THE SOWER – Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on July 20, 2014. To listen to the audio, click on this link – Sower.
Listen to the Parable.
The Parable is About the Mystery of the Kingdom of God: “… Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.” This morning, we are going to look at one of Jesus’ parables, but in order to understand the parable, we need to understand the context in which Jesus told it. Jesus used this parable to explain, in part, the mystery of the Kingdom of God.
What is the Kingdom of God? A new world order which will put an end to history–in which God will be the king over all people. This new world order will be one of justice and peace among all races. The Kingdom of God will be a new earth–a new creation free from the curse of sin and death and illness, un-fallen and unspoiled by corruption. Scripture describes this new kingdom in very physical ways, with trees and mountains, rivers and animals. The Kingdom of God will be a place where human life is transformed so that those who live there will be truly joyful, free, fulfilled–they will finally and completely know the truth about themselves and life and God. Jesus was proclaiming the good news that this Kingdom was/is something that people could receive by faith, and that they could begin to experience transformed life Now! Or they could reject this kingdom.
Listen Intentionally: The parable of the sower was a parable that Jesus told to explain and describe why some people were receiving the good news of the Kingdom of God, and why some were rejecting it. Unless we recognize that the parable of the sower is confronting us about our willingness to believe teaching about the Kingdom of God as something to be received and experienced, we will miss the point. The parable of the sower is not about itself–about some vague notion of the way we listen to people or even teaching–it is about the coming Kingdom of God and whether we will follow Jesus into that Kingdom, or reject his kingship.
Consider Your Attitude Towards the Kingdom.
This is a Parable about the Human Heart: In his explanation of the parable, Jesus mentions the “heart” twice (Lk.8:12, 15). His disciples understood his use of that word, but we need clarification. The heart, in Scripture, is short hand for our attitude/orientation towards God, whether dismissive, curious, bargaining, receptive. Jesus’ parable of the sower exposes our orientation towards God–our attitude–our hearts, and touches on the mysterious thing that we call faith.
The soils, hardened path, shallow soil over rock, thorny weeds, and good/fertile, are all states of the human heart. Jesus told this parable to people who were coming from all over to listen to him because he knew that his words would not automatically affect them. We are not automatically affected by God’s word–to “have ears to hear” means to have a heart (an orientation and attitude) that is willing to receive what the word is saying.
There are Different States of the Human Heart: Jesus mentions 4 basic states of heart or orientation towards the good news of the Kingdom of God
~ The Hard Path–The Heart that Cannot Be Moved: The hard heart is an orientation in which one is unwilling to hear. Shockingly, Jesus is suggesting that there are, among these people who have come all the way from the villages and towns to listen to his teaching, some who are unwilling to hear and receive.
In the same way, there are plenty of people in churches who come a long way to evaluate whether what is being preached is in line with what they already believe. There are plenty of people who have no interest in experiencing God or following Jesus. Jesus describes such people as having the word snatched away by Satan. For such people the word of God is either dead–only to be used as a confirmation of what they have already made up their minds to believe.. For others the word is an accusation or hatred from God–because, as Scripture tells us, Satan is an accuser and a liar. Jesus seems to be saying that the word for those with hard hearts cannot take root.
~ The Rocky Soil–The Heart that Repels Real Change: The seed that falls among the rock sprouts up because there is moisture or a thin layer of soil – but beneath the soil is solid rock. The seed splits open and send down roots, but the roots cannot make their way into the rock. In such cases a plant can live for a little while until it dries out and, without roots, dies. What is Jesus describing here? Certainly a heart with a desire to hear, even to respond to the teaching it hears in some positive way. The shallow soil supports fascination and interest and excitement–but not suffering or difficulty. ”Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”
Jesus had many people listening to him who were fascinated, even excited about what he was saying. They could absolutely agree with his message that God forgives, loves–but where they stopped short was at the point at which holiness demanded death to self–taking up their cross–for the sake of being changed and healed and trusting Jesus’ message that death and suffering would lead to resurrection and life. The shallow rocky soil describes a heart orientation: What is the Kingdom worth? For the rocky soil, the Kingdom of God is not worth the price of “my own way” and “my life.” There is the appearance of change for a time, and then a falling away.
~ The Thorny Soil–The Heart that Adds Religion: Jesus describes those with thorny, weedy heart-attitudes towards the word as “… those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” Jesus is equating life’s worries, riches and pleasures, with weeds that choke out faith. The implication of this statement is quite clear. The Kingdom of God is not added to life as the religious part of life–it is a New Life. The Kingdom of God claims exclusivity over our lives. Jesus is not suggesting we all withdraw from the world and become monks, but he is suggesting that the pursuit of life for believers is God’s Kingdom (Matt.6:33). All other concerns of life are to be influenced by what must become the one great concern.
Without this exclusive orientation hearers of the word never grow to maturity and therefore never bear the fruit of a life changed by the word. They are undernourished and underdeveloped plants unless and until they choose to follow Jesus and trust him as their first desire.
~ The Good Soil–The Heart that is Ready and Willing to Hear: The good soil is described as those, ”who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” Jesus describes them as the noble and good. It can sound like Jesus is saying that the good soil is good people who do good things. But that is not the mystery of the good soil. Rather the mystery of the good soil is a heart oriented towards loving what God loves–wanting what God wants for our lives–believing that God, who made our lives, knows best what life consists of and how a person is to be blessed. With this orientation of heart we become listeners who hear–who need to hear the word in order to understand what God loves–what is good for life–how to live in the Kingdom of God.
In other words, Jesus is calling people to give up their dead lives and to find life in the love and favor of God–to become children of the Kingdom, listening and hearing God as he speaks to them about life in the word–to be deeply changed away from the wounds of the world, sin and meaningless life–and to find new life and meaning in him.
Those Who Have Ears to Hear, Let Them Hear.
God is Looking At Your Heart: “… there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”
Jesus gave this parable to expose the orientation of our hearts so that we would see them as God sees them, and to warn his hearers that those who want to finally enter the kingdom must be good soil.
But how, if we find that we are not good soil, can we change the orientation of our hearts? Not by resolutions to do better or to be better people. Rather, we must pray to God. Confess the state of our hearts and our sin. We must ask God to reveal the good news to us and to make us good soil.