Last week, we heard the parable of the workers in the vineyard and this week, the parable of the sower.
It must be said that, in human terms, the parables don’t make sense.
They’re not fair.
They’re not how we think.
And that’s the point.
The parables are how God thinks; and if you hear and understand them rightly, there is great comfort for you.
Today—Jesus Himself gives the right understanding.
He says, “The parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 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. 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. 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. 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” (Luke 8:11-15).
There isn’t a better explanation of the parable.
There isn’t a better explanation of how God saves the world—that He causes His Word to be preached everywhere, giving it growth, bringing it to maturity, that it produce good works—unto the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
I don’t have to explain the parable—because Jesus does.
Rather, our task is for us to hear and believe and confess in our daily lives the explanation that Jesus gives.
The parable of the sower is about the kingdom of God, how God causes His Word to be preached everywhere so that the mysteries of the kingdom of God may be revealed to those who believe (cf. Luke 8:10).
And it is about the world—unto which the Word of God is preached.
“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” (Luke 8:12).
God causes His Word to be preached unto all the world, and He certainly desires the salvation of all.
But some have hardened their hearts against God and His salvation.
These might consider themselves saved—or damned—or perhaps they don’t consider themselves at all.
Historically, this was called acedia, spiritual or mental sloth, that inbred sin of reluctance to work.
But let’s not pretend we’ve never planted our feet firmly in that kind of soil.
The devil snatches away the seed because we harden our heart to what God says about our idols.
Or—we refuse to admit we have idols.
Or—we live in complete apathy, except for the inch deep, mile wide, all-inclusive hedonism of the world.
God is just.
There is no fault with the seed or how it’s planted.
But the hard heart, the lazy heart, your heart will be called to account.
That’s how it is for the ones along the path.
“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” (Luke 8:13).
We’ve all seen this.
A man will come to faith after much grief—and he will think his grief behind him.
“But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (cf. Matthew 7:14).
But let’s not pretend we never sing with all the saints on Sunday—only to ruin it all in the car ride home.
One slight, real or imagined, is all it takes for us to give up the ghost.
For the ones on the rock, that’s how it is.
“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” (Luke 8:14).
These are the Sunday-only Christians.
The Christmas and Easter Christians.
The Christians who take advantage of the Church’s generosity until graduation.
Imagine the heart of a person who rejoices in front of you on Sunday, agreeing with God and the congregation from nine to eleven, or ten to eleven, if you don’t go to Sunday School, only to go home, get drunk, shack up with and celebrate sin.
“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My [friends], these things ought not…be so” (James 3:10).
Imagine the heart of a person who feigns a seasonal need of God only to fit in with the fad.
Their children shall be their judges (cf. Matthew 12:27).
This being the third type of soil in the parable, you know to expect me to say: let’s not pretend this isn’t us.
Thorns and thistles have grown up, and we reap what we did sow.
How many among you hear the Word of God but have no cares that would take your heart from you?
Which man among you is concerned not at all with riches?
Or what woman wants nothing to do with the pleasures of this life?
Is there anyone whose fruit could not give an increase?
This parable is about us and the world unto which the Word of God is preached, but if we hear and believe and confess this parable as only a description of soils, we miss the point entirely.
Our task is to hear and believe and confess in our daily lives the explanation that Jesus gives.
It’s not “Which soil are you today?”
But rather, “Do you know what God has done to save you?”
He didn’t cause His Word to be preached only to the good soil—like we would do.
He causes His Word to be preached everywhere, unto all the world, and He certainly desires the salvation of all.
Bad soil doesn’t cultivate itself.
And good soil does not make itself so.
Rather—hear the Word of God.
Live your life as one who is dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (cf. Romans 6:11).
When your heart is hardened like the path, pray that God would melt your heart in mercy.
And when there are many stones, build your house on the rock. Jesus says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
And if it’s thorns, and cares, and riches, and the pleasures of this life—you’re in the company of every human being who’s ever lived.
“Count it all as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ [the] Lord. For his sake [we will suffer] the loss of all things and count them as rubbish…that [we] may gain Christ…” (cf. Philippians 3:8). Be found in Him—and receive a righteousness which comes through faith.
“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” (Luke 8:15).
Do you know what God has done to save you?
Unto all the world the Word of God is preached and planted.
Unto all the world the Savior came and taught.
And now forgiveness and eternal life is granted.
To all those who know His blood them bought.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt