July 30, 2017

Pastor Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 55:10-11

Epistle Lesson; Romans 8:18-25

Sermon Text; Matthew 13:1-9

                       Matthew 13:18-23

That same day Jesus left the house and was sitting by the sea. A large crowd gathered around Him. So He stepped into a boat and sat down, while all the people stood on the shore. He told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen, a sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil. Immediately the seed sprang up, because the soil was not deep. But when the sun rose, the seed was scorched. Because it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns. The thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on good ground and produced grain: some one hundred times, some sixty, and some thirty times more than was sown. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.

“So listen carefully to the parable of the sower. 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 the seed that was sown along the path. The seed that was sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he is not deeply rooted and does not endure. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, he immediately falls away. The seed that was sown among the thorns is the one who hears the Word, but the worry of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the Word, and it produces no fruit. But the seed that was sown on the good ground is the one who continues to hear and understand the Word. Indeed he continues to produce fruit: some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times more than was sown.”

These are your words. Heavenly Father lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


Let me start out by doing a little catechism review of this book, The Bible. The Bible is composed of 66 separate books. Of those 66 separate books, 39 of them are in The Old Testament. That means they were written before Christ. Those 39 were written in a language called Hebrew.

The other 27 are written in The New Testament. That means after Jesus' earthly ministry. Those 27 books were written in Greek.

There were many people involved in writing all of the books that are in this one book, called The Bible. It took about 1500 to 1600 years to compose all of the books that are in this Bible. And yet, we say this book has only one author, even though many individuals wrote the individual books. We say it has one author.

That one author is

God, the Holy Spirit.

The Bible says about itself,


(talking about The Bible)

never had its origin in the will of men,

but men spoke from God,

as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

So, the writers of The Bible were carried along by the Holy Spirit. This is His Word. This is God's Word. That is why Jesus said,

“Sanctify us by your truth.

Your Word is truth.”

Jesus looked at The Word of God, and He implied,

“Since this is God's Word,

that implies it must be true.”

So, we believe there are no errors, no mistakes, no falsehoods in this Book, because this is none other than The Word of God, Himself.

We say it is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

It is inerrant.

That means it is without error.

It is infallible.

It cannot fail.

And, in addition to that, we believe this Book, as I told the little children this morning, is powerful.

This Book is powerful.

In our Old Testament Lesson, God says,

“My Word will not return to me empty.

It will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it.”

Scripture says,

“The Word of God is powerful and effective.”

With this Book, this Word, which is the Word of God, the Holy Spirit can do things that nothing else in the world could ever, ever possibly begin to do.

       -Whenever the Word is preached,

       -whenever the Word is taught,

       -whenever the Word is looked at,

       -whenever the Word is contemplated,

the Holy Spirit is present, because it is His Word. And, when God, the Holy Spirit is present, God, the Holy Spirit works powerfully.

       -It is this Word that was connected with the water in Baptism that the Holy Spirit used to powerfully reach into your heart, and bring you to faith in Jesus, as your Savior. You could not have come to faith on your own. The Bible teaches that is impossible. But, the powerful Word of God did it, with the Spirit working through the Word.

       -It is the powerful Word of God, connected with bread and wine that literally causes the body and blood of our Savior

(that purchased you) to be present, and distributed to you. So, you know, in no uncertain terms, what Jesus did, He did for me! And, He distributes the forgiveness of sins through that powerful Word, connected with bread and wine. The Word is powerful and effective.

I will tell you one of the great privileges of being a pastor (and this has happened to me many times in my ministry). Somebody will call me up, and say, “Pastor, I need to talk to you. I need to talk to a pastor.” And, the individual will talk about something that is troubling them. Maybe it is something that happened in the past. It is really burdening, or bothering them. Or, perhaps it is something that is about to happen in the future, something they are worried, and concerned about.

I will listen, and then all I do is start to talk The Bible. I pour out one promise in scripture, after the next, after the next, after the next.

The next day, they will say to me, “Pastor, when you left, I felt so comforted.”

Why is that? Not because of me. It is because

       -the Word of God is powerful, and it is effective.

       -And, the Word of God can change hearts.

       -It can change behavior.

       -It can change eternity.

And, you and I have been blessed to have the Word of God in our lives. But, you know there are people who don't have The Word in their lives. In fact, in Romans, chapter ten, it says this about people who have not had The Word in their lives, yet. It says,

“How can they call on the One they don't believe in?

And, how can they believe in the One,

of whom they haven't heard?

And, how can they hear,

unless someone preaches to them?

And, how can they preach,

unless they are sent?

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message,

and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”

And so, there is scripture's proclamation to us. If we want other people to come to faith in Jesus, it is our grand privilege, and responsibility to begin to spread The Word, because they can't come to faith unless they have The Word.

And so, Jesus tells what is known as The Parable of the Sower and the Seed.

       -The seed is The Word of God.

       -The sower is you and me, as we go out, and we cast that Word of God into the world.

One of the main points Jesus is making in today's parable is this. I really want you to ponder this. You cannot make anyone believe in Jesus.

You can't make anyone believe in Jesus.

That is the job of the Holy Spirit. All you can do is cast out the seed, cast out The Word. It is the Holy Spirit who works through The Word, when and where He wills, to create saving faith in people's hearts. Our job, our responsibility, as God's people in the Church of God, is to cast out the Word of God, lovingly, because of souls that are lost. Cast the Word. Plant the seed.

We don't know what kind of soil it is falling on. You know a farmer, when he farms, is going to be careful not to get seed on the concrete, or seed in among the weeds. He is going to try to sow it in the place where he knows it is going to grow.

You and I don't know hearts.

We don't know people's hearts.

And so, Jesus told this parable to people who understood agriculture. He said, “The sower goes out, starts to sow the seed, and indiscriminately sows it everywhere. He sows it on the hard path, which would be like sowing it on the road. He sows it among the rocks. He sows it among the weeds. He sows it among good soil.” The point is, we don't know how someone is going to receive The Word. That is not our job.

Our job is simply to spread the seed.

Then, Jesus tells us in this parable how The Kingdom of God works. What happens when that seed is sown, this powerful Word of God? It can fall, as Jesus said, on four different types of soil, or, it is received by the human heart in four different ways.

       -He said, “Some seed fell along the path”. That would be like seed falling on the street, or on hard concrete. Jesus says, “These are those who hear the Word of God, and they don't understand it. The birds come, the devil comes, and snatches it away.”

When we sow the Word, when we tell someone about Jesus, when we tell them about scripture, there are some people who simply will not, and cannot understand it, or comprehend it. They darken their hearts.

Their hearts are hard.

You can tell them about Jesus, and they would ask, “Why would I need Jesus? I don't really do anything wrong. I am not that bad. Aren't there lots of different ways to get to Heaven?” And so, they don't believe.

But, we don't know if they are going to believe, or not. It is just our job to sow the seed, to lovingly sow the seed.

       -Jesus said, “Other seed fell among rocky ground, where it did not have much soil. Immediately the seed sprang up, because the soil was not deep.”

“But then, when trouble and persecution came because of the Word, that little faith that sprouted up was scorched out.”

There are some people who, when we tell them about Jesus, are going to receive that message with joy. They are going to realize, “Yes, I am a sinner, and I have a Savior. My sins are forgiven.”

The Holy Spirit brings them to faith, but then, Jesus tells us the cold, hard reality that some people will have shallow faith. You know, if I said, “Let's all walk outside, to the islands in the parking lot, and pull weeds”, some weeds would be really easy to pull. Some would be really hard. Do you know which ones would be easy to pull? The ones that have really shallow roots.

There are times when someone comes to faith, but that faith does not go deep, because

       -there isn't a continued application of The Word.

       -There is not a continued study of this powerful Word,

       -not growing in the Word,

       -not going through what we call catachesis, which is that growth in Christian doctrine that the Holy Spirit uses to deepen faith,

       -not singing the hymns of the church, which are there to deepen me in my faith,

       -not going through the Liturgy, which deepens me in the creeds, and beliefs of the Church, and of scripture.

And so, when there is not a depth of faith, when The Word is not constantly working, and digging those roots deeper, and deeper. Jesus says, “When trouble and persecution comes because of The Word, he immediately falls away.”

       -Someone challenges what you believe, and your faith isn't deep enough, you fall away.

       -Someone says you are stupid, or dumb, or bigoted, because you believe something scripture says, your faith is not deep enough and you fall away.

We don't know who those people will be. Our goal, Jesus says, is just to scatter the seed, out of love to scatter that Word.

       -Then He said, “Other seed fell among thorns.” It grows up, but it grows next to weeds. “The thorns grew up and choked it.” Notice what it says. It doesn't say they choke out faith, it says the weeds “choke The Word”.

He says those weeds are the cares, the worries, the deceitfulness of riches. These are people scripture calls double-minded. “Yeah, I like The Word, but there are a lot of things in my life I have to take care of. I have to take care of my family. I have to spend time with friends. I have a job. I have finances I have to take care.” Eventually, Jesus implies, we can become so wrapped up in those things that they literally choke out The Word. And then, we stop using The Word. When we stop using The Word, then the Holy Spirit is not there to work. When the Holy Spirit isn't there to work, faith gets choked out.

But, our goal, since we don't know who those people will be, our goal is to just spread The Word, to cast the seed, the powerful Word of God, because we can't see into people's hearts.

Then, Jesus said, “Some seed fell on good ground and it produced grain: some one hundred times, some sixty, and some thirty times more than was sown.”

The commentators I read said that if you understand agriculture, especially agriculture in Jesus' time, that is unheard of! And even 'today', like back in the 40's, 50's, and 60's, if you planted one bushel of wheat, and we got thirty bushels per acre, per harvest, that was considered a really good crop.”

So, Jesus here says The Word falls on some hearts, and it produces 100 fold. That is unheard of! That is miraculous! 60 fold – that is miraculous! In Jesus' day, 30 fold would have been miraculous, to produce that kind of harvest. But, that is the power of The Word. The power of The Word is miraculous! The Word actually creates a saving faith in Jesus, as our Savior. It changes us from going to Hell, to going to Heaven, because of faith in Jesus. That is miraculous! It changes lives, which then want to live for Jesus, and want to go out into the world, and say, “I want to be a Christian mother.” “I want to be a Christian father.” “I want to be a Christian wife.” “I want to be a Christian husband.” “I want to be a Christian coworker.” “I want to be a Christian fellow student, and live the fruits of the Christian faith, that the Holy Spirit works through The Word.” It is being fruitful.

We don't know whose hearts are going to be like that. It is just our duty, privilege, and responsibility to cast the seed.

I want to read a hymn. I didn't have us sing this one today, because I don't think we know the melody to it. It is hymn 544. I think this hymn really poetically captures the message of this parable. It was written by a man by the name of Martin Franzman. Here the whole picture in this hymn is:

It is just our job to cast the seed, to cast The Word. We don't know what hearts it is going to fall on. It's the Holy Spirit's work, His job, to give the growth.

Preach you The Word

and plant it home

to those who like, or like it not.

The Word shall endure and stand

when flowers, and mortals are forgot.

We know how hard, O Lord the task

your servant bids us undertake

to preach your Word

and never ask what prideful profit it may make.

The sower sows his reckless love

scatters abroad the goodly seed

intent alone that there may be

the wholesome loaves people need.

Though some be snatched

and some be scorched

and some be choked, and matted flat

the sower sows

His heart cries out,

“Oh what of that, and what of that?”

Preach you The Word

and plant it home

and never faint

The Harvest Lord who gave the sower seed to sow

will watch, and tend His planted Word.

So, we preach and plant the Word.

Now, also apply this just briefly to your own heart, because it is only by the grace of God that you happen to be good soil. You are not smarter than anybody else. You are not more deserving than anybody else. It is just the grace of God that the Holy Spirit has taken this concrete hard, rocky heart, and has implanted in it the Word of God and caused it to grow, and caused you, and me to come to faith, believe in Jesus, and be fruitful. We also should recognize in our own hearts,

“Oh dear Lord, my heart certainly has the capacity to be as hard as concrete. Lord, through your Word, through The Word, keep me repentant of my sins so I see my need of a Savior. Keep planting, and watering that seed.

“My heart certainly has the capacity to be shallow, and when troubles and trials come, fall away, because of persecution to the Word. Lord, through your Word that is planted in my heart, help the roots of my faith grow deep, so that I stand firm.

“Lord, my heart certainly has the capacity to be choked out by all of the things of this world. Lord, keep me hungry for your Word, through which the Holy Spirit works to cause me to grow in my faith in Jesus, and to stay in that faith and be fruitful.”

I want to close, since we are in the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, a thought from Martin Luther. He was talking particularly to Lutherans, and he said our big danger is not so much false doctrine, because we have the correct doctrine, or falling into this, or that sin. But, when it comes to The Word, I want you to hear what our danger is.

Luther said, “When you get to the point of imagining you know The Gospel, The Ten Commandments, you know The Word of God outstandingly well, then you are lost. The devil has won the game. For when you become tired of this teaching, and it tastes like the dregs from the bottom of the barrel, and then the heart wants something new, and it is tired, and more tired of the old message of The Bible, then people usually say, 'Oh I have heard that for a long time. Tell me something different.' When the heart is tired of God's Word in this way, no longer regarding it as its greatest treasure, then the door is open in front, and in back, and the devil has free access, and may introduce all sorts of errors.”
God help us never grow tired of this Word. It is our life. It is our life!

Here is one more quote from Luther.

“Hearing and handling The Word is always good. It is always useful. For, although The Word does not always strike home, our heart, nevertheless, remembers what it has heard. And perhaps, in an hour, and at a time when we need it, we will begin to really understand it, and feel its power and comfort. In like manner, embers which have lain under the ashes for awhile will start burning again, and give fire, when one stirs them up, and blows on them. Therefore, The Word should not be considered powerless. One should not think it has been preached in vain. Neither should another word be sought in case fruit does not appear immediately.”

So, thank God we have this, God's Word.

God's Word is our great heritage,

and shall be ours forever.

To spread its light from age to age

shall be our chief endeavor.

In life, it guides our way.

In death, it is our stay.

Lord grant while worlds endure,

we keep its teachings pure,

throughout all generations.


Now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts, and our minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.