Jesus’ parable of the soils dovetails nicely with 2 Corinthians chapter two, where Saint Paul says: Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
Sowing a seed into soil where it will be rejected doesn’t sound like a triumphal procession. But it’s not the seed’s fault. It is also not the sower’s fault. The Seed of the Word of God is to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. That’s the way it is with Jesus Christ. Either He smells like life or He smells like death.
You shouldn’t be surprised that the Good News of Jesus’ victory over sin and death has smelled like death for years. Many Jews of our Lord’s time certainly didn’t like that smell. Jesus smelled like cheap grace. The Gospel smelled like unclean Gentiles let into a party where only pure and holy Jews were invited. That’s precisely the message of the Gospel, but many Jews didn’t want to hear it. So they held their noses and smelled what they wanted to smell: salvation by keeping God’s Law.
The fragrance of Christ still smells that way to many today, whether Jew or Gentile. Some place human wisdom above the Gospel because it makes sense. One excuse is that God is so mean to allow people to die horrible deaths or allow genocide. God should be more loving, at least loving according to human wisdom.
Consider also what aroma the Christian Church emits when she teaches that God is far away and not interested in what goes on in your life. He’s there when you need him like the good neighbor in State Farm insurance commercials. The Church is guilty of teaching that Jesus’ death does not save you. Being nice, doing the right thing, and loving everybody is what counts with God. Some preachers have called it “possibility thinking”. Be positive and others will be positive back to you. Fill the world with being nice. After all, good people go to heaven when they die.
No wonder so many harden themselves against God’s Word. No wonder so many let go of Jesus after they have first believed in Him. The devil plants a seed of doubt next to the Seed of the Word of God. The world lures you away from the Good News to idolatry of cares and pleasures of life. Your own sinful flesh rejects Christ’s forgiveness and life. It looks for another way to eternal life. Jesus smells like death.
When you walk in the way of death, the Word ultimately serves as your hardening according to God’s righteous judgment. Salvation is yours. He gives it to you. But you don’t want it. You reject the gift thinking you will find something better someplace else. You become incompetent and unfit to grasp and understand the divine mysteries. The longer you hear the Word, the angrier you are. Then comes death and condemnation. You wanted it that way, so that’s what you receive. That’s the lot of three out of four soils.
There is one soil, however, that receives the Seed of the Word with joy. These understand the mystery of the kingdom of God. The mystery of the kingdom is that your heavenly Father has saved you from everlasting sin and death through Jesus’ blood and merit. Peace with God is yours because of the living Word Who becomes man. God’s kingdom is your precious treasure, His free gift for you. This Word puts down roots and brings forth fruit with patience.
The Seed is nourished with baptismal water, with the Body and Blood of Christ, and with the Word of life that bespeaks you righteous before God the Father. God says through the prophet Isaiah that the Word shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
The Holy Spirit blows in the Word. He gives you understanding of all the divine mysteries. Chief among the mysteries of God is rightly recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord of life and God of your salvation. He alone Who is the Alpha and Omega works the beginning, continuation, and ending of faith. As we prayed in the Introit from Psalm 44: You have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to Your Name forever. Now that smells like eternal life! And so do you in Jesus Christ. Believe it for His sake.