Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10[a]) July 12, 2020
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” … 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 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. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 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. 22 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. 23 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.”
In the Name of Jesus.
God speaks his Word and like rain bringing growth to plant and tree, his Word accomplishes that for which he sends. [Isaiah 55:11]
The Word will accomplish what he intends. It won’t return void, says the Lord.
This is our life, our salvation. God intends his Word to forgive sins on Earth, to cleanse the sinner, to breathe life into those living in fear, to bind you and me together in the fellowship of his Gospel—and his Word will accomplish what he desires and not return to him empty; it will succeed in the thing for which he sends it.
So, in telling us about the Word, Jesus calls us soil.
You are soil; but which kind?
Are you the soil of the path, where the birds come and take the seed away? This is when we hear God’s Word, we hear him tell us of life, of salvation, of the kindness and grace of the Gospel, but we hear it not for grace of the Gospel, but for demands of the Law. We hear his Word telling us how to make ourselves righteous instead of how God justifies freely out of grace.
And not hearing God’s Word rightly, then the evil one, Satan, comes and snatches the life-giving Word away like a bird snatching a seed.
Or maybe you are the rocky soil. This is to hear the Word and rejoice in it, but then the things of the world take you away, the tribulations cause you to focus on self, the afflictions make you turn inward to yourself, and the Word, once rejoiced in, has been pushed aside.
Not the soil of the path, nor of the rocks, maybe you are the soil overgrown with thorns. You hear the Word, but it has no chance, as you are overtaken with cares of the world, the concerns of keeping house and job going, the desire to gain more in this world, and though you heard the Word is choked out by the weeds and thorns.
Or maybe you’re the good soil. You hear the Word. You rejoice. You live every day in it. You don’t take the Gospel of all sins forgiven and twist it into a rule book for how to live by the Law—maybe you’re the good soil, hearing the Gospel with ears of faith, building-up and encouraging others in the Word of grace, such that when you see someone struggling to live life under the Law, you kindly speak to them the opposite, the life, the true life, given as gift by God to save the sinner and to give the comfort of the Gospel to rescue from the Law.
But if you and I are the good soil, then why when we hear Jesus describe the hard soil of the path where the Gospel doesn’t take root, but the devil comes like a bird and takes it away, when we hear Jesus tear down the Pharisees for teaching that life is found in the Law—why do we feel that he is speaking, at least a little bit, at us?
And if you and I are the good soil, then why, when Jesus speaks of rocky soil that hears the Word but then gets taken away by the tribulations and fears of this world, and gets taken away trying to justify ourselves by how we live, or when we hear Jesus talking about the thorny soil where we have so many concerns that are more important, so much desire to gain more in this world, that, though we hear the Word, it is slowly choked out by everything else we hold as important?
The hard pathway soil, the rocky, the thorny, why do we hear of soil not receiving the Word, and we somehow know, Jesus is pointing at us?
He is. It’s his speaking of the Law. It’s his accusation of the sinner. It’s why the sower sows seed on the hard path, the rocky, and the thorny, because the sower, this sower, Jesus, wants the Word of God to strike us in such a way that we finally know we cannot escape the Law’s accusation.
And, in being condemned by the Law as hard and rocky and thorny ground, we then find that Jesus then creates us anew. He makes us good soil.
No hard, rocky, or thorny soil can make itself to be good soil. You can’t make yourself to be what you are not.
So Jesus does.
Bad soil spoken clean, bad soil forgiven of all sin, bad soil spoken to by Jesus, the Word of life, this bad soil is now the good, the soil of faith, the soil ready every day to hear the Gospel.
For this, Jesus died. For this he went to the cross.
He didn’t go to cross to show soil how to change itself, to show the sinner how to be what the sinner is not.
He went to the cross to put our nature of bad-soil to death. To put our hard path giving up the Word to the devil, to put our rockiness, always hearing the Gospel but then not caring, to put our thorniness, receiving the Gospel but then letting everything else consume us—Jesus went to the cross to take all that upon himself and to put it to death in his own body.
So that now, he puts it to death in us, so that every time we hear his Law, Jesus is, by his Law, accusing us and putting our sin to death in repentance.
And having through the Law put us to death to the Law, Jesus then speaks his Word to us. His Word bringing life. His Word of Gospel.
He speaks his Word, a sower sowing seed into new soil, into good dirt, into ground that by his gift and his grace receives the seed, so that the seed thrives and grows and bears the fruit of faith, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty, beyond any reasonable measure, but according to the abundant measure of Christ, who by his Word creates you anew, giving you a heart of faith.