There is a common misunderstanding about parables that they were used to make the truth of the Kingdom more understandable to people. It makes sense. The parables are, indeed, earthly stories used to illustrate the eternal truths of God. The problem is, the purpose of telling the parables is not to make the truth more easily comprehended. It is not that Christ saw that people would not understand if He used complicated theology talk, so instead He used an illustration to help them figure it out. Although using an illustration in this way is a common thing for people to do, it is not what Christ was doing when He used parables.
On the contrary, the parables concealed knowledge. As Christ said to the disciples in the Holy Gospel, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”
Did you hear the words “so that”? These words indicate a purpose or result. The purpose or result of teaching the crowds in parables is so that they may not see and not understand the mysteries of the kingdom. The mysteries are the hidden knowledge that God has revealed in His Son. But this knowledge is not able to be understood by the sinful human mind. Only by Spirit-given faith can the Gospel truths be known.
So the parables concealed knowledge to illustrate that the Gospel is not comprehensible to those without faith. We only truly hear when God gives us ears to hear.
So what about those of us with faith? What do we get from the parable of the Sower?
We can get this truth: There is nothing wrong with the Word of God. If people hear the Word but do not believe, or believe for a time and then fall away, it is not the fault of the Word or the Sower. People fail to have faith because of their own sin.
As you look at the parable, it may not sound like they lack faith because of their sin. It sounds like they lack faith because the devil snatches the Word from them, or temptations lure them away, or they are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life. None of this sounds like it is the fault of the people to whom these hardships happen.
But we should realize that it is not really the circumstances that happen to a person that rob them of faith. Believers who remain in faith experience all these troubles and attacks too. The devil is never far from you, and is always trying to separate you from the Word. Temptations are always ready to entice us. We have our fair share of cares, riches, and pleasures that may distract us from faith or lead us to despair.
So why have we persevered in faith? Not because of any quality in us. The text talks about hearing the Word with noble, honest, and good hearts, but where does that kind of heart come from? Not from the human nature which is corrupted by sin. No, good hearts are a gift from the Holy Spirit. There is no reason or strength in us by which we are able to come to faith in the first place, nor any that can keep us in faith. It is only by God’s grace.
But those who do not come to faith or lose it do so only by their own fault. Our own sinful nature makes us all guilty from the womb of our mothers. Our own sins would make us guilty now, if they were not covered by the Blood of the Lamb. If we were to commit the sin of rejecting faith, that is our own fault, not God’s.
Falling from faith is certainly not the fault of the Word, which is always perfect and powerful. The Word make hearts noble and good through the Spirit’s work. Our dead hearts are made alive as we receive a new heart and mind, where before we only had corrupt thoughts and emotions that lead to death.
The Word gives life that does not end. Those plants that lost faith in the parable died. But the plants that retain faith spring up to abundant life and do not die. That is because the Word of God delivers the life of Christ to us, who rose again from the grave, never to die again. That is your life through the Word you hear.
So the life delivered by the seed is Christ. He is also the living Sower, no matter what earthly man happens to be sowing the seed. If I speak His Word, He is the true Speaker. If you speak the Word to your neighbor, Christ speaks also through you. He is always the Sower.
Therefore we learn that we can trust the dependable power of this Word and Sower. Our sinful flesh want to distrust. We want to think that we have to sow the seed of the Word just right or people will not come to faith. But that shows our distrust of the power of the Word. The Good Sower, Christ, does not strategically cast the Word. He flings it about indiscriminately, to good soil and bad. He desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of Him. So we also should freely speak the Word as we see opportunity, trusting that it is powerful to give life to men.
This good work of speaking the Word to others is only one part of the hundredfold crop that the Word produces in us. Since the Word is so powerful, the Spirit is creating all kinds of fruit in us. He is making us do all kinds of good works, many of which we never even notice. The living and active Word can do no less.
He keeps us also in patience. Good works can become stunted and bitter if are impatient. We may be frustrated if we feel unappreciated when we do good works. Or we may become tired of speaking the Gospel when others do not seem to listen. But the Spirit helps us put aside such thoughts. We should seek no reward or thanks for our works of kindness. We should instead think of Christ, who for us patiently endured all the troubles of life and the temptations of the evil one. Christ endured the sufferings set before Him, even the Cross, out of love for us. He completed His long, difficult journey at the empty grave and ascension to His Father’s right hand. He endured all things patiently so that we are set upon the same journey of patient endurance followed by glory. Although our journey may be long and difficult, we can be patient like Him, since the Word creates patience in us.
The Lord continue to do all this in us until our glorious end. Amen.
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