We tend to think of the Parable of the Sower as a commentary on evangelism. As congregations spread the Word of God, the majority of our work will not result in a harvest. A remarkable 75% of the effort appears to be wasted as faith is either never created at all, or quickly meets its demise. Only 25% of the Word yields a harvest. While this does give some insight into why every congregation isn’t bursting at the seams and planting new churches every year, it’s not the main reason why Jesus tells the Parable. Three verses after the Parable Jesus tells us why He told it. He said, “Take care, then, how you hear.” That’s a sobering sentence. “Take care, then, how you hear.” The Parable of the Sower isn’t about analyzing everyone else and how they responded to the Word. The Parable of the Sower is about me taking a look at my own life to realize that I have not been careful in how I heard and received the Word.
When god created the world, everything was “very good.” In that perfection, man was able to hear the Word of God rightly. Adam and Eve’s hearts were, by nature, good soil. The Word could take root and yield a hundredfold harvest. There was only faith toward God and fervent love toward one another. Unfortunately, the sower in today’s Parable isn’t the only sower. The devil also sows. He sows the seeds of doubt and unbelief. He sowed those seeds in Adam and Eve and there was an immediate harvest of death. Man fell into sin and lost the image of his Creator and the perfect relationship between God and His creation was destroyed. Because of sin, man’s heart now has rocks, thorns, trampling feet, and demonic, devouring birds, all ready to destroy the seed of faith and its fruits. Each seed bears fruit according to its kind, and we are now in the image and likeness of Adam, marred by sin, and we, too, are inheritors and breeders of sin and death. No one is exempt from this death-causing sin.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.