Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the fourth chapter. Mark 4:26–34
Beloved in the Lord,
This morning (evening) we find ourselves in the green season – the season of life in the pasture – where our Good Shepherd, our crucified and resurrected Shepherd, gently leads us poor lambs to streams of living water. With the rod of His Law he rebukes us and with the staff of His Gospel He comforts us, reminding us of His presence in our midst. Jesus has not left us forsaken. Though He is risen and ascended He is still caring for each and every one of us. He is still watching over you. He is still speaking to you through His Word, forgiving you of your sins, binding up your wounded hearts, and nourishing you for life in His eternal kingdom.
Yes, beloved it is the green season, the season of life in the pasture and our Savior has once again entered our midst, calling us to Himself, calling us by name, calling us out of the work-a-day world to come and rest right here in this place. The world we form and fashion for ourselves is filled with business, recreation, stress, pressure, deadlines, expectations, family crisis, sin, and death. This earthly house, this tent we live in is crumbling. Our bodies are growing weary of a broken creation’s yoke. We bare the curse of sin, devil, and death.
Gathering here, around our Savior, apart from all of that stuff, we receive from His gracious heart gifts that have been purchased with holy blood. We receive peace with God and spiritual strength for the days ahead. Therefore, dear ones, lend your ears to the lover of your soul and He will mend your heart with a gracious Word.
His Word to us this morning (evening) teaches us of the kingdom of God. “The Kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed upon the earth.” And again, “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.” Two parables provide a rich feast for the soul to chew on today. Both teach of the Kingdom. Both teach of the King. Both make use of a seed.
In the first Jesus is the sower and the seed is the Word. The earth is the hearts of men. And this is a most comforting parable. For with these words the Savior teaches us of the power of the Word. Faith which saves, faith which clings to Jesus and through His blood justifies from sin, death, and hell, this faith comes by hearing the Word of Jesus. Our hearts receive this Word like seed cast upon the ground. And this seed bears fruit within us. Apart from this seed the earth is simply dry ground, no blade, no stalk, no fruit – because there is no life in the earth apart from the Seed – there is no life in our hearts apart from the Word. Thus there is no peace and no strength – apart from the Word.
The ungodly- those who do not trust in Jesus – these seek after life apart from the Word. And we find ourselves tempted to do the same. The ungodly look within themselves. Ever the enthusiasts – those looking for God within themselves – they believe their hearts already have life apart from God’s Word. How do they know? – they feel it, or they experience it. Emotions and happenstance become the proof – the certainty – for their justification. Others trust their knowledge. Like the Gnostics of old they believe that the more one learns, the more one studies, the more one advances through academics and philosophies and science, then the more life they can have within themselves. Still others, wishing to sanctify themselves, cling to their morality. Religious piety, no matter which religion, no matter if it’s conservative or liberal, becomes the source for all they do, hope for, believe in. All of these, in some way or another may give the appearance of life, but apart from the Word of God – they are still dead. They are still dry ground; no blade, no stalk, no fruit.
Jesus teaches us that all life rests in the Word. The sower doesn’t make use of special techniques. The Earth is not specially prepared. The Power lies within the Seed! Automatically it bears fruit when planted home. The Power of life is in the Word. The burden of life is in the Word. The certainty of life is in the Word. This brings great comfort to sinners like us for the burden of life does not rest within ourselves. It is given to us. It is sown within us. It is all gift, all by grace, all from the hand of Jesus.
The heart that receives the Word receives forgiveness, life and salvation. First sprouts faith, then the fruits of faith surely follow; love and good works towards our neighbor. These stem from the seed, from the Word, from the Gospel. Faith comes by hearing the Gospel. Receive the Gospel and you receive the Faith. Receive the Faith and you will work out your salvation with love.
With the seed of God’s Word now planted within us Jesus broadens our understanding of the Kingdom in the second parable. “To what shall we liken the Kingdom of God? Or in what parable shall we picture it. It is like a mustard seed.” Here, Jesus takes a step back and sets before us a bigger picture, one that is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our world, bigger than our individual faith.
In this bigger picture we find a Farmer planting the smallest of seeds which in turn becomes the largest of garden plants. And so we see the Father giving His Son. Jesus is the mustard Seed. Isaiah 53 says, “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
Think beloved of the little babe of Bethlehem, of the small following of Jesus at the time of His death. Ponder how “in a despised corner of the world, from a carpenter’s home, came a teacher who gathered a handful of ordinary disciples and then fell into the hands of his enemies and died a wretched . . . death. This was no tower of Babel, nothing big in the eyes of the world.” Yet, this was the planting of a mustard seed into the earth.
Just as the crushing of a mustard seed produces an odorous smell so also is Christ’s passion for sinners a pungent aroma before the world. For the world does not know the love of God. Yet the Lord was delighted to bruise Him. Therefore Jesus’ death is a delightful fragrance before His Father in Heaven. The cross is God’s topping of the great tree and the planting of God’s mighty cedar in Israel. The cross destroys man’s glory with God’s humiliation. The cross exalts God’s Son with a shameful death. The cross leaves humanity without hope in itself and directs all hearts to hope in Jesus. There is no life in the deeds of humanity – only in the death of the Son of God for the life of the world. It is this planting that has saved the world, saved you, from the destruction that your sins have deserved.
Rising from obscurity, even out of the depths of death itself, the body of Christ is firmly planted in the world. The seed has become a tree with many branches. The Christ presents Himself in His Church with many members. The fruit of this tree is for the feeding of the nations. The pinnacle of God’s creation; men, women, children and infants, gather under the shade of its branches and receive the sweet nectar of forgiveness. For this seed planted in Israel has become the largest of all plants, the branches of which span across time and space. They reach into every corner of the world. They are found in every nation. And the fragrance of their fruit gives aroma to the vocations of humanity. The birds of heaven, those who do not believe, nest under its branches and enjoy the benefits of Christ’s Christians. Even those who seek to break her branches – persecute the church – only add to her growth! The branches bend and break under the violence of an ungrateful race and their sap anoints the earth with holy blood. For the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
Beloved in the Lord, as we begin the green season, the season of life in the pasture, we are given two parables to chew on. These hold before our hearts the power of the Word and the passion of the Christ. Through the Word we are born again. Life sprouts in our hearts and we begin to bear fruit. The life of the Word is rooted in the life of the Christ! For Christ is the Word made flesh and He has been given over into death that you and I may never die. We live in Him as we live in His Church. Receiving the Word we receive Christ – all by grace, all a gift, all in love.
Let us hold fast this Word by faith and therefore receive peace and strength for today, tomorrow and forever more. AMEN.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI