46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Dear Fellow Redeemed:
Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (45); that’s what Jesus has said just prior to our text. The abundance of the heart - Our heart is a certain thing by nature; it’s built on a foundation that cannot withstand its greatest threat. Our heart becomes something else by the Spirit’s power in Word and Baptism; it gets built on a foundation that can endure. It has faith that clings to Christ for forgiveness and salvation.
It can be confusing to hear Jesus talking about doing His Words, like He does in our text. Doing makes us think of works, and of earning from God - which the Parable of the Vineyard Workers demonstrated last week that no one can do. We think of the scribes and Pharisees when we think of an attempt to earn from God.
That isn’t what Jesus means here. He’s speaking the same way here as when He said onetime, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent (John 6:29).” So, hearing Jesus’ words and doing them means believing them. It means having a heart that trusts in Jesus’ redemption, having faith in Him. Godly things we do are a fruit of the believing. The believing and the godly actions are brought about by God, not us.
Jesus’ illustrates in our text that, to believe in Him is to have what withstands the greatest threat. Two men build houses with different foundations (the houses are really their lives). According to the illustration, the houses need to be built to withstand the danger of the flooding stream breaking against them. Death is the greatest threat to our lives, isn’t it? That’s what the flooding stream is. It ends our temporal lives. It is the curse that God pronounced upon the first people after they sinned. We have inherited their sinful nature. That nature rightly earns eternal death.
But by God’s grace, there is another opportunity. Remember that the foundation of our houses must be able to withstand our greatest threat; in other words: what we put our trust in for salvation and eternal life must be able to overcome death. Of course, we know Christ, Who rose from death - defeating it - is that sure foundation that withstands what threatens us. He was perfect for us, and He died for us to remove death’s sting. It is for us, now, an entrance to eternal life.
Jesus is frustrated in the beginning of our text because He keeps putting His Words out there to people who evidently aren’t allowing them to provide that saving foundation, to powerfully change their hearts. A good example of this comes earlier in Luke’s sixth chapter. Jesus has spoken His words continuously to certain hearers (even healing before their eyes a man’s shriveled hand); but it says of the scribes and Pharisees, that they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus (6-11). They were hearing His Words, but not doing them; not allowing them to produce faith in their hearts for salvation. Their ears were closed to His Words like a hard path that doesn’t allow a sower’s seed to penetrate and bear fruit (that from Jesus’ parable in our gospel lesson).
The scribes and Pharisees were pretty tough nuts, whose devotion to the idea of saving themselves with their works ran deep; but there is danger for others as well - for you even (the sower in Jesus’ parable throws his seed, not just onto the hard path, but in a few other places as well).
Jesus has talked in this sixth chapter of Luke about what this life of faith in Him is like. Here’s one of the things He has said: Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man (22)! Talk about a hindrance to faith! That’s quite a thing for anyone to be signing up for, isn’t it - being hated, excluded, reviled, having your name spurned as evil? That’s what Jesus’ Words are promising to people. A little after that in the chapter, He says, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you….lend, expecting nothing in return (27-28,35).
Of course, all of those things demonstrate how God is (long-suffering, merciful), and reasonably, then, how His people should be. Those are just the kind of things our old nature hates, though! We want our treatment of people to be conditional upon their treating us right. We love words like deserving, and fair. We like statements like same to you! And here Jesus is, telling us that being sons of the Most High is what we should want instead of the vengeance that our natural heart desires.
The sower’s seed lands also in the rocky ground, which represents a person with shallow faith who falls away in the time of testing. Speaking of that time of testing: it’s one thing for Jesus to say to us (and for us, for the moment, to accept) that people will treat us badly because of Him; it’s another thing when it actually happens. There is great danger for us that we would rather just hate people right back (like the world does), that we would rather just exclude them, and revile them, and spurn their name as evil in return. There is danger that we would choose the natural condition of our heart over the new heart that the Spirit has created in us through the power of God’s Word and Baptism. There is danger that we would fall away in a time of testing.
It isn’t so hard to imagine, is it? The devil loves the idea, and works toward it. The world encourages it. Our sinful nature strives to be in control of our heart, casting off the newness that the Spirit has created.
And then we see why Jesus is frustrated at the beginning our text at people posturing at being His followers without really allowing His Word to take root in their hearts.
In boxing, one fighter extends his glove forward toward his target, but at the last second the other turns slightly so that the glove just kind of slides off the side without making much of an impact. We would never want God’s Word to be hitting us with a glancing blow like that. We wouldn’t want to be deceiving ourselves by turning up on Sunday morning, and eh, kind of paying attention to what’s being presented, though it’s just one of the things on our mind (and that would be a real shame, because what happens here on Sunday morning is really just a very slight introduction to God’s Word, isn’t it?). The devil is very interested in making your exposure to God’s Word be like the sower’s seed that fell among weeds, to let it sit there harmlessly (from his perspective) among life’s worries, riches and pleasures that choke out the faith that had begun.
Jesus wants your hearing to result in a heart that clings to Him in faith for every minute of the rest of your life. He wants you to be confident in approaching God in prayer every day, knowing that He is your dear Father, who has redeemed you in the blood of Christ. He wants you to know Him so much better than you’ve known Him to this point - even if you’re a regular reader of His Word (but all the more if you haven’t been). He wants you to let Him defend you from what endangers your heart. He wants your life to be built on His foundation that withstands what threatens your eternal soul.
He wants you to question this morning, Have I been calling Him Lord, Lord, but not doing what He tells me? Have I been hearing His Words and not doing them - not allowing them to penetrate my heart, to fortify me against death and hell that threaten? And then, He wants you to recommit yourself this morning to knowing Him through His Words, to praying to Him as the foundation of your life.
I read the book of Isaiah this week because a portion of it is our Old Testament lesson. I was kind of looking for a way to use this passage I came across in that book. I think this is the place.
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
4 even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.
Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. Being assured in those words is the foundation for your life that endures. Him carrying you includes Him forgiving you in Christ. It includes Him providing the Spirit’s power in Word and Supper to sustain you throughout the trials that you will endure on account of the Son of Man. It includes Him giving you joy as sons of the Most High even in the midst of those trials.
Cling to Jesus and His Words as the foundation that stands secure unto eternal life. He will carry, and He will save. Amen.
Other Lessons for this week:
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
2 Corinthians 11:19-12:9
You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
St. Luke 8:4-15
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.