In the Name of Jesus
Luke 8,4-15 (Matthew 13,1-23; Mark 4,1-20)
Sexagesima (2. Sonntag vor der Passionszeit) 021 Sexagesimä
Gelasius, actor, Martyr 297
27. February 2011
1. O Most Loving Father, who wills us to give thanks for all things, to dread no thing except the loss of You, and to cast all our cares on You who cares for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which You have manifested unto us in Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord (Book of Common Prayer 165). Amen.
2. Our sermon text for this morning, dear brothers and sisters, is from the Gospel according to St. Luke where the holy evangelist writes: 4And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to Jesus, 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. 6And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.“ As He said these things, Jesus called out, „He who has ears to hear, let him hear.“ 9And when His disciples asked Him what this parable meant, 10He said, „To you it has been given to know the secrets of the reign of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God. 12The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil arrives and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13And 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. 14And 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. 15As 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.“ This is our text.
3. In this morning’s parable, Jesus teaches us about the Word of God and how that Word is treated in the world. Yahweh sends forth His Word in many diverse places. The end result is that Yahweh desires to bring in a harvest of believers.
4. Yahweh’s way of spreading His Word shows His grace and patience. Where we would be tempted to limit the Word to fields and locations that offer the promise of success, Yahweh spreads His Word far and wide to the four corners of the earth, so that every field and person has the opportunity to have the Word land in their midst and upon their heart. God’s Word is sown to convict us of our sinfulness, bring us to repentance, and bring us to faith in Christ Jesus for salvation and forgiveness.
5. Nevertheless, thus far in the Gospel according to Luke, the crowds have been growing who listen to Jesus preach while the number of the Jewish religious leaders rejecting Jesus’ claim to be the Christ are growing as well. In this parable, „Jesus is answering the question of why, despite his ongoing ministry of words and deeds, so many people in Israel are not responding in faith and discipleship“ (Gibbs 680). This parable teaches something about the process and results of the preaching of the reign of God (Just 341). Jesus lists the three chief barriers that keep the crowds from believing and becoming a miraculous yield (Just 340).
6. The first barrier is that »The birds of the air devoured Word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil arrives and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.« Some hear the gospel, but before that gospel can penetrate their heart the devil immediately snatches it away before faith is created. The devil has many means at his disposal to accomplish this task. He might send along someone who proclaims another religion or philosophy so that the person forgets about the gospel that had been preached to him or her. The devil may use a person’s cultural heritage to sweep the gospel aside. How difficult it is for a Jew or a Muslim to believe the gospel, because that person’s culture is hostile to that very gospel and thereby lends itself as easy pickings by the devil to snatch the gospel away before it can do anything.
7. The second barrier is that »Some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 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.« O how many times this happens to those who hear the gospel! Many will hear the word, receive it with great joy, and believe, but the moment something bad happens to them, the moment a severe trial afflicts them, they quickly blame God and reject Him and His Word. The world is full of challenges to the Christian faith. Those who expect that once they become Christians that now their life will be one of happiness and ease are trusting in a fantasy dream that does not exist. Many times, Christians are the most troubled people in the world. A Middle Eastern Christian often lives in a country that is hostile to the Christian faith, and such Christians live knowing that they could be persecuted, tortured, and executed on account of their faith. The Christian faith does not automatically ease family tensions or conflicts, but often times such tribulations become worse. The Christian faith is not a life of peace and ease, but one of hardship and trials. Many believers lose their faith because of this hardship and tribulation.
8. The third barrier is that »Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 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.« If trials and tribulations don’t cause a Christian to lose faith in Jesus, then the riches of this temporal world will tempt Christians to forsake their faith Christ. These Christians are content in the faith for a while, until they look over at what the world offers, and are enticed away by the wealth of the world. Compared to the pleasures of the world, the sacrifices that Christians endure and the offerings that Christians put in the collection plate seems like an unfair trade. Alas, these Christians abandon the faith, giving up the eternal treasures of the heavenly reign for the short-lived riches of this world, which as we have experienced these past two years such worldly riches can be wiped out when the economy stops rampaging as a bull and becomes dormant like a hibernating bear.
9. Finally! »Some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. 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.«. These, by Yahweh’s providence, have not been snatched away by the devil, they have been tested with fire and come through, and they have not been drawn away by the wealth of the world. On the last day, when Jesus returns for the harvest of His Church, the true and faithful Christians stand tall and yield a bountiful harvest of their steadfast faith in Christ Jesus their Savior from sin, death, and the devil. The growing season was difficult and beset by many dangers. Many of their fellow believers had fallen away due to tribulations and wealth. We thus must be on our guard, lest before the day arrives when Christ returns we find ourselves forsaking the Christian faith due to unforeseen trials or the glitter of worldly wealth. Those Christians who are truly the good soil must endure unto the very end.
10. Thus in today’s parable, Christ tells us that faith is a precious gift, a gift that can be lost by the onslaught of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. In this parable we have the mysterious doctrine of election. Thus many Christians ponder the question: „How do I know if I am of the good soil? Am I elect? Will I persevere unto the last day?“ First and foremost, you can and should know and be certain of your eternal election (Pieper 481). We cannot and should not seek assurance of our election by prying into the Divine foreknowledge of Yahweh (Pieper 481), for God has reserved this knowledge only unto the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity.
11. The assurance of our election, however, we can and should gain from the gospel (Pieper 483). The gospel tells us that the grace of our Heavenly Father in Christ is for all sinners without exception, and that this grace is actually grace, contingent on nothing whatsoever in you or me (Pieper 483). Furthermore, the gospel tells us that this grace is based on Jesus alone and His righteous and Divine merit, who for the sake of the world, and you and me specifically, laid down His precious life as the Lamb of God, suffering God’s wrath upon sin in our place as our heavenly ransom, paid the price of the law against sinners by being crucified and shedding His own holy blood that cleanses us from all sin and sinfulness, and thus when He had finished ransoming all mankind back to His Heavenly Father, descended into hell, tore off hell’s gates from their hinges, told the devil that his horrendous reign of terror is about to end, and then rose on the third day, triumphing of death and the grave, bringing in His train the resurrection of all flesh that He will grant every person on the last day. Every poor sinner, therefore, who keeps his or her faith focused on this gospel, without any side glances in the direction of the law is precisely for that reason believing in his or her eternal election (Pieper 483) and therefore is of the good soil.
12. „God in His counsel, before the time of the world, decided and ordained that He Himself, by the power of His Holy Spirit, would produce and work in us, through the Word, everything that pertains to our conversion“ (Formula of Concord XI §44). The Holy Spirit has elected you and me to eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, who is our Savior and Redeemer, who was crucified and resurrected for our forgiveness and thus gives us the gift of eternal life. Faith clings to this Glorious Savior and believes that in Christ and on account of Christ we are elected and saved. Election, salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life are all gifts given to us through Christ, for great is our Heavenly Father’s love toward us and abundant is the Holy Spirit’s preservation in the Christian faith so that we endure unto the last day and receive the inheritance given to all who are God’s children through Christ Jesus alone. „May our dear Lord Jesus Christ grant us His grace so that we may diligently hear His Word, retain it in a pure heart, and bring forth fruit in patience“ (Luther 293). Amen.
13. Let us pray. O Holy Spirit, today we have heard Your saving voice in Your Holy Word, and we give all thanks and praise unto You, the Father, and Jesus Christ, for electing us, saving us, giving us faith to receive these wonderful gifts so that we need not fear or doubt our election or salvation, nor will we harden our hearts, for You preserve us in the Christian faith that trusts only in Jesus. Amen.
One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you!
All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Luke © 1995 by Reuben Joseph Swanson.
Book of Common Prayer, The. Copyright © 1990 Oxford University Press.
Gibbs, Jeffrey A. Matthew 11:2 – 20:34. Copyright © 2010 Concordia Publishing House.
Just, Arthur A., Jr. Luke 9:51––24:53. Copyright © 1997 Concordia Publishing House.
Löhe, Wilhelm. Seed-Grains of Prayer: A Manual for Evangelical Christians. Wartburg Publishing House, Chicago circa 1912. Concordia Publishing House; Concordia on Demand.
Luther, Martin. Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 5. Copyright © 2000 Baker Book House Company.
Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III. Copyright © 1953 Concordia Publishing House.