Sermon for Sexagesima, AD 2022

Luke 8:4-15

Jesus tells a parable of the sower who sows one seed in four different places. Only in the good soil does the seed grow into a plant that yields a harvest, but in the good soil it yields a great harvest. In the other soils, the plant dies, or does not grow at all. As Jesus says, the seed is the word of God. It does not change, the same message of repentance and faith is broadcast to all. All people are characterized by the four different soils. While the word is good, the people may resist or fall from trust in that word. Jesus tells you this so you may in fact hold onto his word and bear abundant fruit.

Jesus’ word is not going to be accepted by all, and not all will hold on in faith. This is the truth of this parable. It is also why Jesus spoke in parables. You may think that parables were like sermon illustrations, that Jesus spoke them so people could understand the Word of God better. As Jesus tells us, this is not the case. Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds who did not believe so that “seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” For those who do not believe in Jesus, parables only confirmed them in their unbelief. Parables gave them more excuse to reject Jesus. Yet for those who believed in Jesus, like the disciples, like you, they reveal things about Jesus’ work for you – the secrets of the kingdom of God.

The secrets of the kingdom of God are not some mystical knowledge. The answer to all secrets are found in Jesus himself. All life in the kingdom is found in Jesus Christ himself. This life is received by the Word of God, through preaching and the sacraments. As the Word of God is heard and dwells on your heart, you are brought to Jesus through faith in him. As you are baptized, the Word of God with the water makes your old man die with Jesus and your new man rise and live in Him. As you receive the Word of God joined to the bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, you are strengthened by being united with Jesus through trust in his promised forgiveness of your sins. The seed which is the Word of God working in you creates faith in Jesus, the only one who can produce the fruit of faith, true life and salvation.

This is shown directly in the parable which Jesus is speaking. When the Word of God goes out, only those who hold fast to it in an honest and good heart will bear fruit with patience. All others who reject the Word of God and therefore reject Jesus will not produce, or may seem to grow for a time and then fall away.

It is especially important then for you to hear the Word and hold it in your heart in faith. Faith is developed in steadfastness and patience, it is fed by the word of God and prayer. The different soils in the parable are all seen from the end of life. One person is either finally good soil or one of the bad soils. Difficulties in life may make you feel like you are a bad soil. What others do may make them seem bad or good at the moment. Yet at the last, the determining factor is the work of the Word of God in you. Christ gives the growth and the strength through his Word, he gives you the ability to hold on to him.

It is possible for you to reject him. Do not reject him! The devil and the world and your flesh will continually work to convince you that you have rejected him, that there is no use, that you are bad soil. This is not what Christ is trying to teach. Do not focus on yourself, on what kind of soil you are, but on Christ. For Christ through His Word is the only one who can bring the good growth. It is normal for you to have doubts, to be worn down by your sin, but this means you turn to Christ in repentance and faith. You can see how Christ frees you from these bad soils as he teaches us how to pray.

The first soil is those who hear the word of God, but do not allow it to take root. Many do hear the Word of God and never believe. Like an asphalt road they are hardened to the gospel of Jesus. These are the many people who never believed at all. They may even be hypocrites in the church who give the appearance of Christianity but have no faith in Christ. Christ tells us that these people do not remain neutral. There is no neutrality when it comes to faith in Christ. Either you trust in Christ, or as we naturally are in sin, you are his enemy. You see that in the parable, that the seed does not remain on the path. It is snatched away by the birds and swallowed up quickly. To refuse Christ is to allow the devil, the evil one, to snatch away the word. He is working hard so that no one hears and believes, and if you will not hear then he will not allow the word to remain on your heart for long.

Therefore, Christ helps us by teaching us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” You know from the Small Catechism that this means we pray that “our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation.” There is no greater evil than to be kept from the Word of God, which is life and salvation. Yet the Father in heaven commands you, asks you, to pray that you be delivered from such things, and He promises to hear such prayers. He sent his Son to die for you, and so desires that you have a blessed end, and leave this valley of sorrow, and be with Him in heaven for eternity. When you feel indifferent to the Word of God, when you don’t want to hear, don’t want to go to church, remember that God gently calls you to hear Him. God wants you to hear, and when you don’t want to hear he doesn’t push you away. He instead tells you to call on Him, that you may be delivered from your indifference and the evil foe who would snatch the Word away from you forever. For the only way anyone can hear is because God is working mightly for it, that Christ has defeated the devil in his death and resurrection. Otherwise, no one would ever hear the Word of God and believe.

There are still dangers for those who do believe. The second soil is the one who believes in joy, but have no root, like plants in rocky soil. So when a time of testing comes they fall away and never bear fruit. For this person, faith in Christ was only based on the worldly benefits he received from it, and when things get difficult he falls away. It seems less likely in our day that someone would be a Christian to get benefits in society, but in many groups being a Christian can be useful. Maybe for some, they remain Christian to keep peace in the family of make grandma happy. Maybe the church is where all their friends are. But when difficulties come and hard decisions have to be made – do I want to have current happiness or be Christian – they fall away because there is no root.

This does not mean that those who believe in Christ for what seems to be the wrong reasons cannot grow into a true faith. For it is Christ who does the saving by His Word, and he says his Word will accomplish the purpose for which he has sent it. So if you think maybe your faith is weak, or your belief only temporary, do not despair. Repent and turn to Jesus for help. He tells you to pray, “lead us not into temptation.” By this prayer, you pray that He may guard and keep you from falling into “false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.” Our Lord does not only deliver you from the evil one, but keep you firm in temptation and trial. He desires that your root would grow strong in him. It is strengthened by continually returning to the Word of Christ.

As you trust in Christ’s promises, you learn more and more that you must be dependent on him for all things. For He is the only true God worthy of trust for all your needs. The problem with those like the seeds among thorns, the third soil, is that they trust other things instead of God. Life brings many cares, it brings distractions, good and bad things which can pull your trust away from God. When the pursuit of money, or pleasure, or someone else’s approval come first then faith is choked out.

Yet your Father in heaven provides for all your needs and wants you to realize this. He entreats you to pray, “give us this day our daily bread.” In so doing, you see more that everything you have is a gift from God. Without Him you and all people would have nothing good. Yet out of His great love and mercy because of his son, you receive many blessings of house and clothes, food, family, and friends. There is no need to covet what others have, no need to seek the best for yourself, when your loving Father is the one who provides for you. Therefore in seeking your daily bread, the needs of this life, seek first your Father in heaven, who is the ultimate source of all good.

For all good flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because you know that Jesus has died for you, forgiven your sins, made peace with God, given you new life with him in the resurrection, you cling to his promises first of all. As you pray, He promises to answer and provide. So realize the warnings about falling away and fear God, but do not fear the devil or the world of your flesh. They can do nothing to those who trust in Christ. When those enemies lead you to doubt and say, “look, you are bad soil,” reply back that in your baptism you have good seed. Christ will protect you from all evils, temptation, and lack, you know this because he says to ask for it and wants to provide it. Remain in His word and cling to his promises, and the fruit of faith will grow in you a hundredfold. Amen.

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