Sexagesima - February 12, 2023
[Luke 8:4-15] And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight
“We walk by faith, not by sight” [2 Corinthians 5:7]. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1]. Faith is the certainty - the assurance, the conviction - of things that are not seen.
The entirety of what we hope for. The entirety of what we depend on. The entirety of what has been done for us - and the One whom we love and adore - is unseen. “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him” [1 Peter 1:8]. And as Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” [John 20:29].
On the other hand, there were many who did see and did not believe. Pontius Pilate saw; Herod saw; the chief priests and scribes saw; the crowds saw and yelled, “Crucify Him!” And Jesus even had to say to a crowd who followed Him and saw His miracles, “you have seen Me and yet do not believe” [John 6:36].
So you say, “If only I could see it, then I would believe.” No you wouldn’t. If you don’t believe your Savior when you hear Him with your ears, you wouldn’t believe Him if you saw Him with your eyes either. Evidence isn’t the issue. Unwillingness is.
Or, we have fallen in love with or have so put our trust in the seen things of this world, that we are unwilling to have a Lord who would part us from them. For the sake of what your heart or flesh currently clings to, you remain unwilling to believe the better things. Or you’re unwilling for the true answer to be the right answer.
In other words, sometimes our hearts are like a hard walking path, good for nothing but to be trampled on under foot. God’s Word bounces off it by your unwillingness to receive it. The devil, like the birds snatching up seeds, takes it away off your heart. A hard heart.
Other times, the heart hears the Word of God and joyfully receives it. It’s good news! It helped in the moment! There was a miracle! God’s Word was a word of comfort! Yet, when trials or tribulations come - or when the Bible says something we struggle with - it’s not such a joy anymore, and faith dies down. Like a plant that sprouts on top of a rock on the sunny edge of the woods - it sprouts quickly and withers small.
Other times, the Word of God is planted in a man or woman’s heart, and it remains long. But the man or woman never matures. They mature in the things of this world. But the Christian faith doesn’t mature in them.
They perhaps are active in the activities of their church. But the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control- never mature in you [Galatians 5:21-23]. In the end, you are all stalk and leaves, but no wheat. Nothing to be harvested and gathered into the Lord’s barn.
“The cares and riches and pleasures of life” - these things you can see - remained the things you fear, love, and trust. But faith is in things unseen.
Are these first three parts of our Lord’s parable only for others, or do they inform you about your own heart? Do you see yourself in the walking path, the rocky ground, and the seed among thorns? You should? I see me. And I ask, “What can be done?”
The answer to my heart which does not want to believe in Christ or come to Him is, “Repent.” Jesus came proclaiming, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” [Mark 1:15]. Unbelief is not solved by evidence nor by getting satisfactory answers. Unbelief is something we must repent of. Turn from your wrong way of thinking and turn to faith in the Gospel - the good news that Jesus has died and risen for you.
Turn from a thousand thoughts and turn to this one thought - that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has died in the place of sinners and is risen from the dead to give them eternal life. Everything else will follow in line after this one thought.
The death of the Son of God was a death that atoned for your sins - it was payment in your place - so that nothing more is due. Your are forgiven and pardoned by what He has done.
His life, bursting forth from the grave on Easter, was for the life of your body. His body burst the bonds of death so that your body too will be raised. Only in Him, the grave is no longer the doorway to hell but to eternal life in God’s kingdom - body risen and glorified to be like His body.
Forgiven, restored, a life forever. No more sin or death in your body or soul. No more of the bad stuff in the one who has died in Christ. No more attachment to these former things. Freedom. Only pure life radiating through body and soul.
This is the fruit of the Word of God waiting for those who receive it and keep it in heart. It is an abundant fruit even in one person - yet Christ gives it to many. Nevertheless, in this life, it remains a thing unseen.
It is believed in this life, not seen. It is believed about yourself, even while it is yet unseen in yourself. It is a thing to come. A life for which we wait. Not something seen yet - nor is it something we deserve - but we believe it is a gift purely by God’s grace.
God’s Word does not return to Him empty [Isaiah 55:11]. Jesus tells us in the parable that His Word is fruitful in the good soil - planted in “those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
To hold it fast is to bank everything on it. It’s the sure thing. An honest heart is not that heart which believes it doesn’t need forgiveness or a Savior - it’s not that heart which says, “I’m glad I’m not like those other men” - the honest heart is the one which knows it falls short and says, “Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner.” [Luke 18:9-14]
A “good heart” does not mean a good enough heart. It’s not a moral statement. Only God is good. A good heart is a heart cultivated and readied by God - just as a farmer plows and cultivates his soil to make it ready for planting.
A good heart is that new heart of flesh created in you by God which replaces your old heart of stone. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It’s that heart created in you in your Baptism which God has made; and He continues to till and cultivate it like a master gardener.
You, His Baptized child - you are the one whose heart has been prepared and made ready to receive His Word - and His Word does bear it’s fruit. It doesn’t return to Him empty. “I don’t see it!” Believe it. Believing is for now, seeing for later.
Here, we see our life so full of hard walking paths, rocky grounds, and choking thorn bushes. We see a world in which God’s Word doesn’t seem to be bearing much fruit or making much headway. But we believe God’s promise about His Word: “It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55:11].
Here we believe this promise. There we will see it. So, now, cling to it as you walk by faith and not by sight. Amen.