Most of Jesus’ contemporaries were familiar with sowing seeds and harvesting crops. Thus, Jesus used agriculture in His parables (three of four in Mark 4). Yet, I wonder if some hearers were confused, curious why He spoke of seeds and fields and trees and harvest, but not about serving God, our hope, God’s word, etc.. Of course, He did speak on all of these things, but some may not have understood. In fact, even His own disciples at times did not understand (Mark 4:10-13).
Another Kingdom Parable
Mark gives a parable not found in Matthew or Luke:
And He said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:26-29)
We’ve noted previously that much of what Jesus said in His parables dealt with the kingdom of God – His people, the church. He spoke of the kingdom’s value, its growth, the conduct of its citizens, the time of judgment, etc. What can we learn about the kingdom in Mark 4:26-29?
Sowing and Growing Seed
We are responsible for sowing seed (the sower parable). We are seed sowers, not soil judges. But what about after the seed is sown? How do we make it grow? What can we do to speed up the harvest? How can we be assured of an excellent crop?
Modern-day agriculture offers various fertilizers, modified seeds and so forth to help promote growth. In fact, there is a grass seed now which can grow on concrete! Technology like this would be foreign to Jesus’ audience and is irrelevant so far as the spiritual application of His parable. After the ground is worked and the seed is sown, the farmer must wait (sleep by night and rise by day). Whether it is a stalk of corn or a man’s soul – the increase is of the Lord. Paul acknowledged this:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he who plants anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
When we sow seed we don’t expect a mature plant immediately. It takes time for the plant to grow. It begins with a blade, then the head appears, but it is not ready yet. Soon the head is full of grain and ready for harvest. So it is with the soul. It is necessary for the kingdom seed to germinate in the heart. When it has taken root, it begins to grow. As the plant starts small and grows so it will be in our hearts. The seed takes root and at first is small and immature; but as time passes and God supplies the increase, the seed of the kingdom will produce fruit ready for harvest in our lives.
B.W. Johnson commented:
…we have no right to look for the end at the beginning, the ripened Christian experience in the young convert, the full corn in the first appearance of the blade… (People’s New Testament Commentary)
Preparing For Harvest
What a wonderful place we occupy, to see the wonder of God’s bountiful grace at work in people’s lives. Those who once were perpetual sinners are remoulded, yea, reborn as children of light. As time passes by, the expectation is that the light in one’s heart grows brighter and brighter. Today’s seedlings of faith are tomorrow’s timbers! On more than one occasion in Scripture we are encouraged to grow in faith, to not remain children, but to move on to maturity. This is God’s plan for everyone.
Receive the seed of the kingdom. Let it take hold in your heart. Grow to be what God would have you be. Become ripened grain, ready for harvest time.