We’re set upon the very eve of Lent. We’re preparing to recall the most intimate work of Jesus of Nazareth—the Son of God—as He makes His way into Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world. We’re preparing to take in the details, as affronting as they may be.
We’re preparing to wonder at this great, but disfigured, spectacle.
The Gospel text for Septuagesima, Matthew 20:1-16, helped to get us ready. By it, Jesus presented the backward story of a Master who rewarded the workers, not according to their labors, but according to His generosity. He didn’t give them what they deserved, but according to what flowed from His kindly heart concerned for their well-being.
There goes Jesus. He’s entering into Jerusalem. He’s being kindly. He’s being generous. He’s not leaving us to our demise—to what we deserve—but rather is giving Himself in our place. He’s being as generous as anyone would never be—the innocent One giving Himself for the guilty so that we would be declared innocent by His work.
Then there was the Sunday of Sexagesima. The text from Luke 8:4-15 continued the preparation. It considered the backwardness of the Gospel Word of God and it whispers, “Do you even believe a word of it?”
It set before us a parable of a sower who goes out to sow seed. It tells of various types of soil, each a recipient of the seed. And as each soil receives the seeds, only one is considered good soil. Only one takes the seed into itself and produces a hearty crop.
The disciples don’t understand, and so they ask Jesus to explain. And He does, finally telling them that seed is the Word of God, and the good soil are those who hear the Word and hold fast to it, who bear fruit by it. All the other soils either despised it, found little use for it, or accepted it according to their own determinations.
But again, not the good soil.
Interestingly, there’s a summarizing verse in this parable that seems to bring the entire section of parables together. It’s verse 18, and in it Jesus concludes, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
Then there was Quinquagesima Sunday. Luke 18:31-43 was its voice. There we were prepared to see the One going into Jerusalem to save us. As we beheld Him, we were implored to take Him for all that He is—namely that he is the Word made flesh dwelling among us. To reject His Word is to reject Him. To reject Him, is to reject the all-availing sacrifice He made on our behalf.
This is to be any soil but the good soil.
“Take care then how you hear,” Jesus urges. As Lent takes hold of you and pulls you toward its center, receive the Law and Gospel—the stinging and chastising and cultivating, as well as the reinstating and comforting and healing. The whole of it is good. It’s given in love from a God whose desire is to save you rather than give you what you deserve.