O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Parable of the Terrible Farmer
The Parable of the Terrible Farmer
Based on Mt. 13:1-9,18-23
Preached on July 13, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, a sower went out to sow. But totally missed His FIELD! Honestly, did you hear where this guy was throwing His seed? In the rocks, in the thorns, on the path!?! What was he blind? On a lark? What was He thinking - trying to farm like this?
Typically, when we hear the Parable of the Sower, we picture this wonderful farmer walking methodically in a field with a bag of seeds slung over his shoulder. But that's not the picture Jesus paints. Nope, the sower in this parable doesn't even seem concerned that His seed is flying all over the place! It almost sounds as if the sower is casting His seed this way on purpose.
Now thankfully, this is one of the few parables in the Bible that Jesus explains Himself. Evidently, He wants us to understand the heavenly meaning of this earthly story. He really wants us to hear this one. Because this is what its all about. This parable teaches us what God's plan is for His kingdom.
So, what is Jesus talking about? What is this seed He speaks of, and what is it doing? Jesus teaches that the seed is the Word of His kingdom. It is the Word that tells of the salvation that Jesus has earned for us on the cross. His Good News. This Word is like a seed that is planted through the ear into the heart and mind of the believer. When it takes root, we call it faith. But in order that we may obtain this faith the seed must be scattered – it must be sown. And this sowing is the preaching of that Word – the preaching of Christ crucified for you.
Now we're told that as this Good News is preached – as the seed is spread - it lands in different types of soil, that is, there are different things that happen when people hear the preaching of Christ. Different ways they receive it. Different ways that the Word grows in their hearts. And not all of them are what we'd like to hear, are they?
Jesus begins with those who simply reject the Word. He says, "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path." The Bible tells us that God desires all people to be saved, and that He died for all, yet there are those who reject the message – they turn down His promise and resist the Holy Spirit. Their hearts are described as a well-trodden path, because they leave no room for the seed to penetrate. It just lies on top of the hard beaten down surface until it is picked off by the Evil One. Because the truth is they don't want the message. They don't even let it in their ears, but immediately block it out. Jesus explains that some would rather remain in unbelief and under God's judgment, than receive the mercy of God's own blood shed for them.
Then we are told about seed sown on rocky ground. "This is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away." Here the seed, God's Word, produces results for a while. It finds some loose soil and moisture and germinates quickly. Faith is born. Joy is had. A local congregation is joined and there is an immediate passion to get involved. But then - something comes along to test the faith – to see how deep the roots go – and in this rocky ground there isn't room for roots - so he falls away.
In Jesus' day, many fell away when Jesus told of His suffering, death, and resurrection. They just couldn't accept that teaching. We also hear of those who, during the persecution of the early church, gave up their lives rather than deny Jesus, but there were others who fell away from the faith to keep their earthly lives. This continues to happen today. Perhaps in Canada we are not yet physically threatened, but we are socially. It is becoming harder and harder to believe all that the Bible teaches and be welcomed socially in society. Christians are expected to change or they will be treated poorly. Snickered at and looked down upon. So what will it be? Fall away from the faith for an easier life, or dive deeper into the Word, push the roots deeper into the soil for the sake of the kingdom?
Next Jesus tells us of a similar tragedy. "As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful." Once again, the seed sprouts. There is nothing wrong with the Word. Faith is born. A local congregation is joined. But eventually the cares of this world become more important than the Word of the kingdom. A late night party or even late night television is more important than being rested up enough to hear God's preaching and receive His gifts. Attending an athletic banquet is more important than catechism. Extra-curricular activities are more important than family devotions. Basically, there are so many things to do in this world that God's Word becomes an afterthought instead of a priority. Admit it, we've all been there. The thorns of this world have pricked us all. You know your faith is hindered by the distractions all around you. Is the Word being choked out of your life? Hear it anew right now! Cut out those thorns and let these new seeds you're hearing have room to grow. Prune the garden. What is it, July? Now is the time to cut back the weeds.
Finally, Jesus tells us what His Word will do for those who hear these warnings, turn from them, and gladly hear His Good News promise. "As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." This time, the roots of God's Word run deep. Faith thrives and produces a harvest.
Alright, alright, everyone stop. Because I know what you're all doing. Before you sit there and try to figure out what kind of soil you are, there is something that has to be said. Did you notice that all of the soil, even the good soil, is dead before the seed is sown? Nothing is growing without God's Word. Not on the path. Not in the good soil. Jesus does not teach us this parable so we can figure ourselves out. No, this parable is about preaching, not how good you're doing. Because let me assure you – you are not one type of soil your whole life long. You've probably been all of them at some point, and I think you know what I mean. We are all born hard, rocky, and thorny, but season after season, God applies His Word. He sends parents, teachers, and preachers to plant that seed in your heart and mind. To work the soil. To prune back the thorns. God's Word is a seed which changes you. It has the power to produce fruit in the worst soil imaginable. Because that is the kind of seed it is.
Jesus once said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." He was speaking about Himself. The Sent One. This Word of God in the flesh. The Seed that will give life to a new creation. Jesus fell to the earth from heaven in order to die, in order to be hung on a cross and planted in a tomb, that bursting forth with an everlasting message of hope and peace, He might make you His fruit. That He might plant Himself in you. Make fruit in you. Bring His life to you. This seed doesn't wait for soil to change. He changes soil. He forgives sin. He washes away guilt. He is the only good within you, and remains there to help others through you. He who has ears, let him hear.
This parable is about preaching. Do you hear it? Repent. Turn, and trust this promise that God has made to you. Christ died for you. God forgives you. And yes, He is a reckless, terrible farmer. He should never have wasted His precious seed – His One and Only Son – on a hard beaten path like you. But see how He loves you. See how reckless He is for you. How foolish He will look that you might be with Him.
This parable is about preaching. It is about hearing how badly you need it. And it is about how far your Lord will go to bring it to you. He who has ears, let him hear. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr