SERMON FOR SEXAGESIMA, 2-16-2020
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL
Pastor Michael Larson
The great thing about the parable of the sower and the seed is that you can’t miss the meaning. It’s such a great parable because Jesus Himself patiently explains it – and clearly lays it all out. A sower goes out to sow his seed. Some of the seed fell along the path, was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air snatched it up. Some fell on the rocky soil, but died because there was no moisture. Some seed fell among the thorns, but the thorns grew up with it and chocked it. Some fell on the good soil and it sprouted, grew, and yielded a hundred-fold.
Jesus explains it all. The seed is the Word of God found in the Bible – the Holy Scriptures. A wonderful and powerful Word, to be read, and preached, and expounded upon. The seed is the eternal Word of the Father and the very promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a Gospel which saves us and rescues us from the devil’s kingdom and brings us into the glorious kingdom of Christ. All this through the forgiveness of sins, purchased and won by Jesus’ death and resurrection. The seed is nothing less than Christ Himself, along with all of His treasures and His gifts. Treasures and gifts that are extended to the ends of the whole earth, that the whole world might be saved though Him.
So with this parable of the sower and seed, the question may be looming in your mind: Why then are not all people saved, and why would this life-giving Word, this seed, be rejected in the first place? Why turn your back on the forgiveness of sins, communion with God, and this glorious Gospel? Why reject the invitation to heaven and insist instead upon hell? And why are not all people saved? Does the fault somehow lie with God and His Word? Good heavens, no! Not at all! “As I live,” declared the Lord, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Paul writes to Timothy, “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow is fulfil His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
So why do not all who hear the Gospel believe in Jesus as their Lord? Sadly, it’s because of sin and its power – the rebellion of the human heart. It’s because of the lies of the devil, and this evil world, that so many, most in fact, reject the Gospel, thrust it aside, and resist the Holy Spirit. Folks, it’s enough to make us weep! So we pray for them, and we also pray for ourselves, that the Holy Spirit would defend us, and guard and keep us in the one true faith.
In fact, this is exactly what we prayed for in our collect this morning. Did you hear it? We prayed that by God’s power we would be defended against all adversity – that is, defended from every enemy and every obstacle that would seek to threaten and extinguish our faith.
In our parable today God sows His seed – the seed being the glorious promise of the Gospel. And we see four different types of hearers. The first hears, but the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. These folks might even be sitting in a church pew, but their hearts are far from God – impenetrable hearts. They are inattentive listeners. They walk away from hearing God’s Word no different than they were before. They are unmoved. There is no sorrow and contrition over sin but instead indifference and callousness. The Word goes in one ear and right out the other, and they walk away from the Word of God no different from when they came.
Then there’s the seed cast on rocky soil. They hear the Word. They even receive it with joy. But they have no root. They believe for a time but when tested they fall away. In other words, the storms of life come crashing in, a bit of suffering enters in. And despite our Lord’s encouragement to persevere, and endure to the end, they forsake the fellowship of the church, the holy faith, and fall away.
Now we have the third type of soil. The seed falls among the thorns which choke out faith in the Gospel. Jesus says those dangerous thorns, which threaten our faith, are the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. Now, are riches and pleasures in and of themselves bad? Oh no! God is actually the giver of all good gifts and the author of every wholesome earthly pleasure. But these sinful hearts of ours cling to those earthly treasures and the passing things of this life – and so make an idol of them. Just look how they draw us away from a life of prayer and weekly worship. Just think about all those things that take precedence in a person’s life over God’s Word. All those pleasures, entrainments, and compulsions. You know they have a tendency just to push God and His Word into a smaller and smaller corner of our lives. Jesus warns us of this danger. Those cares, riches, and pleasures Jesus calls “thorns.” The apostle calls them snares of the devil. And so our fruit, our faith, our good works do not mature and grow. You see, we’re so busy focusing on ourselves that we take our focus off God, and in doing so forget about the needs of our neighbor as well!
Then lastly, there’s the seed that falls on the good soil. They are those who hear God’s Word. They believe it, receive it, and keep it in a good heart and bring forth fruit in patience. The devil must flee from them. They have not recoiled from cross and temptation. They have not been choked by the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world. Their faith endures.
Now let’s pause a moment, because I can see some questions beginning to build up in the back of your minds! Maybe you’re asking yourself, What sort of soil am I? And maybe that’s got you worried. After all, like that first group, how attentive is your listening to the Word of God? How about that second group? How strong has your faith been regarding suffering and trial? How strong have you been in the face of 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?
This parable should frighten us. We should confess our sins, that our hearts have been callous and impenetrable so often to the love and invitation of God. That we’ve so often let the devil and his demons right in the front door. We should confess that we have succumbed to temptation and let our faith so often wither on the vine. Our faith is fickle, shallow, and emotionally driven. We should confess that we’ve actually been rather obsessed and thrilled by the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, as if they were the only thing that mattered. And we’ve let those thorns choke our faith, weaken it and disturb it.
But this morning there is comfort for sinners. Dear friends, there is comfort for sinners who are assaulted from all sides. Because just look how Christ Himself bears this attack for us! Was is 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 – 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.
Folks, by the parable this morning, Jesus wants us to recognize our sin and our Savior. It’s not so much about soil types as it is about the absolute generosity of God, 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 which Isaiah describes this morning as never returning void, but accomplishing everything He purposes.
After all, this is a Word which says, “Let there be light, and there was light!” A Word that 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 all of us by His grace and Holy Spirit, that we would believe in Him with a confident and cheerful heart, gladly serve our neighbor, and bear fruit with patience. In the name of Jesus. Amen.