Meditations for Troubled Times
“And he said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.’” (Mark 4:26-28)
Parables can be described as earthly stories with heavenly messages. They include elements of everyday life, which communicate lessons about spiritual realities. We find them in the old and new testaments, conveying everything from the sinfulness of man to the saving grace of God. In Mark 4:26-29, Jesus tells a parable to teach us about sowing seeds of truth and a sovereign God. Why did Jesus tell it? He did so because we are easily distracted from our God-given activities, and we doubt that the Lord is over all.
Notice, first, how Jesus starts this parable. He makes a comparison. “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.” When people think of a kingdom, what often comes to mind? Things like mighty armies, beautiful palaces, and extravagant wealth. Since Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God, you might expect him to make connections with the grandeur of Rome or some other powerful empire. However, Jesus likens it to something common, to seeds and how they grow. This is a reminder to us that the kingdom of God is not defined by what characterizes the kingdoms of this world, and it does not grow like them. In many ways it is the opposite. Thus, we should not expect the church to truly flourish through the means of market strategies.
How does God’s kingdom grow? In the parable, Jesus said that the farmer simply sows the seed, goes to sleep, wakes up, day after day, and unbeknownst to him, a harvest emerges. A master gardener might respond, “Is Jesus really saying that a farmer just sits back and does nothing? That he simply lets go and lets it grow?” No, the point of Jesus’ parable is not to give all the duties of the farmer. It’s to highlight that he is not the cause of growth. He sows seed, but the harvest is produced independent of himself. The Lord brings first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
Jesus’ comments are instructive for us, especially in our current circumstances. It’s easy to find ourselves paralyzed by the various problems surrounding us, personally and socially. What are we to do as we face it all? How about sow seeds? How about walk wisely before a watching world and speak winsomely of sin and the Savior (Colossians 4:5-6)? How about trust our Sovereign Lord to work? He’s the one who makes his kingdom grow. He takes our feeble efforts at sowing seeds in our lives and the lives of others, and he uses them to produce a harvest. Martin Luther reiterated this point when he famously said, “I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends the Gospel ran its course and overthrew empires. I did nothing; the Word, did everything.” Don’t become distracted, then. Don’t doubt God’s activity. Plant the good seed of the gospel, and patiently watch to see what happens. The kingdom of God will develop. The Lord will, most assuredly, bring growth in his timing. Just be faithful.