“The Good Seed!” Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of, the Chapter.
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
9He who has ears, let him hear.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;
Jesus is now into his third year of ministry and the honey moon is over. We understand this because of the manner in which Jesus begins to speak. Prior years, Jesus’ taught in plain language. People rejoiced in His powerful preaching and in his miracles of healing and raising the dead. They received the blessing of multiplied loaves of bread and fishes to stave off their physical hunger. They continued to follow Jesus because of His preaching and miracles. But did they truly hear and see what Jesus was doing?
Now our Lord begins to speak in parables as he teaches and heals those who come to him. Perhaps the first question is why Jesus teaches in parables. The verses which follow the text today give reason for Jesus teaching in parables. Simply said, Jesus is fulfilling Scripture, specifically Isaiah 6.
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
These words of God depict the condition of God’s people at the time of Isaiah. They were dull in their thinking and seared in their souls on account of their rebellion against their God. They no longer heard with ears that were attentive to the need to repent. They no longer feared, nor loved, nor trusted in their God above all things. Instead the people gave in to the idolatry which surrounded them and had crept into the Temple worship through the sin-corrupted leadership of the people.
“And utter a parable to the rebellious house and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD …” Ezekiel 24:3
And again through the psalmist God speaks these words.
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,” Psalm 78:2
What then does Jesus teach in this parable of the sower? Jesus reveals how well he knows us. Jesus shows the root cause of our rebellion against the Word and will of God. We learned in confirmation class the truth that the devil the world and our sinful flesh tempt us to rebel and lead us from the path of righteousness into rebellion. So where in this parable do we see these truths portrayed by Jesus?
Jesus begins with the direct rejection of God’s Word. Jesus speaks of the sower casting seed that fell onto the hard path. What happens to this seed? It is not given place by the birds to even begin to produce any growth. The birds fall upon the seed and devour the seed keeping the seed form germinating.
So what is the hard path? Perhaps we should consider the hard path to be the state of life or death in the sinner before coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Steeped in sinful rebellion against God, we reject out of hand the call of the Gospel. We reject the call of the Gospel because it is foolishness to our ears. We give in to the temptation of Satan who directs our attention elsewhere than to the cross of Jesus Christ and the need for repentance from sin.
Satan places before us his perversions of the good things God would give us. One pastor I follow on Facebook has a very descriptive demonstration of these perversions of Satan. He speaks of the perversions in reference to the Catechism, which we know as the summary of God’s will for the believer in Jesus Christ. Satan’s perversions of the truth are called Anti-Catechism. Each of the six chief parts are attacked by Satan with temptations that appear to be good, but are truly death to those who follow them.
We face these perversions every day. They are paraded on social media, news media and entertainment media. Marriage is projected as being unnecessary and irrelevant. Fathers are shown to be unimportant. Relationships with anyone you choose, whether it is with a male or a female is promoted as acceptable. You are not happy with your birth gender, then you can take hormones, counseling and surgery to reassign your gender. In effect we tell God he made a mistake and we want to correct it.
Then there is the rocky shallow soil. Some seed falls upon this shallow soil and begins to grow. Yet when the sun begins to beat upon it, the growing seed is burned by the heat and dies.
So what is the rocky soil? Perhaps we should consider this soil to be those who are brought to faith in Jesus Christ. They hear the word of God but they do not keep the word of God. They are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. They rejoice in their faith for a little while but then when their faith is put to the test they turn from grace.
These are the people with unmet expectations for the life of faith. These are the people who are brought to faith in Jesus Christ and think life is going to be all peace and comfort. They think people in the church are never going to fail. They think they will never have to suffer, struggle or go without. God will see to it that all they want will be provided. God only gives what is needed. At times wants and needs are the same. More often than not, we should expect they will be different.
These are people who also turn from grace in the time of persecution. When confronted for their faith in Jesus Christ, or when faced with going along with crowd, or witnessing to the truth, they give in to the forces they think are greater than God. Their reason pushes back against faith, and faith crumbles under the pressure. The Word of God did not have a deep root in their lives.
This is the tyranny of our flesh. We enjoy the good times, but are repulsed by the difficult times and the persecution we face because we go against the emerging norms of sinful society.
So what is the seed cast among the thorns? The thorns are the cares of this world. We become sinfully engrossed in our income. We chase the dollar and the creature comforts of this world because we are dissatisfied with what we have been given by God. We seek the pleasures of this world because it is much more interesting than seeking the treasures of heaven. These things steal away the joy of salvation and the comfort of forgiveness. They draw our ears away from hearing the words of absolution which assure us of God’s love, to the delusion of equating God’s love for us with the trappings of this world.
Where do you find yourself on this spectrum of unbelief? Which of these sown fields best represents your life? What expectations of yours have been dashed? Which trials of faith have you failed to resist? Which cares of this world have undermined your hope in Christ? I believe that, at various times we will find we fall into each of these categories. As long as we walk this earth, we will be faced each day with various trials of faith. That faith will be tested to the limits. You will be shown as was Paul, what you are able to endure for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This last soil is interesting. For it shows the life of the true believer in Jesus Christ. We note that the soil is called good and it produces fruit. First, we ask what makes this soil good? How do you answer that question? The seed makes the soil good. For the seed, as Jesus says, the seed is the Word of God. It is proclaimed and applied to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. God gives them the gift to hear with understanding and live in faith.
Why then are the other soils was it not effective? Why did the seed not grow and produce fruit in the other soils? The Word of God produces two effects, but always has one purpose. The purpose of the Word is to bring God’s truth to bear in the sinner’s life. This remains true for all time and for all sinners. What is that truth other than the sinner’s need to repent of sin and seek forgiveness in the shed blood of Jesus Christ?
Upon hearing the call to repentance what responses are expected? There are two. First there is rejection of the Word of truth. The sinner continues in unbelief and rejects the call of God to seek eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This may be outright rejection or rejection that comes later on when life does not go as expected. This is the first effect of the Word of God. The sinner is the source of such rejection.
The second response is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. These are the ones whose eyes and ears are opened by God to believe what is seen and heard. These ones remain steadfast and immovable in faith. They gather with the saints in the house of God to receive the gifts of God in Word and Sacrament. They speak of their salvation to others who have ears to hear and eyes to see that fruit may be harvested from the fields in need of God mercy and grace.
There is a prayer of the Church which is periodically offered to God for the growth of the Word and its fruit in the lives of those who hear it. This prayer is a direct reflection of this parable taught by Jesus.
“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”
How are your ears and eyes? What has God given you to see and hear? Each Lord’s Day we gather here in God’s house, God sows His Word in your life. Consider your life as a field growing green grass. There are patches that are lush. There are patches that brown quickly. There are patches where the grass dies off. What is done to restore that grass and make it lush and vibrant? New seed may be planted. More water may be poured upon it. Fertilizer may be applied.
What do you do when your life has its rough patches? Where will you go? Our Lord encourages you, His people, to return to the Word of life and seek restoration and strength in the means of God’s grace. As was said above in the collect:
“… grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life…”
God grant you ears to hear and eyes to see with understanding His call to repentance and faith.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen