forth from the Fathers bosom, from the hidden fastness of the Father, and became manifest to all. Who went out? He Who is ever sowing. The Son of God never ceases to sow in our souls. Not only by His teaching, but by all of creation and by the events of our daily lives, He plants good seed in our souls. He went out, not to slay trespassers or to burn off the stubble, but to sow. For there are many reasons why a farmer might go forth, besides to plant. He went out to sow His own seed: the word of teaching was His own, and not anothers. The prophets had spoken, not their own words, but the words of the Holy Spirit. This is why they said, "Thus saith the Lord." But Christ had His own seed to sow. When He taught, He did not say, "Thus saith the Lord," but, "I say unto you." As He sowed, that is, as He taught, some seed fell along the road. He did not say that the sower threw the seed along the road, but instead that some fell there. Christ the Sower sows and teaches, and His word falls upon his listeners everywhere, and it is they who show themselves to be like a road, or a rock, or thorns, or good soil. When the disciples ask about the parable, the Lord says, "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, that is, unto you who desire to learn, for everyone that asketh, receiveth." [Mt. 7:8] To the others who are not worthy of the mysteries, He speaks obscurely. They think that they see, but they do not; they hear, but they do not understand. And this is to their benefit. The Lord hides these things from them so that they will not fall under greater condemnation for understanding the mysteries and then disregarding them. He who understands, and then disregards, deserves a more severe punishment.

11-15. "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those along the way are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares of riches and of pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patient endurance."

Here are described three types of those who are not saved. First, there are those along the way, who do not receive and accept the word at all. Just as a pathway, which is well trodden and compacted, cannot receive the seed because it is hard, so also those who are hardened in their hearts do not accept the word at all. Though they hear the word, they give it no heed. Next there are those on the rock who hear the word, and then do not endure temptations because of human weakness, and deny the faith. The third kind are those who hear the word and then are choked by the cares of life. Three parts, therefore, perish, and only one part is saved. Few are saved; most perish. See that it is not said of those who are choked, that they are choked by riches, but rather by the cares of riches. It is not wealth that harms, but the cares and worries about wealth which fill the mind. Indeed, many have received great benefit from their wealth, when they poured it out to feed the poor. Consider the preciseness of the Evangelist, when he says of those who are saved, that when they have heard the word, they keep it, in contrast to those who are along the pathway, who do not keep the word; instead, the devil takes the word from them. And they bring forth fruit, in contrast to those who are choked by the thorns, and who bring no fruit to maturity. In truth those whose fruit never ripens bear no fruit at all. Those who bring forth fruit with patient endurance stand in contrast to those who are on the rock, who receive the word but then do not endure the onslaught of temptations and show that they cannot withstand the test. See how the Evangelist says three things concerning those who are saved, that they keep the word, that they bring forth fruit, and that they do so with patient endurance. By these three statements he distinguishes the saved from those who perish along the pathway who do not keep the word; those among thorns who bring no fruit to perfection; and those on the rock who do not patiently endure the assault of temptations.