Dear friends in Christ.
When I was growing up, my mom was an avid follower of the TV show MASH. Each week she made time to watch the new episodes as they came out, and then, when the re-runs began airing each afternoon on channel 9, she could be found watching them as she had the opportunity. It was because of her love for the show that I found myself constantly watching the show. Though I can’t say I was ever as big a fan as she was, because of the pattern of viewing MASH episodes every afternoon, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen most of the episodes. In fact, of all the episodes aired in the afternoons, the one I remember the most is the episode where Alan Alda’s character, Hawkeye Pierce, temporarily lost his eyesight. At first, he was scared and angry that he had lost his eyesight because a gas from a heater stove had flared back in his face, and he was worried that he might never regain his eyesight. Yet, as the episode went on he began using his other senses in ways he had never used them before; especially his hearing. In fact, in one conversation with his tent mate, he told how he had grown to simply love listening. He had spent the entire morning just sitting and listening to the rain as it fell. As he listened, he heard the different textures of sounds as the rain fell on the canvass of the tent and splashed into puddles. He even spoke about how funny it was to hear the sounds of someone slipping in the mud, falling, and splashing into a puddle. Because he wasn’t able to use his eyes, he began relying on his ears and he focused on intently listening to the world around him.
When it comes to God’s Word, we could take a lesson from this episode of MASH. For the truth is, there are times when each and every one of us needs to lose our eyesight for the word of God, so to speak, so that we are forced to pay attention and listen to what the Lord has to say to us in his word. For the truth is, so often we see what the Lord has to say, or we hear what he has to say, but we don’t really pay attention, because in some ways, God’s Word has become something that we take for granted, as many of us take our eyesight for granted. Sometimes, it seems that what we really need to do is take time to close the eyes of our sinful logic and actively listen to what the Lord is telling us with his Word.
As we study the Word of God before us today, I invite you to do just that. I invite you to close the eyes of your logic and reason as you actively listen to the Word of God with me by opening your Bibles to our Gospel lesson today, which can be found on page 968. Now, as we read just a few minutes ago, Matthew 13 is the very familiar account of Jesus teaching the crowds of people by the Sea of Galilee. It was one of those days that so many people had gathered to hear the Word of God that Jesus had to step into a boat and push off from shore a little ways so that he could be certain that the people would be able to hear what he was saying, because as he spoke the words of the parable to them. He was telling them exactly why it was so important for them to listen to the Word of God. We read in verse 3 and 4 of Matthew 13: “A farmer went out to sow his seed and as he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up” (Matthew 13:3,4).
As you know, farmers no longer walk up and down their fields scattering seeds. Instead we see them driving their tractors up and down, planting something like 16 rows at a time. But not even this guarantees complete safety for the seeds as you can often see flocks of birds circling the skies over a field that is being planted. You can watch as those birds start flying right behind the planter, land in the field and snatch up any of the seeds that they can after the planter has gone by. This is the danger that Jesus is warning us against as he calls on us to listen to the Word of God. As Jesus says in verse 19: Jump down to verse 19 with me and listen to Jesus’ explanation. He says, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path,” (Matthew 13:19).
In the same way that the birds longed to snatch the seeds form the sower, so also satan is always eager snatch the gospel away from us. That is his goal right now, even this morning, as the Word of God is being sown into your hearts. He is eagerly seeking ways to keep you from listening to the Word of God this morning so that he can snatch it away from you. He is looking for ways that he can snatch it away from you so that you will not hear it and will not grow in your faith and be strengthened in your faith. And yet, this is not his only goal. Though satan is patient and constantly seeking ways to distract us and snatch the Word from us, he also knows that he won’t be able to snatch it away from every one. He knows that there will be many in whose hearts the Word of God will be planted because they have listened to that Word, so for them he forms other plans. These are the plans that Jesus explains to us in verse 5-7 of chapter 13: Jesus tells us, “Some [seeds] fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants,” (Matthew 13:5-7).
I’d be willing to bet that you’ve noticed things like this as you drove passed different fields. Perhaps you’ve noticed a spot in a field of corn, or wheat, or soybeans that was a whole lot shorter than the rest of the field. Maybe it was a spot in the field that was simply dead. Though you could tell that the crops had once been thriving there, now there was nothing left, or if there was anything left it was just a huge patch of weeds. Again, these are descriptions of what satan longs to do to our faith when we take time to listen to the Word. As Jesus explains in verse 20-22 of chapter 13: Jesus says, beginning with verse 20: “The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful,” (Matthew 13:20-22).
Because we have listened to the Word of God and faith has been planted in our hearts, our crafty adversary will stop at nothing to destroy that faith. He will do everything he can, use every weapon in his arsenal, as he seeks to scorch our faith with hardship and choke it out with temptations. How often haven’t we felt the scorching heat of sickness, broken bones, terminal illness, job loss, financial troubles, bankruptcies and all the other hardships that seek to cause us to stop listening to God’s Word and doubt his love and promises? How often hasn’t satan sought to wither our faith as even our most trusted friends turn against us and laugh at us for belonging to a church like Grace? How often haven’t we been surprised by how many weeds satan has planted in our hearts; weeds that he hopes will wind their roots around the roots of our faith to choke it out from beneath even as its quick growth is designed to keep our faith from the light of God’s Word? How often don’t those weeds begin as simple little weeds that quickly grow into huge weeds of worries and despair that grow so dense all we hear is the rustling of our problems and we are long longer listening to the Word of God?
These are but a few of the ways that satan is constantly trying to distract us from the Word of God so that he can destroy our faith, and these are the very reasons why we need to be continually listening to the Word of God. We need to be continually listening to the Word of God, because it is God’s Word alone that strengthens our faith in our Savior and enables us to guard against our enemy. We need to be constantly listening to the Word of God for the strengthening of our faith as well as the comfort we receive in knowing that we belong to the Lord who has freed us from our sins, and will one day gather us into the store houses of heaven along with the rest of the harvest. Let’s take a closer look at that very assurance that the Lord gives us in verse 8 of Matthew 13: Jesus tells us: “Still other seed fell on the good soil where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown,” (Matthew 13:8).
If you’ve ever driven through the United States of America, you would have noticed that each state seems to have a different color soil. In Wisconsin the soil color varies from reddish-brown to sandy-brown. Down in Southern states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia you will often find soil with a reddish hue. Over in South Dakota they have some good dark colored soil, but I still haven’t found dark rich soil like we have here in Minnesota. Now, you can say that I’m biased, having grown up here, but truthfully, I have never seen any richer soil than what we have right here. This is the kind of soil that produces not merely abundant cops but often times produces a super abundance of what is planted in it. This is the kind of soil that our Savior is speaking about in his parable, and this is the type of soil into which the seed of the word was planted when it was planted into our hearts. Just as Jesus tells us in verse 23, “the one who received the seed that fell on the good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it,” (Matthew 13:23).
Though satan continually seeks to scorch our faith and choke it out with weeds of sorrow and temptation, Jesus assures us that we who have listened to his Word, have had that Word planted in the rich soil of our hearts and it has been growing there ever since. Now that the Lord has planted the seed of faith in our hearts, Jesus calls on us to be constantly listening to his Word, because it is that Word which waters our faith so it will grow. It is God’s Word that pulls out all the weeds that satan plants in our hearts so that our faith might stretch toward the light of the Word and continue to grow. It is the Word of God that continually cultivates the soil of our hearts so that the roots of our faith can grow down deep, so that not even the windstorm of satan’s temptations can uproot our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior.
So as you continue on in your Christian service, continue to listen to the Word of God. Make God’s Word a priority for your lives and set aside time each day to read it, study it, meditate on it, and listen to it. In the same way that Hawkeye Pierce was forced to utilize his other senses, especially his sense of listening, when he was accidently blinded, so also we need to take time each day to close the eyes of our human logic and reason and open our ears to listen to the sweet message of the Gospel. When we do this there may be times when we will be surprised to hear what the Lord is saying, there will be times when we are shocked. There will be times when we will be convicted. But every time we read we will find comfort in the gospel, assurance of the forgiveness of sins, and the comfort that comes from knowing we are God’s people destined for the harvest home of heaven.