Sow the Seed
6th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Riddles are puzzles put as a statement or question designed to make us think in a different way. They are usually enigmas that are allegorical or metaphorical in nature that require careful thinking and ingenuity in order to find the solution. For example: What has legs but cannot run? What has eyes but cannot see? What has ears but cannot hear? When we hear the answer to the riddle, we may laugh at the simplistic solution thinking, ‘I should have thought of that.’
Jesus often used parables in his teachings. These teachings are simple short stories that have a human character who faces a dilemma, of which either good or bad consequences arise from the decision being made. The meaning of the parable is kind of like the simple riddle. The difference is that the answer is not intended to be hidden or secret. In fact, the meaning is intended to be straightforward and obvious. Yet Like the simple riddle, the hearer may have to think carefully in order to understand.
Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew groups together seven parables. It doesn’t seem likely that they were presented as they are recorded. The Gospel of Mark has parallel discourses in addition to other parables not recorded in Matthew. It could very well be that the Apostle is simply collecting together parables Jesus taught over the course of his ministry. This was a common form of writing as given the examples of the books of wisdom from Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations.
Jesus is teaching his disciples through parables that not only demonstrate the lesson but make such teachings to be easily remembered and passed along to others. These lessons have become so memorable that people use them today even if they do not know their origin. It is true that sometimes they are misquoted or have their meaning twisted, but they still are in the minds of the people.
This morning we focus on the parable of the sower and its explanation. Like other parables Jesus taught, the center of attention in this narrative is not the sower or the actor in the story. Instead, he speaks about the seed. Jesus describes the fate of the scattered seed as it falls upon the different types of ground; the path, rocky ground, among thorns, and on the good soil.
Jesus says at the end of his parable about a man sowing seeds, “He who has ears, let him hear!” Like a child’s riddle, Jesus is not saying that this message is only for people who have ears, everybody has ears. Basically, he is saying, “Are you listening to me?”
This is the real question. Are we listening to what Jesus has to say, or are we distracted by that little thing called life? Where are your priorities now? Are we buried so deep in the self-serving, pleasure-seeking desires of this world that we do not see we are growing in rocky soil where we cannot take root? Are we distracted by the thorns and briars of life and therefore choked from the Spirit of life?
Jesus says, “Are you listening to me?” Jesus says, “I am giving you the seed of the Holy Spirit so that you may grow in faith and produce good fruit. I know your life is filled with sin. I know the works of the evil one are constantly tugging at your sleeve, dragging you down into the tangled thicket of despair, pulling you away from me.”
We stand before our Father in heaven, our sins laid before him. The presentation of our wrong-doing for his examination is not a pleasant experience. He asks us, “Are you listening to me?”
We answer, “Oh yes, Lord! We hear you loud and clear.”
“Your actions betray you. Is my word that goes forth from my mouth to return to me empty?” We answer him with full knowledge of our transgressions, “You said ‘Be holy as I am holy.’”
But we forget our promise. We forget our oaths of promise every day. We forget that we are sinful creatures. We forget that God is the one true God. We forget to love our neighbors as ourselves. But worst of all, we forget that God does not want us to be apart from him. He loves us so much that he cannot bear to see us fall into the hands of the adversary, Satan.
As St. Paul says, we forget that:
“…we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” [Rom 8:12-14]
We forget the Son of God who came into the flesh of our flesh to die in our place. We have become distracted to the fact that Jesus Christ took our sin upon his back. He took our sin even though it tried to choke him and tear his flesh with its barbs and thorns. He took all of what the evil one had to give, even the most vile death of crucifixion on a cross.
Our attention span is so short that we don’t remember his triumph over the grave. He has freed us from the sin filled mire of our lives to give us life eternal in our Father’s kingdom. Do you have ears that hear? Are you listening to Him?
Then hear the words of our Lord and Savior. These are not my words, empty and hollow of meaning, but the life saving words of Christ.
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
I can’t count how many times in my life I have heard a parent or teacher or boss or girlfriend ask, ‘Are you listening to me?’ In all fairness, half of the time this question is asked is not because I wasn’t listening; it was because my actions showed I didn’t understand what was said. A better question would be, ‘Do you understand what I am saying?’
One does not have to search far to find those who hear the message but do not listen. They do not understand the grace of God or the peril of their own souls. They readily believe what they see in our culture and listen to the deceivers of our times. For them, they are robbed of the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Even closer to home, literally, are those who received the Holy Spirit in their baptism. They became members of the body of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God. They may even have professed their faith through confirmation, but they fell away.
The pleasures of the world entice them to stay home away from the house of God. They eat, drink and celebrate their own demise the night before. They are too busy to read the Word of God. They find the demands of the world distracting. The commentator John Watts describes it this way:
“These [distractions] may include idolatry as such. But they may simply be chasing after shadows of pride and ambition, hoping for the return of what they believe were days of glory, or determining to satisfy a hopeless desire for vengeance for long-past wrongs.
They are guilty of resisting God. They are violent people who fancy that holding fast to their convictions is a virtue.” [John D. W. Watts, vol. 25, Word Biblical Commentary, 248 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).]
The thorns of self-indulgence consume their so-called lives and their faith is choked by the deceitfulness of wealth.
Jesus Christ is speaking to you, are you listening? The person who hears the word and understands it yields thirty, sixty or a hundred times what was sown. The person who cultivates their faith by weeding out the choking habits of a sinful life and nourishes their soul with the word of God, produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
We become a part of God’s kingdom in eternal life. We receive a full pardon from our sins.
As the Apostle Paul tells us Romans 8:15-17:
You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
We are not potatoes that cannot see or ears of corn that cannot hear. We are children of God who have been given the Holy Spirit in our baptism, that very seed of life! We have been sown in the good soil in order to bear the fruit of life a hundred fold. This is the promise of God the Father made true in the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
He who has ears, let him hear!