That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’
Grace and peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Today, we reflect on the profound teachings contained within the parable of The Sower and His Seeds recorded in Matthew 13:1-9. This well-known parable reveals to us the transformative power of God’s Word and calls us to examine the condition of our hearts in receiving and bearing fruit for His Kingdom.
Furthermore, we will find connections between our text in Matthew and the liberating truths shared by Paul in chapter 8 of his letter to the Romans.
May our hearts be open to receive God’s Word and respond to it with faith and obedience today.
The Matthew Text:
In the Gospel of Matthew today we find Jesus speaking to a large crowd who have been following Him around Galilee. As the crowd has grown so big, Jesus is sitting out in a boat on the lakes edge speaking to them as they sit on the lake’s shore to listen. He teaches them through sharing parables. In our text today we read one of these parables. Here Jesus takes us to the fields, where a Sower goes out to sow seed. As the Sower scatters the seed, it falls upon four types of soil: the footpath, the rocky ground, the thorny ground, and the good soil.
Of course, as this is a parable, we know that the seed represents the Word of God, while the different types of soil symbolise the different conditions found in human hearts.
Jesus actually explains this parable to His disciples later in the chapter. He explains,
– the footpath refers to those whose hearts receive the word, but before it can grow in their heart it is ripped away by the evil one, so there’s no growth at all. These remain unbelievers.
– the rocky ground represents those who initially receive the Word with joy but lack depth and endurance, causing them to fall away after a short time. These are new Christians who disappear soon after believing.
– the thorny ground signifies individuals whose hearts are entangled by the cares and distractions of the world, and the deceitfulness of wealth that chokes the growth of God’s Word making their hearts unfruitful.
– lastly, the good soil represents those who hear the Word, understand it, and allow it to bear abundant fruit in their hearts, even more than what was sown.
Why do you think Jesus told this parable to the crowd, and why did He only explain it to the disciples, and of course to us here, now?
About the Crowd Jesus says in verse 13,
“though hearing they do not hear or understand.”
So, why is He explaining it to us? Could it just be a helpful description of what happens commonly in our church life, to be noted and then just move on, or perhaps He has a deeper purpose?
As church life goes, the seed of His word is taught and shared. It has been so since the first settlers arrived in the valley. God’s word has been scattered freely everywhere in the valley. This is both Church legacy and Church calling here in the Barossa.
Or, perhaps this passage is helpful for us as a spiritual heart-check. Those of us who have been long in the faith need not look for seed on the path or rocky ground. It may be in our best interests however, to address ourselves to the ground with thorns and the ground with good soil.
Let us consider these two as we look further into scripture. To deepen our understanding of the Sower and Seeds parable, let us turn to the teaching of the Apostle Paul as there is a direct connection to be found in our Epistle reading today.
The Romans Text:
In the Romans 8 passage, Paul highlights the liberating power of the Holy Spirit and the transformation that occurs when we live in accordance with The Spirit.
Romans 8:1 begins with the resounding proclamation,
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
That is; through Christ, we are freed from the bondage of sin and guilt. It is by faith, not by what good things we do, that we receive this freedom.
Luther too reminds us that our salvation is solely a gift of God’s grace, received through faith in Christ. What we do for God or in His name does not win us our salvation. It does however demonstrate our love and obedience to Him.
However, as the Lutheran Martyr Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer cautioned in his work The Cost of Discipleship, as we respond to our salvation we need to avoid falling into the trap of ‘cheap grace’.
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
These words challenge us to live a life of authentic discipleship, not taking God’s grace for granted but responding to it with lives marked with repentance, proper use of Word and sacraments, as well as discipleship and obedience. This would be an excellent description of good soil.
Verse 5 of Romans 8 echoes the significance of the different types of soil described in the parable. Paul writes,
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Here, we are reminded of the importance of cultivating the soil of our hearts, allowing the Spirit of God to shape our thoughts, desires, and actions.
In verses 6-9, Paul emphasizes the vital role of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual journey. He states that the mind set on the flesh leads to death, but the mind set on the Spirit brings life and peace. Through the work of the Spirit, we become heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, experiencing the transformative power of God’s Word in our lives.
As we cultivate the good soil of our hearts, we are called to guard against the distractions and temptations that can hinder the growth of God’s Word within us. Again, as Pastor Dietrich assured;
“Be not anxious! Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of all anxiety.”
Therefore, as we reflect upon Matthew’s parable of The Sower and His seeds and its connection to Romans 8:1-11, the Holy Spirit is giving each of us a heart examination! He is showing each of us our heart condition and calling us to respond to God’s Word, today!
So, let’s consider the following four practical responses for our lives:
Cultivating a receptive heart: Like the good soil, let us cultivate hearts that are open and receptive to God’s Word. Seek Christian humility, surrender, and a willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us through repentance and His sacraments, praying He remove any hardness, shallowness, or distractions in our hearts and lives.
Nourishing the soil: We nourish the soil of our hearts through hearing the Word, returning to the sacraments, prayer and regular study of God’s Word alone and with each other. By immersing ourselves in Scripture, we create an environment where God’s Word can take root and flourish, transforming our lives from the inside out. It is here we begin to learn of the character of God and our lives grow in our reflection of Him.
Guarding against distractions: Just as the thorny ground represents the distractions of the world, we need to guard our hearts against the cares, worries, and desires that hinder the growth of God’s Word within us. Let us prioritise the things of God and seek His kingdom above all else.
Living in the power of the Holy Spirit: It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live in accordance with God’s Word. By surrendering to the Spirit’s leading, we experience the abundant life promised in Christ. Let’s rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, trusting in His transformative work within us. Here we seek to live lives that bear the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Consider, if you are new to Christian faith that you guard against hardness of ground and of heart, that the word of God may not then take root, or if it does it withers and dies quickly when faced with a challenge or test. The call of other “truths” or “conspiracies” in the post-modern smorgasbord of new age beliefs – on hand and promoted on all social media platforms; this is the burn of the summer sun’s heat. Some of this hard or shallow ground can look like maintaining beliefs in other gods or religions, superstitions, old habits and pastimes and ungodly relationships.
However, if you are a long-time Christian, be deliberate in asking the Holy Spirit to help you dig out any weeds. Those glittering distractions, attachments to our worldly possessions and wealth that stick to us. If not kept in check these burdening weeds will choke your faith and stop you from growing, diminishing your fruit and service in the Lord. They can even be spiritually fatal.
Some of these weeds can look like years long grudges, or not going to someone whom you know you have wronged. They can also be addictions to things or to work, things that take you away from the joy and healing that comes from living a Godly life. Weeds can also be disobedience, living like Jonah where you continually run away from what you have been called by God to do or be – to produce that good crop for the Lord.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Holy Spirit is looking into our hearts with the parable of The Sower and His Seeds. He challenges us to conduct a heart examination of our own, check its condition and with His help respond to God’s Word in faith. As we embrace God’s grace through faith, cultivate our receptive hearts, and avoid living in cheap grace, God will help us to give away His hard-won forgiveness and love more freely, to each other, and this will bear the abundant fruit of the Kingdom of God all over the Barossa.
They will know we are Christians by our love.
Blessings be to you in Christ.
May you know His love and peace.