The Responsibilities of Responding To God’s Word—Luke 8:16-21, #035



In the last passage, we looked at the Parable of the Sower and the four different responses that people can have to God’s Word being planted in their hearts. Some have an uninterested response, others a shallow response, and others a distracted response. 


But there are those who have fruitful responses to God’s Word.


In this passage (which is really just a continuation of the Parable of the Sower), we are going to answer the question, “After we respond to God’s Word, what are we responsible to do?”


16 No man, when he hath lighted a candle,

covereth it with a vessel, 

or putteth it under a bed; 

but setteth it on a candlestick, 

that they which enter in may see the light. 

17 For nothing is secret, 

that shall not be made manifest; 

neither any thing hid,

that shall not be known and come abroad. 


18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: 

for whosoever hath, 

to him shall be given; 

and whosoever hath not, 

from him shall be taken 

even that which he seemeth to have. 


19 Then came to him 

his mother and his brethren, 

and could not come at him for the press. 

20 And it was told him by certain which said,

Thy mother and thy brethren 

stand without,

desiring to see thee. 

21 And he answered and said unto them, 

My mother and my brethren 

are these which hear the word of God, 

and do it. (Luke 8:16–21)


After we respond fruitfully to God’s Word, we are responsible to…




Luke 8:16 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. 


This is a very simple, and humorous statement. I think people laughed when Jesus said it. Who would light a candle and put it under a bed or a “vessel” (a jar)? That’s ridiculous, and that’s the point. If the light of the Gospel has shined into your heart, why cover it up?


[Children’s Lesson] In this paper bag, I have three light bulbs. Here is a big, 500 watt light bulb. Have you ever seen a light bulb that was so big? It’s what we use here in this room. Even though it’s so big, do you think one of these light bulbs can light this whole room? (Have someone turn off all but one row of the lights). No, we need all of them shining their light.


Here’s another lightbulb—it’s a smaller one like what we usually have in our houses. How many of these types of bulbs do you think you have in your house? Why do we need so many? Because one is not enough!


Here’s a night light. How much light does it give off? Not very much. But when it’s dark in the house, it’s helpful because it gives just enough light to walk around without stubbing your toe! 


My point is this: every light bulb is important, no matter how big or how small. Jesus says that we are to be lights to the world around us, and we shouldn’t hide our light from people (Adapted from Ryrie, 81).


What does it mean to be a light for Jesus? It means that we tell others about who Jesus is and what he did when he died on the cross and rose again from the grave.


Maybe you are just a small child, but it’s important for you to tell others about Jesus by being a light. Do you know a song that says we shouldn’t hide our light but let it shine? 


1. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!

2. Hide it under a bushel? No, I’m gonna let it shine.

3. Won’t let Satan (blow) it out, I’m gonna let it shine.


We all have a responsibility to be lights for Jesus Christ, no matter how young or how old. We are not to hide our lights. Jesus goes on to say:


Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. 


Obviously this verse is connected with verse 16, but it’s hard to figure out what he means here. What is the “secret” that will be made “known…abroad”


Some suggest it has to do with how the fruit of our hearts will be revealed over time. Either you will shine for Jesus and that will be revealed, or you won’t shine and that will show the true condition of your heart. 


This is the meaning that I wanted it to mean, because that would preach well! But I was bothered with the parallel statement in Matthew 10—


26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. (Matthew 10:26–27)


What is the secret or hidden thing here? It’s what Jesus was teaching his disciples. What would they do with his teaching? They would speak it in the light; they would preach it on the housetops (which, by the way, in that culture, were flat roofs where people would gather in the cool of the evenings). I think we can say that the hidden thing is the Gospel and that the disciples did indeed take it and preached it to the world.


Back in Luke 8, I think Jesus is saying the same thing. His Gospel was hidden. It was, as we saw in Luke 8:10, a mystery—a thing that was hidden from humanity until God chose to reveal it. 


Now it’s revealed, and we who respond to God’s Word are to shine it forth and not try to hide it again under a bed. 


After we respond fruitfully to God’s Word, we are responsible to shine our light so others can see Jesus. We are also responsible to…




Luke 8:18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have. 


This verse is really the conclusion to everything said so far in the chapter, even the Parable of the Sower. Since the Word of God falls like seeds in the hearts of humanity, since God has revealed the mystery of the Gospel to be shined forth like light in a room, therefore “Take heed…how ye hear.” 


Why should we take heed—or be careful—how we hear? Because the stakes are so high. God’s Word is the seed that can grow in the soil of our hearts and produce salvation—or it can die in the rockiness of our hearts and leave us on the road to eternal Hell.


How do we take more care in how we hear? I think there are a couple points of application we should make:


First, we see in this chapter that there is a certain desire that we should have to hear what God says. This is what Jesus was getting at up at verse 8, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Do you have this desire to hear God’s Word? If you are a Christian, you should:


2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:2–3)


Peter wasn’t saying that newborn Christians should desire God’s Word, he was saying that all Christians should desire God’s Word like newborn babies desire milk.


If you don’t, it’s perhaps an indication that you are not saved, or that you have some sin that you are holding onto. So repent and get right with the Lord! Desire to hear from God!


Second, as I pondered verse 8, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” I thought about how we can have different degrees of spiritual sensitivity. 


If you were to plant a garden in fresh sod, you might run a plow through it first. But the large clumps of dirt would make it difficult to plant vegetables. So you might come at it again with a disc—that would break it up more. 


But this isn’t a grain field, it’s a garden—so you would finish it with a garden tiller. And as you planted the various vegetable seeds, you would rake the dirt smooth. 


This, I think, is an illustration of the varying sensitivities we cultivate in our own hearts when we read the Word of God as Christians. We might be rough in our reading, only picking up something here and there. Or we might have cultivated our hearts so that they are quite smooth and sensitive to God. 


How do we cultivate the soil of our hearts? By using the spiritual disciplines that God has given us. We get more sensitive to God’s Word by reading, studying, and memorizing it over time. After nearly 30 years of reading the Bible, I hear more from it than what I did the first few years of reading…it’s just practice.


But there’s also prayer, and confessing our sins, which keeps the soil of our hearts broken up. 


Think of a favorite book (besides the Bible), that you’ve read. Imagine how much deeper your understanding of that book would be if it’s author was sitting in the chair next to you. Think of the conversations you could have! What did you mean by this? Would this be a good application of what you say here on page 103? Then think of what you would lose if you got that author upset with you so that he left.


In the same way, sin disrupts our relationship with God. He hides his face when we walk in sin. But when we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us and that relationship is restored.


To take heed how we hear, then, has to do with first, having a desire to hear. Then it has to do with cultivating a sensitivity to hearing God’s Word through study, prayer, and confessing our sins.


In the second half of Luke 8:18, Jesus says that proper hearing will lead to more and more spiritual truth being given:


Luke 8:18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have. 


Those, however, who are only pretending to be Christians, but are in fact, spiritually blind, will one day discover that they have no knowledge of the real God.


After we respond fruitfully to God’s Word, we are responsible to take care how we hear so we grow in what we know. And, finally, we are responsible to…




Jesus, as a teacher, had a knack for using people and things around him to teach spiritual truth. In Luke 9:46-48, he takes a child on his knee to explain to the disciples the importance of humility. In John 2:19-22, he used the temple itself to teach about his resurrection.


Here, his biological family comes to visit him, and he uses the occasion to teach about what it means to be part of his spiritual family.


Luke 8:19 Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. 


Luke doesn’t explain why they came to visit. However, since they came at such an busy time for Jesus (they couldn’t even get through the crowd), it may have been they had a matter of importance to discuss with him.


Elsewhere in the gospels, we see Jesus’s friends and family actually trying to stop his ministry because they thought he had lost his mind (see Mark 3:20-35). Perhaps that’s what they were doing here. 


Finally, someone noticed his family trying to get through the crowd…


Luke 8:20 And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. 


What’s Jesus’s response?


Luke 8:21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.


Jesus isn’t commending his family on how well they listen. The parallel passages in Mark 3:31-35 and Matthew 12:46-50 make that clear. Jesus is saying that his family—his spiritual family—are those who hear and obey the “the word of God.”


One immediate application we can make here is that our blood relationships do not determine our salvation. Because you are born into a Christian family, that does not make you a Christian. You have to hear God’s Word and respond to it yourself. God calls each individual to recognize their sin, to repent of their sin, and to turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sin.


Another application is that our responsibility as a member of God’s family is going to take precedence over our responsibility as a member of an earthly family. Yes, we are called to honor our parents (and Jesus did so, such as when he arranged for Mary’s care after he was gone [John 19:26-27]). 


But there is sometimes a tension between our earthly family and our heavenly calling. Jesus experienced this when he was twelve. He stayed behind in Jerusalem to listen to and speak with the teachers in the temple. When his parents finally found him, his response would have made most parents upset—


48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:48–49)


We are to love and respect our family, but at the same time, they shouldn’t be allowed to stand in the way of ministry that God has called us to. Jesus had strong words about this:


26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)


You have to wonder how many missionaries and pastors the world has lost because non-Christian or even Christian parents thought that they knew better than God. The higher calling that every Christian has is to serve Jesus Christ as a member of his family.


These are some of the applications that you can make from this text, but they are not the major lesson. The major lesson is that the members of Jesus’s family are those who “hear the word of God, and do it.”


James, the brother of Jesus, would later write:


22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22)


This is not to say that we gain family membership in Jesus’s family by working for it. We are adopted into his family by grace. That was why Jesus came:


4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4–5)


Another way of describing our entry into Christ’s family is by using the term, “born again.” Just as you did nothing to determine your physical birth, so also there is nothing you can do to earn being “born again.” In John chapter 3, Jesus said to Nicodemus:


7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:7–8)


When you do receive the adoption into Christ’s family by having faith in him, there will start to be a family resemblance. That resemblance will become greater as you continue to hear God’s Word and incorporate it into your mind and heart.


Your values will start to resemble Jesus’s values. In the end, your obedience won’t come from a slavish fear of a dictator god. You will obey in greater degrees because you agree more with Jesus than with the world. People will start to recognize you as a Christian because you bear a family resemblance.




God’s Word, Jesus said, is like seed scattered on the soil of our hearts. Some don’t respond, some do in a shallow and superficial way, and others start growing the fruit of God’s Word in their lives. Have you responded to God’s Word? Have you responded to the Gospel call? 


If you have, there are certain responsibilities that you take up as a result.  You are responsible to:


Shine your light so others can see Jesus;

Take care how you hear so you grow in what you know;

Show that you are part of Jesus’s family by obeying him.




Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Object Lessons: 100 Lessons from Everyday Life. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1991.


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