Sexagesima Sunday - Luke 8:1-15 - The Parable of the Sower
[Read Luke 8:4-15]
God’s Word Preached, Planted to Save
A man is only as good as his word. Does God’s Word hold true? Will God’s Word work? Does God’s Word fulfill the purpose for which it is sent? Or, as it so often seems from our human perspective, is the Word of God failing? What will God’s Word deliver in the end?
God is generous with dispersing His Word. Exceedingly so. Would any farmer do what the sower (the planter) in today’s parable does, throwing his seeds everywhere and anywhere? Farmers plant carefully in rows and cast their seeds within the boundaries of their fields – not on the pathways or roads - not in unplowed fields or under bushes.
Yet the sower in today’s parable throws his seed everywhere. God is generous and distributes His Word all over the place. Drive around. Can you drive very far anywhere without passing a church, and another, and another? Each with a Bible in its pulpit.
The Word is read out loud even in those churches which are so determined not to believe it and which preach contrary to it! They don’t want the very Word they read, yet God has it read. God is generous, but these are perhaps those who, as soon as the Word is cast, the devil snatches the Word off their hearts hardened by sin and a seared conscious. Yet, even in places that hate the Word of God, it is still heard that some might believe. Do some believe?
The Word is planted also in so many homes. It sits on the mantle or the shelf. The Word is planted, but you’re not grabbing onto it, so the birds eat it up. (But it’s not too late.)
Others, as the parable shows us, do hear and believe joyfully and quickly. Consider our own nation. Not long ago, evangelism was all the rage. Revivals. Door-to-door knocking. Churches growing, expanding their buildings. Yet where is that harvest now? Where did all the converts go?
It was a craze, a fad, a trend, it seems – creating quick converts that quickly faded away. Faith planted that didn’t last the lifetime even of those in whom it was planted. These 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.”
The farmer plows for a reason. He takes the time and does the work. He removes the rocks and plows up the dirt to prepare it as good growing soil so the roots can go down. You say, “The young generation doesn’t come to church?” God might say, “Where are their roots? You didn’t take the time. You didn’t do the work. You cast the Word, but you didn’t cultivate the soil” Without deep roots, their faith couldn’t endure this changing world. (“But hope isn’t lost.”)
The hardened walkway. The rocky ground. And God casts His Word also among the bushes, the thorns. The point isn’t that the thorns poke, but that the thornbushes overshadow the seed planted. “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.”
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will go also” [Matthew 6]. Not the evil things, but the good things – the cares (responsibilities), the riches (investment, overtime, wealth building), and the pleasures of life (making the good life) – these choke the Word, especially in adults, but also in the young with their part-time jobs and extracurriculars.
In short, for the Word planted to grow, worship on Sunday must be our reason for not doing other things – not the other way around. You are stunted in your faith. And your kids and grandkids don’t stay in faith to adulthood when the other things are allowed to be their reason for not receiving God’s Word in worship. (Yet hope is not lost. It can still be done.)
Day by day, time in prayer and in the Word – which God has generously given time for – should be my reason for not doing other things each day. I can be short on hobbies. I can be short on overtime. I can be short on passions. I can be short on TV shows. But I cannot endure in true faith if I am short on the Word of God and prayer.
Where my wealth goes, there my heart goes – whether wealth of time or money. Jesus is in the Scriptures. Jesus is in my neighbor who is in need. If I’m not attending to Jesus in either of these places because of the pleasures or cares or riches of my life, I am hindered. The faith does not mature in me. I don’t endure.
The hardened path. The rocky ground. The thornbushes. If these are such fruitless places, why does He cast His Word there at all? Because “with God, all things are possible” [Matthew 19:26]. Some will believe even in these hard places. The Word is cast for them.
And so much of the seed does fall onto the farmers field. The soil cultivated for growing. There is a great harvest in the end. Today’s parable concludes, “some [seed] fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” It is not a failed crop. There is a great harvest.
In good soil. Good soil? Does this mean, “Morally superior soil”? “Sinless soil”? No. Even “good dirt” is still just dirt. We are made from the dirt of the earth. It is the fertilizer and the water and the sunlight that grows the planted seed of the Word into fruit – into a harvest.
This parable of our Lord today is an exceedingly optimistic parable. The whole point is this, brothers and sisters: You see around you, and in you, what appears to be so many failed crops. But what God is planting is a hundredfold harvest. We’ll see it at the end, just as we see it at the end of the parable – “it grew and yielded a hundredfold.”
What harvest will we see at the end? “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” [Revelation 7:9].
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” [John 10:27-29].
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9]. Don’t confuse the patience of the Lord with failure of the Word. God is being patient and persistent with each seed He planted, giving each a chance to grow.
“God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:3-6]. God’s will is that they know and believe and understand the truth that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” God is patiently cultivating His field for the harvest of this Word in many people.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 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.” God is as good as His word. We see the pathway, the rocky soil, and the thorns – but God shows us in the end of the parable that there is a field ripe for harvest. His Word does achieve the purpose for which He sends. That purpose is salvation. God’s Word is not failing.
Yet, until the end, we believe this by faith, not by sight. Sight will come at the last.
“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.” A heart plowed and fertilized and rained upon and shined upon by God. A heart honest about its sin. A heart knowing by faith its Savior. Believe what is to be believed, not what is merely seen. We believe today’s parable of our Lord all the way to the good news at the very end. Amen.