This morning Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seed. A sower sows his seed but not everything sprouted and grew. In fact, it was pretty perilous. The birds of the air devoured the seed. Or it withered on the vine, or it was choked out by thorns. But some fell into good soil, sprouted, and took off. Grew a hundredfold.
It’s a parable about God’s Word, the preaching of the Gospel, and it’s reception in the heart of the believer. It’s a warning as well, that not everyone who stumbles into a church pew will be saved. There are many obstacles to faith – sworn enemies to do you harm – from the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh. We pray that our hearts would be rooted in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so persevere by God’s grace, and bear fruit.
Today we have the parable of the sower. Not everyone is a farmer, our agricultural experience is fairly limited, but here’s a question for you. Have you ever planted a garden? Let me guess. Everything went beautifully. It was just like magic. You turned some soil over and threw some seed. And when you came back a month later, voilà – there was your dream garden!
Well, you know it didn’t turn out like that! Not with the rabbits anyway. Not with the insects and the scorching heat. Not with those weeds crowding out and destroying what you thought would be a lush garden with fruits and vegetables.
Any experienced gardener will tell you there’s quite a bit to it. Soil condition, sun and plenty of water. And don’t forgot the fence to keep the deer and rabbits at bay. And then the weeds, there’s just no shortcut there. They’ll grow as fast as you can pick them. It’s a fair amount of work.
As I said, this parable of the sower and the seed is about the preaching of the Gospel, it’s about those who want to call themselves Christians. It’s a commentary on how the preaching is received, and believed, and all the obstacles that seek to prevent the implantation that Word in the heart of the believer. And finally, the parable is about the success – the blessing given by the Holy Spirit who creates and sustains faith whenever that Word is believed. So keep that in mind here.
What’s so great about this parable is that our Lord just goes ahead and patiently explains it all for us. First off, the seed is the Word of God – it’s the preaching of the Gospel.
Some seed fell on the path, but it was trampled, and the birds of the air devoured it. Jesus says this refers to those who have heard something of God’s Word, but the devil comes along and takes away the word from their hearts so that they do not believe and are not saved. You might call this inattentive listening. Maybe their name is a on a church membership roll – maybe they occasionally park their butt in a church pew – but the Word of God goes in one ear and out the other. There is no repentance, no sorrow over sin, and no faith – and they leave no different from when they came.
The second type of hearer are those like the rocky soil, they are those who show great promise initially. They want to be Christians and enjoy all the privileges that come along with it, but during a time of trial or testing they fall away – faith withers and dies. There are common examples of this. It’s no secret that most young adults who go off to college quickly become apostates, especially in secular universities. They’re not prepared for the bombardment – and soon find a new religion of woke ideology and militant atheism. Sadly, so many fall away.
Third, some seed fell among the thorns. Jesus says these are those who hear the Word of God, but faith in the heart is choked out by the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. Simply put, the passing enjoyments, pleasures, and compulsion of this life are thought to be the summum bonum – the highest good. And we Christians aren’t against pleasure and good times – that’s what God is all about by the way. But the pleasures of life are to be enjoyed in conformity with His holy will. Simply put, so many folks fall away from faith simply because they are so busy running from one pleasure to the next that they run past the very one who is the source and foundation of all human happiness Christ Himself.
So you see here just a small picture of what our Lord is getting at. There are many obstacles to faith in the Gospel. Think back to that garden of yours. You had to contend with vegetable-eating varmints, bugs, weeds, and searing heat. Likewise, in the kingdom of God, when it comes to the faith born in the Christian heart, we’re up against plenty too. First, the devil, who wants to snatch away the word from our hearts. Second, the world enters in with its tribulations and troubles. Third, our own sinful flesh seeks to lure us into a life of total self-absorption – where the pleasures, vanities, and allurements of this passing life (especially our devotion to our own entertainment) all aim to take our eyes of God and our neighbor. This way of thinking and living is deadly to the holy life of faith that Christ calls us to.
That garden of yours called for some real attention. You’ll have to put a fence around it, guard it from predators. And then there is plenty of weeding, watering, and TLC.
That same is true for the holy life of faith – and the faith of the heart. It is to be carefully guarded and protected. There is plenty of weeping and uprooting to do – pulling up and tearing away anything that’s crowding in and threatening faith in Christ. Finally, there is feeding and watering – the Supper and Baptism – the administration of the Sacraments which sustain the life of faith.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. We can’t make the mistake of thinking we can live a holy and fruitful life by our own strength or efforts. We’ve always got to rely on Christ alone. That’s why Paul would write, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” So it’s not so much that we get rooted in the Word but rather than the Word gets rooted in us. Because we don’t in and of ourselves bear fruit, but rather the Word of God bears fruit in us and through us.
Dear friends of God, this parable is not directed at those outside of Christ. The parable is a sermon to the church. A reminder that it’s not enough to let God’s Word float in one ear and out the other. That Word, by the gift of the Holy Spirit is must also be believed and used to direct one’s entire life.
So maybe you’re wondering what sort of soil you are; maybe that’s got you worried. After all, like that first group of hearers, how attentive is your listening to the Word of God? How about that second group? How strong has your faith been in regards to trial and temptation? What sort of fight did you put up? What about the cares, riches, and pleasures of this passing life? How much stock have you put into those things which are all passing away?
The truth is, these hearts of ours are so often faithless. We have let God’s Word soar into our ears and out the other side. We have invited the devil into our lives and succumbed to temptation. We should confess we’ve actually been rather obsessed and thrilled by the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, as if they were the only thing that ever mattered.
We’ve lived as if God did not matter and as if we had mattered most. Truth is, we haven’t tended the garden of our hearts. But we’ve let them become invested with the thorns of unbelief.
But this morning there is comfort for sinners. There is comfort for sinners who are assaulted from all sides. Because just look how Christ Himself bears this attack for us! Was it not He Himself who sweated the blood of salvation for us in the Garden of Gethsemane? Was it not the tree of Christ’s holy cross planted in the hard and rocky soil of Golgotha that flowered and bloomed with life in abundance for us? Those thorns that were to choke us – were they all not pressed into the innocent Son of God until His life was choked out, all to procure for us life and salvation? Did not Satan and his demons hellishly hound and devour Him? Yet, through His dying and rising again, He destroyed all these enemies of ours.
In our parable this morning, most importantly, Jesus wants us to recognize our sin and to see our Savior. Because it’s not so much about soil types as it is about the absolute generosity of God, who has given to you His Son. Who sows His seed recklessly, indiscriminately, and extravagantly. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat [a seed] falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus is Himself the Seed, planted on the fertile soil of Golgotha to give life to the world.
And this abundant life from the cross all comes to you. And comes to you through His Word. An efficacious Word. A word so powerful that whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, it is bound never to be without fruit. It is a word that Isaiah describes this morning as never returning void, but accomplishing everything it says.
After all, this is a Word who says, “Let there be light” and there is light! A Word who says, “Take and eat, this is my body – this is my blood – given and shed for you.” And it is. So let His Word today be planted in you by His grace and Holy Spirit. That you would believe in Him with a confident and cheerful heart, gladly serve your neighbor, and bear fruit with patience. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
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