Man Resists / God Persists

Matthew 13.1-23

Let him who has ears to hear, hear!

All of us are familiar with the frustration that happens when we think no one is listening. Parents reach the end of their rope when they have to tell a child three or four times to pick up something or take care of a chore. If anyone deserves to be frustrated it is God. The record of the Bible is a long history of people not listening. Adam and Eve stopped listening, believing, and obeying God. In Noahís day, no one listened to his preaching. Moses was called to lead the people of Israel out of slavery. But again and again they resisted. Moses even reminded them: "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deut. 8.3). The prophets also encountered this problem. Currently we have an Adult Bible study underway of the Prophet Jeremiah. He is called the "weeping prophet." Why? Because most would not listen to him. Manís natural inclination is not to listen to God.

But Godís nature is to persist. One of our members who has gone to heaven understood this challenge very well. Katherine Hedden used to pray for Pastor Hoft and me. Sometimes she would send us little Scripture passages of encouragement. Not long before she died she bought each of us a small statue of the "Sower." Iím looking it at now as I write this sermon. He walks over the rough ground throwing handfuls of seed from a bag that hangs from his shoulder. His hat provides only minor relief from the heat of the sun. He walks and walks; he scatters the seed. The sower goes out to sow.

1. What is the parable saying?

Jesus was preaching beside the Sea of Galilee. He was in a boat. A large crowd of peopled pressed about Him. The crowds were attracted to His miracles and to the boldness of His preaching. But Jesus was not misled. He is the last and greatest prophet, and He knew well the problem of all human beings: Then naturally tend to resist the Word of God. Soon the same thing will happen to Jesus as it had to all prophets. Many will leave Him and His teaching. Some will even raise up their hands to crucify Him.

The sower goes out to sow. Some of the seed falls on hard ground. This is like the person who doesnít give the Word any chance to grow. They donít need it. They donít want to hear about it. Very quickly their opportunity is taken away as Satan comes and snatches away the Word. Other seed falls on stony ground. This is like the person who listens to the Word of God but refuses to let the Word grow too deep in his life. He holds God off at arms length. That kind of limited faith will eventually fail in the midst of hardship. Some seed falls in ground that is infested with weeds. This is like the people who allow evils to stand in their lives. They live two kinds of lives. Sometimes they live in faith, but at other times they live in (willingly) in sin. Jesus warns that as both grow together the weeds will overtake the faith and destroy it. Then there is the good soil. This soil receives the seed which grows and bears an abundance of fruit.

What do you think about that parable? There are two important things to think about. First, the parable is very realistic. We can all see ourselves in it. At different times in our lives we allow things into the soil of our lives that cause us to resist the Word of God. We block the growth of the Word of God with stony hearts. We allow sins to go on and on unrepented. The fact that Jesus speaks of "resistance" in terms of degrees is very important. We just donít think of ourselves as "resisting" the Word of God when we are taking in a little bit of it. But in fact that is the most dangerous kind of resistance because it can be so deceiving. Jesus begins with the obvious problem of the hard ground and then draws us along to see that in the end, without a serious change in soil condition, we are in trouble.

But that brings us to the second thing Ė the most disturbing thing about this parable. It seems so fatalistic. The soil canít do anything about its condition. Hard soil canít make itself soft. Stony soil canít remove the rocks. Weedy soil canít remove its own weeds. What can be done?

When the disciples ask for an explanation Jesus reminds them of the prophetís dilemma. Isaiah was called to proclaim the good words of God. But God prepared him for resistance. "Hearing, you (Israel) will not hearÖ and Seeing, you (Israel) will not see." Jesus knows that all preaching of the Word of God tends to be blocked off or choked out.

2. What is the Parable doing?

Itís one thing to ask, "what does the parable mean?" Itís another thing to ask, "what does the parable do?" What affect does it have on me? Jesus ends the parable with these important words, "Let him who has ears to hear, hear!"

Parables are very interesting stories. They are the kind of stories you canít stop thinking about. They bore into our hearts and stir things up. They make us think. The Parable of the Sower is designed to do just that. If you step back from it for a moment, you begin to realize that the Parable itself changes the soil of our lives. One thing youíll notice is that there is no mention of a plow in the Parable of the Sower. People had plows in these days. Sometimes they would actually sow the seed first and then plow the soil so that the seed would be able to grow. In this case the parable itself is the plow!

I thought it might be nice to find an old plowshare. I would take that plowshare and polish it up nice and shiny. Then I would find someone who could engrave this parable on the plowshare! You see the parable itself not only describes the problem of the soil, it also digs up the soil and turns it over. Jesus says, "Let him who has hears to hear, hear!" He says that because just listening to the truth of this parable will allow it to change the soil of your heart. The parable breaks up the hardened ground. The parable lifts up the stones. The parable cultivates out the weeds. This is why Jesus says, "Let him who has ears to hear, hear."

When I was in the service, I once had a sergeant who wanted to become a Christian. I invited him to come with me to worship. Immediately he sighed and said, "It just wonít do any good. I donít seem to get anything out of it." I could see that there was a lot of frustration in his life about this. How do you respond to a person like this? What do you say? In his case I told him, "I donít know why youíre having trouble believing in Jesus. But there is one thing I know: The Word of God is the only thing that helps. Keep listening to it. Keep thinking about it. One day, sooner or later, there will be a breakthrough."

Isaiah was inspired by this truth also. He said that the Word of God will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55.11). You see Jesus Himself tells us that this is the Parable of the "Sower." The Sower, the Farmer, is the one who can make a difference in the soil. God is persistent about this. He doesnít give up. When Adam and Eve rejected His Word, he tracked them down and led them to repentance and faith. He gave them the first promise of salvation. For Noah God provided the ark and the hope of new life. Moses saw that God persisted in giving the people of Israel miracle after miracle despite their rebellion. For every hardened heart there is in this world, God will raise up a prophet. God will raise up another sower. Finally God sent His Son. Jesus came to hammer us with the reality of our resistance knowing that He would be hammered to the cross for our sins. He breaks up our soil. He plants the reality of Godís love into the soil of our hearts.

All of us are here today because of the work of the Sower. When we find ourselves struggling with the temptations of life, when we realize we are resisting Godís Word, He simply advises us "Let him who has ears to hear, hear!" The Word will do what needs to be done in our hearts. When we are frustrated with those who do not listen, who totally reject or partially resist, there is only one answer Ė continue to sow the Word. Amen.

Pastor Michael P. Walther
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, July 10, 2005
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
618-344-3151 / fax 618-344-3378
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2005