Sexagesima Sunday Sermon| Rev. Rolf Preus| February 8, 2015| St. Luke 8:4-15
And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?” And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” St. Luke 8:4-15
It is a privilege for me to preach the word of God to Christ’s church here in Lincoln, Nebraska. Thank you for the invitation. There is no higher privilege that God has given man on this earth than to preach his holy word. Sometimes it seems to be a useless gesture. You cannot see anything happen. But you know, because God has told you, that his word is inherently powerful. It bears fruit.
God says so. The reason we know that the preaching of God’s word bears fruit is not because we see the fruit but because God says it does. He says through prophet, Isaiah:
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
If the word of God is rejected, it is not because it lacks the power of God to elicit faith and to save those who hear it. St. Peter says that we are “born again having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” (1 Peter 1:23) St. James writes, “Of his own will be brought us forth by the word of truth.” (James 1:18) We call the word of God a means of grace because it is by means of the preaching and hearing of God’s word that God gives us his grace, forgives us our sins, and works within us the faith to receive the grace that his word gives.
In our text we see that the seed the sower sows always has the power to produce fruit. There is nothing wrong with the seed that falls on the wayside, is trampled down, and eaten by birds. There is nothing wrong with the seed that falls on the rock, springs up, and withers for lack of moisture. There is nothing wrong with the see that falls among the thorns and is choked by them. It is the same seed as that that fell in good ground and produced a hundred times as much as was sown. The word of God is almighty. St. Paul writes,
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)
The word of God always has the power to save. God binds himself to his word. He binds his reputation, his grace, and his power – he binds himself to every word that proceeds out of his mouth. And because God binds himself to his word, we look to find God in his word and nowhere else.
Don’t question the power of God’s word because people despise it. Let God be true and every man a liar. The seed that falls on the wayside, is stepped on, and then eaten by the birds is those who hear the gospel and never believe it. The devil snatches the seed away to keep them from believing it and being saved.
Jesus calls the devil the father of lies. He falsifies the word of God. Like a bird snatching the seed off of the ground before it can give root, Satan comes up with some bogus reason for disbelieving what God says and prevents faith from beginning. There is nothing wrong with the seed sown. It is stolen away.
The seed that falls in the rocky soil, springs up, and withers away because it has no root is those who hear the word with joy but when their faith is put to the test they fall away. They believe. Then they fall away. That’s what Jesus says.
God wants us to be sure of our salvation. The assurance we have that God has rescued us from the penalty of our sins, forgiven us, reckoned us to be righteous in his sight, and guaranteed us eternal life is an assurance that God gives us in his word. It is a wonderful assurance that brings us great joy in this life. We can and should be sure of our salvation, even as God’s word is truth.
But our assurance of salvation is based on the word itself. It is not based on the notion that once you are saved you cannot fall away. That’s a popular teaching. It’s known as “Once saved, always saved.” The idea is that since Jesus says of his sheep that they will never perish, neither will anyone snatch them out of his hand, this must mean that it is not possible for a Christian to fall away. But Jesus doesn’t say that. It is possible for a Christian to fall away. Jesus specifically says here that they “believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.” We can be sure of our salvation when we are hearing the word of God. It is the word that will keep us steadfast in the true faith. But apart from the word of God there is no assurance of salvation. It must take root within.
The seed that falls among the thorns are those who hear the gospel but are consumed by the cares, riches, and pleasures of life. The gospel gives us wealth we cannot measure and joy we cannot see. God makes us citizens of heaven. He says that our sins that are as scarlet are white as snow, blotted out, forgiven and forgotten. He says that we are at peace with him on account of the blood Jesus shed on the cross. He says that no trouble we endure or enemy we face can separate us from the love he has given us in Christ. We are children of God.
This gospel doesn’t make sense until you see your need to be reconciled to God. If paying your bills, getting a new car or the latest electronic devise, enjoying good health, and having many friends are more important to you than getting along with God, these things will choke your faith by crowding out the word of God. But you have no greater need than the need to be reconciled to God. Unless you know your sins are forgiven, blotted out by Christ’s blood, replaced before the bar of God’s justice with the loving obedience of Jesus, you have nothing to live for except for all the stuff that will perish with the world.
God knows this even if we don’t. He knows which idols will vie for our loyalty. So he breaks them. And that hurts. “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” When our fear, love, and trust is in things God gives us instead of the God who gives them that is idolatry. If God loved us he would smash our idols. He does so he does. That entails suffering. It’s like we are the field and God is plowing deep down into us and ripping us apart. When we experience it we may wonder what God is doing or why he is doing nothing. Pain will do that. But his grace is always sufficient for us. His strength is most evident when we face our own weakness. When we are weak and cannot rely on anything but what God promises us in Christ, then we are strong. The seed that is planted down deep in the soil is the seed that bears fruit. It goes where God intends. It goes where God puts it. And where it goes it brings life.
The seed that bears fruit is hidden from sight. We can’t see it. Only he who planted it can. God sees faith. We don’t. Faith is always hidden under suffering. It is hidden under Christ’s suffering because it is only where Jesus Christ went to the cross to suffer and die for the sin of the world that sin can be forgiven and the forgiveness of our sins is the very heart of the message of God’s word. Everything God teaches us comes into proper focus when we look at the suffering and death of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. Faith is always hidden under Christ’s suffering. Faith that is not faith in the suffering of Jesus is not faith but folly, presumption, and idolatry.
Faith is also hidden under our suffering. It’s not as if we consider how much we suffer and measure our faith thereby. It’s rather that faith is born in sorrow over our sin. Confronting our failure entails sorrow and sometimes God uses our pain to remind us of our need of his grace so that we don’t become complacent. This is why we must beware of false prophets who preach message of positive thinking that leads people away from the crucifixion of Jesus to the outward success of their own life as evidence of God’s grace. Such sanctification of idolatry is what sells – whether it is sold by Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, or Joel Osteen – it is poison. Don’t buy it. Don’t despise God’s chastening hand. It’s not as if your pain earns you anything. But the soil from which the seed grows and produces fruit is the soil that is plowed. It is in your weakness that God’s word is the most precious thing you have in this life. Amen