The Parable of the Growing Seed Mark 4.26-29
-Jesus preached “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel”. Jesus
-Parables are about the Kingdom of God
-Jesus taught only in parables to conceal the truth from the religious leaders and from the people.
Details of the Parable
1) A man. Not anyone in particular. Not lazy. Inactive in the growth process. Knows not how the seed grows.
2) The seed. Not the Word of God but represents the Kingdom of God itself. Sprouts, grows, the ear, then the full grain in the ear, then the harvest. Joel 3.13; Rev 14.14-15
3) The ground. Seed growth in the ground is automatic and certain because of the power in the seed.
The Kingdom: is come, is growing, and will reach its purpose
-A statement of fact and a reminder to us.
-A revelation of fulfillment to original listeners.
-God’s assurance of what He has begun He will fulfill.
What does this mean to me?
1) Absolute Certainty of coming, growth and fulfillment.
2) Confidence before skeptics and evolutionists.
3) Call to see the eternal in the midst of the present.
Will this truth control your choices today and this week? Are you looking for the city with foundations whose designer and builder is God? Are you seeking Him who is invisible? Will you live in this present reality?
The Parable of the Growing Seed Mark 4.26-29
This morning I would like to study with you this very simple parable of the growing seed. When Jesus began his ministry he preached, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel”. Jesus came not only to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God, but also to bring to fulfillment the OT promises of the Kingdom of God. When Jesus came to earth, he came as the King and established the Kingdom of God on earth.
As the ministry of Jesus progressed he taught the crowds only in parables. The parables which Jesus taught were truths about the Kingdom of God. We may draw many lessons from the parables of Jesus but we need to understand the parables of Jesus first as teachings about the Kingdom of God. The parables teach us about the coming of the King, which was Jesus. They teach us about the coming and growth of the Kingdom of God, which was already at hand. And these parables teach us about behavior in the Kingdom of God.
Let me remind you that Jesus taught in parables to conceal the truth from those who were listening to him teach. When the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke to the crowds in parables he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given”. (Matthew 13.11).
By speaking in parables Jesus concealed the truth from the religious leaders. By not openly speaking the truth, Jesus prevented his enemies from directly accusing him of false teaching and prohibiting his ministry. Speaking in parables allowed Jesus to teach truth and not be charged with direct statements against the religious leaders. When Jesus was brought before the Council to accuse him and put him to death it was hard for the Council to find false testimony against Jesus because he had not spoken the truth directly but in parables? (Matthew 26.59).
By speaking in parables Jesus also concealed the truth from the common people. The hearts of the crowds were hard, their ears were deaf to the truth, their eyes were blind. They did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. By speaking in parables, Jesus challenged the crowds to think about what he was teaching. Speaking in parables had God’s future grace in mind for these people. They were not forced to make a decision about Jesus as they listened but could go away considering what Jesus said. Later after Pentecost and the clear preaching of the cross and the resurrection, these same people could make a more informed decision about Jesus.
Now back to the parable. In this parable Jesus is going to give us a picture of what the Kingdom of God is like. It is a very simple picture. It is the picture of a man who plants seed and as the days pass the seed grows and matures, and the mature crop is finally harvested. There is nothing complicated or special about this natural process of growth that is a picture of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Let’s take a look at some of the details of the parable and then draw some conclusions from the parable.
1) There is a man. This man does not represent Jesus or an evangelist or anyone in particular. We are to focus on the growth process in the parable not the activity of the man. / The statement that the man “sleeps and rises night and day” is not a statement about the man’s laziness but marks the passing of time. / The parable points out the fact that the growth of the seed is not because of the man’s activity but is a result of the seed and the ground. / This man “knows not how” the process of growth takes place but watches with amazement the growth of the seed into a full plant. / The man takes part in the harvest when the plant is ready. / The language of harvest used in the parable reflects Joel 3.13 and Revelation 14.14-15, which speak of the final judgment of God. / The man scattered seed, watched it grow without knowing how the growth took place, and reaped the harvest. The focus is on the growth of the seed and the certainty that the seed will grow into a harvest.
2) There is the seed. It would be easy to say that the seed is the Word of God. This parable follows the parable of the Sower and the four soils where we are told that the seed is the Word of God. In that parable the emphasis is on the reception of the Word of God by different people and the fruitfulness of the seed in those who truly hear the Word of God and accept it. The Word of God is very important in the growth process of the Kingdom of God. But in this parable the seed does not represent the Word of God but is representative of the Kingdom of God itself. / The seed sprouts and grows, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. As I drive the grandkids to school each morning I have been watching the brown fields turn green with the new blades of the sprouting seeds and I know that later this year those small blades of green will be large plants full of corn. / Like a single seed the Kingdom of God grows and multiplies and one day a final harvest will take place.
3) Finally there is the ground where the seed is planted. In verse 28 Jesus says, “the earth produces by itself”. The word translated “by itself” is “automate”. The growth process of the seed is automatic. In the seed is the power to grow and once in the ground that power is released and growth is automatic and certain.
In this parable Jesus is teaching his disciples that the kingdom of God has come to earth and that the process of growth in the Kingdom of God is underway. In time the growth of the Kingdom of God will become evident to everyone and one day the Kingdom of God will reach its fullness when the Lord returns. In this parable Jesus expressed the certainty that the Kingdom of God had come to earth, the process of steady growth that would take place, and the assurance that the Kingdom of God would reach its full growth by the power of God.
To us the teaching in this parable is not new or amazing but a simple statement of fact and a reminder of what we already know. For those who were listening and understood what Jesus was saying it was a revelation of the fulfillment of the long awaited promises of God. For those in the early church and to us today as well, this parable was and is God’s assurance that the Kingdom of God on earth which came in Jesus Christ is growing and will be brought to its final and full conclusion.
What this parable does for us today is give us absolute certainty that God is working in the present, and that God will complete all He has planned for the future. In the midst of a world in upheaval it is good to know that God’s promises and purposes are certain.
Throughout the history of the church there have been skeptics who have pointed out that the world has not changed for thousands of years. They have pointed out that the promised coming of Christ has not materialized, and that things have continued to go on as they have for many years. As we read in 2 Peter 3.4, “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’” They are saying, “We do not see any evidence of the Kingdom of God established and growing in this world. Who are you trying to fool with all this talk of the Kingdom of God on earth?”
On the other hand are those who believe in the progress of evolution that man is slowly progressing toward a utopian society, a new world order where science and knowledge will bring sickness, poverty, economies, and nature under control and create global peace, health and prosperity for all. History is moving toward paradise on earth, even though it may take another a million years to reach it.
This parable has the answer to both of these false claims. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God, full of peace and joy, will only come by the work of God through Jesus Christ. Only those who choose to be in the Kingdom of God see the Kingdom of God growing and reaching its fullness. In this parable we have God’s assurance that His kingdom has come, and we have the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that validates this promise of the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come. The promise of God’s established Kingdom is a theme of Scripture and the final coming of that Kingdom is described in the book of Revelation.
The skeptics are blind to the process of God’s maturing Kingdom. The lie of evolution looks to man and not to God for a future paradise. But it is God who is Sovereignly working in the present growth of the Kingdom of God and will bring it to His desired end. I pray you are in God’s Kingdom and participating in God’s Kingdom work.
How does this parable help me today?
1) We know that when we plant a seed we will reap a harvest. We are sure that at the first coming of Jesus Christ that the King and the Kingdom of God came to earth. We know that with the first coming of Jesus Christ came the promise of the full harvest. Jesus Christ is the firstfruit of a full harvest of sons. We know that in Jesus Christ is the certain destiny of God’s people and my certain destiny in the Kingdom of God. This is not a desire, a wish, I hope that this will happen, but a certainty, as certain as the birth and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is why John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3.1-2). That is why Paul can write, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13.12). My brothers and sisters, your future in the Kingdom of God is guaranteed by what God has already done in Christ. The criticism of the skeptics and the lies of evolution cannot take that assurance away.
2) This parable teaches me to see what is not yet fulfilled and to patiently wait for the fulfillment. We are to see what God is doing and not only what appears before us. People may mock us by asking “Where is your God in this tragedy? Why is evil winning in the world? Why does not God bring justice?” In light of this parable we must answer that God’s Kingdom has come, that God’s Kingdom is being established, and that God’s Kingdom will one day reach its fullness, even though we do not know at present how this is being worked out in detail. We see seeds growing and fruit maturing and look for the final harvest to come. Like Paul, “We do not lose heart. …We look not at the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4.16-18). As John writes, “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2.17).
So what is going to control your choices today and this week? Will what seems to be happening in the world and what the world teaches as true control your life choices? Or will the reality of the established and growing Kingdom of God be the controlling reality in your life? Are you looking toward “the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God” or are you looking to this world for hope? Are you seeing “Him who is invisible” and the Kingdom He is building or do you only see world economies, world leaders and science at work? May God grip us with the reality that He has come to earth and set up His Kingdom in Jesus Christ, and that by the Holy Spirit His Kingdom is growing according to His plan, and that we can be part of that great plan, and that one day God’s Kingdom will be fully established on earth as it is in heaven. What a privilege to be called by God to know and see this truth and to be part of His growing Kingdom. We are to live our lives in the certainty of the present and coming Kingdom of God.