Sermon – Luke 8.4-15 (Sexagesima – 2020)
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You that through Your Son Jesus Christ You have sown Your holy Word among us: We pray that You will prepare our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, that we may diligently and reverently hear Your Word, keep it in good hearts, and bring forth fruit with patience; and that we may not incline to sin, but subdue it by Your power, and in all persecutions comfort ourselves with Your grace and continual help; through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
4 And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable:
5 “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.
6 “Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.
7 “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.
8 “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!”
9 Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”
10 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.’
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 “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.
13 “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.
14 “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.
15 “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.
These are Your Words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
The Gift of Knowing the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God
Dear fellow redeemed,
One simple definition of a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The earthly story in our gospel reading is pretty simple. There is no mystery to it. For something to grow, its seed must be sowed, or planted. And some soils are more conducive for that seed and grow and flourish than other soils. Hard packed ground, rocky ground, and thorn and weed infested ground are not hospitable to the seeds. Good soil that is rich in nutrients, has few rocks, weeds, and thorns provide great conditions for the seed to take root, grow, and produce much fruit.
No mystery here. But Jesus isn’t teaching a class on agriculture here. He is speaking a parable that has a spiritual significance.
The spiritual truth is the mystery. The spiritual truth in the parable of the sower and the seed is about the grace of God, the Word of God, and the Kingdom of God. But overall, when we speak of the mysteries of God, we speak of the Christian truths that are revealed by Scripture and known and believed only through faith. Paul speaks about how these are revealed only through Scripture, where he writes, “…according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations” (Rom 16:25-26).
And it is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit when He creates faith in our hearts. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “But God has revealed [the mysteries] to us through His Spirit…” and shortly thereafter, He writes, “We have received… the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (1 Cor 2:7,10).
To know the mysteries of god, does not mean that we are able to rightly interpret all of Scriptures. The disciples were given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, yet they still had to ask Jesus the meaning of the parable. But this part of knowing the mysteries of the kingdom of God. They recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and they look to Him, and His Word to have understanding. They know that His Word is truth. So we learn the mysteries of God, which are truths about the Trinity, the Person of Christ, His saving work for us, the power of the gospel in Word and Sacrament, and the other doctrines of Scripture that pertain to our salvation.
We have come to know these things only by the grace of the Holy Spirit working through the Word.
Jesus spoke in parables, that for some, the spiritual truths may be hidden to some, but revealed to others. The scribes and Pharisees didn’t understand these mysteries, not because they were more dense, or that they were not intelligent, for they were well educated. And they didn’t understand because they were extra wicked sinners, for they had the same sinful nature as we do. But the natural mind cannot understand the spiritual things of God, that is the mysteries of God. They are unknowable to them, because of their unbelief
And for those who know the mysteries of God spoken in Jesus parables, they were not more intelligent people. The most brilliant people I know know the mysteries of God, yet a little 3 year old child also knows the mysteries of God. Nor are they more worthy or more apt to believe, for all are alike, no one seeks after God, no one, by nature, understands (Rom 3).
But, it is by God’s grace, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.”
It may be strange that Jesus preaches in parables to hide the mysteries of God from the unbelieving, since God desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. But it is God’s judgment on those who have hardened their hearts against the truth of the gospel. They reject the gospel, because of their stubborn rejection of God’s promises, and their rejection of Christ, who is the fulfillment of God’s promises.
And you will still see it today. Though not every part of Holy Scripture is easy to understand. The fault for that is not Scripture but our own weakness. However, the gospel of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins is easy to understand. Again, a 3 year old can confess this. Yet this remains a mystery to the unbelieving, because of their rejection of Christ. To give you one example regarding the topic of parables, there was an article online that I read by a man, who is very well educated, and has an extensive background in the visible Church. This is what his conclusion was about the parables that Jesus spoke, “They’re stories designed to illustrate the criticism Jesus makes of the condition under which his favorite people, the poor, have to live. They’re signs of hope for all oppressed people.” He has turned the gospel of Christ into a gospel of social justice.
And so in gratefulness, give praise to God that He has given to us the knowledge of the mysteries of God. This He has given purely by His grace, for we ourselves are by nature lost in the darkness of unbelief. Once our ears could not hear, but now they can hear. Once our eyes could not see, but now we see. And therefore, through this faith, we are saved!
So, by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you, guard this good thing which was committed to you (2 Tim 2:14). Hold that precious mystery of God, the precious gospel of Christ that is planted in your hearts.
And do not think lightly of this saying, “of course, I am the good soil”. For we are indeed threatened by the devil who would steal away the Word, threatened by our flesh that resists that Word and the life in Christ which we live, and we are threatened by the world, whose cares and pleasures would choke out faith. Yet we still have the weakness of the flesh.
You cannot make yourself into good soil. We repent of that weakness. Our hearts are made good and fertile by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. But your faith is strengthened and kept safe in the grace of God, who had given you knowledge of His gospel in the first place. You are forgiven for the sake of Christ’s atoning work on the cross! You are reconciled to God! You are saved! This is the gospel message. It is the gospel message planted in your hearts. It is the message that saves you, and preserves you in the true saving faith!
He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.