Sexagesima Sunday, 2011
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn #190 Christ the Lord 1:52
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 339 All Hail the Power 1:57
Broadcasting the Word
The Hymn # 308 Invited 1:63
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #46 On What Has Now Been Sown 1:62
2 Corinthians 11:19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. 20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. 21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool ) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. 32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. 12:1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
KJV Luke 8:4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung 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 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? 10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
Broadcasting the Word
KJV Luke 8:4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: 5 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung 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 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.
This is the first and most memorable of all the parables of Jesus. For those believers who have spent time gardening or farming, the meaning is especially clear.
As far as we know, the first typical parable of all those uttered by our Lord is the one about the Sower.
5) There went out the sower in order to sow his seed.
With one stroke the central image is painted before our eyes. Every word is simplicity itself. The aorist “he went out” and the aorist “in order to sow” show us that the task was begun and finished. The article in ὁ σπείρων lends the participle a generic or representative sense, R. 764 on Matthew 13:3: “the man whose business is sowing.” Luke alone adds “his seed,” a cardinal term in the parable.
And in the sowing part fell along the path and was trodden down, and the birds of the heaven ate it up. And another part fell down on the rock, and after springing up it was dried up on account of not having moisture. And other fell in the midst of the thorns, and springing up with it the thorns choked it off.
Luke abbreviates as much as possible. The entire description is typically Palestinian. The grain is sown by hand. The patch is not extensive and is unfenced. Along its side is a path (not “road”), which perhaps divides it from a similar patch, and in sowing some may fall along this path and thus be trodden down by the feet of those passing and end up by having the birds of the heaven (unconfined, wild) eat it.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 442.
There is a paradox. The parables are easy to understand and impossible to forget. They are also concise. One occupies one verse and uses only 24 words in English:
KJV Matthew 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
But Jesus also gave as a purpose – that they might not understand and believe. Let’s face it, the Christian faith is often distorted and used in many ways. The last century has seen a time when the leaders do not face issues, so everything is even more muddled than before. Few pastors can discuss and present justification by faith because it is taught against by the great and mighty.
It is good to remember that the term “mysteries of God” applies to those articles of faith which God reveals to us by the Holy Spirit in the Word. An unbeliever can remember this parable and go all “Ooh and ah” over how marvelous it is, but he will never know the meaning of it until he is a believer.
The vast majority of “Biblical scholars” are like that. They have vast knowledge of the text and theories about the text, but no insight into its meaning. One Harvard ThD told an audience of pastors, “More people were converted to Christianity by the sword than by the Word.” I raised my hand and told him he was wrong. I said, “The Gospel spread miraculously by individuals teaching the Word, and it reached from England to India in one generation.” He asked, “How did I get it wrong.” I said, “You can’t help it. You went to Harvard.”
Afterwards, he insisted on talking to me. He was actually a believer who also had a degree and a teaching position. They pushed him out of the seminary and he took a parish. He was appalled at what the LCA was doing, already in the 1980s.
This little story shows how the Word of God identifies people and separates believers from unbelievers.
Unbelievers simply cannot understand the Gospel parables and never will until they trust in Christ for their salvation. Until that happens, they will find each passage of the Bible deeply disturbing or alienating if they are hardening their hearts to the Word.
Lenski on the purpose of parables:
The only thing that is thus left to Jesus is to speak “in parables” to those outside, who are still unbelieving after all his efforts. These parables the believers will understand because they possess the key to them in knowing the mysteries of grace. As far as the rest are concerned, parables have a double purpose: first, they are to prevent understanding as the ἵνα clause states: “in order that seeing they may not see,” etc.; second, that hope is not yet completely cut off, their judgment being only preliminary as yet. That is why Jesus does not turn from them completely but still speaks to them in these wonderful parables which, almost like nothing else, cling to the memory and the mind and keep insisting on their interpretation. So these parables are a last effort to reach “the rest.” On his second point Jesus does not, however, dwell.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 446
The Seed Falls on the Wayside
Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
This verse is quite memorable for gardeners because pathways do not foster seed growth. The ground is hard and broadcast seed will be eaten before it can start to take root and grow.
As Luther pointed out, these people believed at one time, but Satan came and took that faith away. I have seen that in action, where ministers that I knew went from some kind of faith to complete apostasy, through a variety of Satanic influences – not the spooky kind, but the white devil kind.
Luther used the term white devil for Satan at work without the red long underwear and pitchfork.
One Satanic influence is promoting a man for teaching false doctrine. That is the best way to ruin a minister. He is encouraged to study false teachers and those who encourage him lionize him as the best of a new generation. He believes it and sees some initial success, because people like wolf-preachers. In time this gets hollow and he gets more desperate. Eventually he sees everything in Christianity as baloney because he has lived on baloney and taught baloney. He has baloney spectacles, so he becomes a loud-mouthed anti-Christian atheist.
Some members use the congregation to do evil. They start out as believers as some point, but learn they can get away with more destruction in a church than anywhere else. I have known of people flitting to 20 different parishes to do that, getting more deeply disturbed all the time. The fact that they can do that in a church and not at work makes them all the more demonic in their energy and destructiveness. They know how to use the Jesus words to inflict damage. One faithful member said, “I understand those people, because I used to live to give grief to the pastor.”
This section is a warning to those who fall for “once saved, always saved” and “I am a Christian because I belong to a conservative church body.” Both are fallacies and only show how easily Satan begins to worm his way in before snatching faith away.
Luke 8:13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
Many times I have seen seeds take on luxurious growth and fade away, because they have little or no roots. For instances, maple trees have a good start in gutters, where the rotting leaves provide moisture and food. But I have never seen a maple tree growing out of a gutter, beyond the first few inches.
We had a maple tree start near an elm stump in our yard in Moline. We gleefully mowed it down each week. But our de-forestation was neglected once or twice, and the sapling grew strong enough that no mower could take it on. Now it is a mature tree, about 50 years old – because it sunk deep roots into the soil.
The New Testament warns us against making too much of new converts, because they are not deeply rooted in the Word. Many celebrity converts are in the press for believing in Christ and in the press again for falling away (the meaning of apostasy). The publisher of Hustler magazine did that in a big way. So did Mickey Rooney and Bob Dylan. All three had their moment of Christian witness and the subsequent time of falling away.
Apostates are more opposed to Christianity than non-believers. Most people are indifferent but apostates are often very aggressive in teaching against the Gospel.
The reason I teach and publish apologetics is this – without knowing the opposition, believers get taken in by false claims and shallow evidence. For example, manuscript “errors” are used to make it seem as if we hardly know the text of God’s Word. In fact, the Old and New Testaments are the most faithfully preserved texts of the ancient world. In most cases, we have older and better texts of the Bible than we do of well known classics, which often date many centuries later than their first writing.
In short, the text of the Bible is 99.78% accurate, the variations coming from such things as spelling and closely associated words – forgive 7 times 7 or 70 times seven. How many times have you said, “Nine or nineteen?” and similar things. Greek is just like that, one word sound like another and easily substituted. Not one variation affects the doctrine of Christianity. But the Greek text is an easy start for false teachers because few can follow the arguments offered.
Therefore, being a Christian means first conversion by the Word, then a lifetime of learning and re-learning the basics. Luther studied the Small Catechism. A typical audience cannot recite the Ten Commandments. How does not follow the Word without knowing it? How can children face the temptations of our pagan country if they have no root in Christian doctrine and learning?
Controversy makes us more deeply rooted. I am very suspicious of those pastors who do not want to be upset over doctrinal debates. Some arguments are indeed silly and used as ways of avoiding real substance (on what day does Septuagesima fall?). In general, doctrinal conflict does exactly what Paul promised – it separates the good doctrine from the bad.
Choked by Weeds
14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
I have had many plants grow among the weeds. We call some things weeds because they thrive under all conditions and take over with root growth, seed growth, and other little tricks. The common violet has several ways to reproduce and can spit seeds a distance from the first clump. Dandelions are really herbs, full of nutrition, but notorious for deep roots and flying seeds, big leafy rosettes than smother grass around them.
Plants will grow among weeds but they do not thrive and often are choked out altogether. Here we have the ancient and current temptation of believers, to be so wrapped up in luxury or the cares of this world that faith is throttled.
Children’s athletic leagues now use Sundays because it is “the only free day left.” Parents who go along with this are showing what is more important to them and their children. One Mennonite farmer put it this way, “If I cannot get my work done in six days, I won’t get it done in seven either.” His neighbors thought he was a slacker for taking one day of rest and worship.
People easily say to themselves, “I know the Gospel. I am a faithful member. I can cut back on worship.” However, the faithful look forward to hearing the Gospel again. Clergy can look at Sunday as work to be done or as a great privilege. They may preach with an invisible golf bag in the pulpit. It all depends on their initial attitude toward the Gospel – it is a treasure or a meal ticket?
15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
The point of this parable is not to say that 75% failure rate is typical. No numbers are involved. Each bad example is a warning because the Word itself is living, a seed that is ready to grow. In gardening, the best seed is very high in germination rate. All it needs is some moisture. Try that with a packet of any seed. Put it in a moist towel overnight. It is not ready to come alive. It is alive. It is bursting with life and cannot help growing with some moisture. Bulbs are even more alive. They have to be kept cool because they sprout already in shipment, like potatoes. A bulb is actually a beautiful flower boxed up in an ugly package (see daffodil bulbs). Once in the ground, that daffodil leaps to the surface and unfolds.
The good soil does not mean “we take a good man and make him better,” as the Masons claim. It means that people listen with sincere hearts and receive the message of the Gospel with patience and understanding. “I believe. Help my unbelief.”
“Testing the soil” for the receptivity of the people involved is truly Satanic. Using that little motto has turned many ministers in manipulative servants of Satan. It has been called marketing the Gospel, using “creative means,” and many other things.
Broadcasting was originally a gardening term, not a media term. Throwing seed into the soil means using plenty of it. Bad things will happen, but the bad will be overcome by the good. We planted in abundance in Midland, and one adult in Germany still remembers harvesting beans from the pole bean teepee in our backyard.
The Gospel grows like that. At the moment it is tempting to say, “I am getting nowhere.” Years later the results are obvious, in spite of all the disappointments. Ministers live longer than just about any profession. So do teachers. It may be God’s way of showing pastors the damage they have done (for false teachers) or the good done by the Word.
This parable is easy to remember but will never be popular among the false teachers, because it glorifies God and the power of His Word.
"The efficacy of the Word, unlike that of the seed, always has a result. The man to whom the Word of God comes, and who repels it, is not as he was before. Where long and persistently refused, hardening at last comes, Exodus 8:15; 9:12; John 12:40; Hebrews 4:1, and the Word becomes a 'savor of death unto death,' 2 Corinthians 2:16. Every word heard or read, every privilege and opportunity enjoyed, leaves its impress either for good or for evil. It is not so properly the Word, as man's abuse of the Word; not so much the efficacy of the Word, as the sin taking occasion of the efficacy that produces this result, Romans 7:8."
Henry Eyster Jacobs, Elements of Religion, p. 155.
"Christ compares the Word of God to a seed, to a grain of wheat sown in the ground. (Matthew 13:3-23) A seed possesses power and life in itself. Power and life belong to the properties of the seed. Power is not communicated to the seed only now and then, under certain circumstances, in peculiar cases. But the Word of God is an incorruptible seed, that is able to regenerate, a Word which liveth and abideth forever. (1 Peter 1:23)"
E. Hove, Christian Doctrine, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1930, p. 27. Matthew 13:3-23; 1 Peter 1:23.
"In this Gospel we see how God distinguishes Christians from heathen. For the Lord does not deliver these teachings to the heathen, for they could not receive them, but to His Christians...Satan also hears the Gospel and the Word of God, yea, he knows it far better than we do, and he could preach it as well as we, if he only wanted to; but the Gospel is a doctrine that should become a living power and be put into practice; it should strengthen and comfort people, and make them courageous and aggressive."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 103f. Matthew 6:24-34
"The first class of disciples are those who hear the Word but neither understand nor esteem it. And these are not the mean people of the world, but the greatest, wisest and the most saintly, in short they are the greatest part of mankind; for Christ does not speak here of those who persecute the Word nor of those who fail to give their ear to it, but of those who hear it and are students of it, who also wish to be called true Christian and to live in Christian fellowship with Christians and are partakers of baptism and the Lord's Supper. But they are of a carnal heart, and remain so, failing to appropriate the Word of God to themselves, it goes in one ear and out the other, just like the seed along the wayside did not fall into the earth, but remained lying on the ground..."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 J-209 II, p. 114. Luke 8:4-15 (par. Mark 4: Matthew 13:)
"The second class of hearers are those who receive the Word with joy, but they do not persevere. These are also a large multitude who understand the Word correctly and lay hold of it in its purity without any spirit of sect, division or fanaticism, they rejoice also in that they know the real truth, and are able to know how they may be saved without works through faith...But when the sun shines hot it withers, because it has no soil and moisture, and only rock is there. So these do; in times of persecution they deny or keep silence about the Word and work, speak and suffer all that their persecutors mention or wish, who formerly went forth and spoke, and confessed with a fresh and joyful spirit the same, while there was peace and no heat, so that there was hope they would bear much fruit and serve the people."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 J-211 II, p. 116. Luke 8:4-15 (par. Mark 4: Matthew 13:)
"Therefore they [fallen among thorns] do not earnestly give themselves to the Word, but become indifferent and sink in the cares, riches and pleasures of this life, so that they are of no benefit to anyone. Therefore they are like the seed that fell among the thorns...They know their duty but do it not, they teach but do not practice what they teach, and are this year as they were last."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 J-212 II, p. 117. Luke 8:4-15 (par. Mark 4: Matthew 13:)
"What business is it of mine that many do not esteem it? It must be that many are called but few are chosen. For the sake of the good ground that brings forth fruit with patience, the seed must also fall fruitless by the wayside, on the rock and among the thorns; inasmuch as we are assured that the Word of God does not go forth without bearing some fruit, but it always finds also good ground; as Christ says here, some seed of the sower falls also into good ground, and not only by the wayside, among the thorns and on stony ground. For wherever the Gospel goes you will find find Christians. 'My Word shall not return unto me void.' Is. 55:11"
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, J-206 II, p. 118. Luke 8:4-15. Isaiah 55:11.
"But now, since the prince of this world and the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the devil, are directly opposed to one another, and the Holy Spirit is not willing that anyone should parade his own deeds and praise himself on account of them, the holy cross must soon follow. The world will not consent to be reprimanded for its blindness. Therefore one must willingly submit and suffer persecution. If we have the right kind of faith in our hearts, we must also open our mouths and confess righteousness and make known sin. Likewise we must condemn and punish the doings of this world and make it known that everything it undertakes, is damned."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 120. John 16:5-15.
"Not that they shall preach that we shall not understand them; but it naturally follows that wherever the Spirit does not reveal them, no one understands them."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 123. Luke 8:4-15
"However, here the Lord speaks quite differently, and says: 'The Holy Spirit will convict the world in respect of sin, because they believe not on me.' Unbelief only is mentioned here as sin, and faith is praised as suppressing and extinguishing the other sins, even the sins in the saints. Faith is so strong and overpowering that no sin dare put it under any obligation. Although sins are present in pious and believing persons, they are not imputed to them, nor shall their sins condemn them."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 127. John 16:5-15.
"Godly and believing persons know their sins; they bear all their punishment patiently, and are resigned to God's judgment without the least murmur; therefore, they are punished only bodily, and here in time, and their pain and suffering have an end. Unbelievers, however, since they are not conscious of their sins and transgressions, cannot bear God's punishment patiently, but they resent it and wish their life and works to go unpunished, yea, uncensured. Hence, their punishment and suffering are in body and soul, here in time, and last forever beyond this life."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 131. John 16:5-15.