The Parable Of The Growing Seed

Introduction

This parable is only found in Mark’s Gospel and it’s a parable that’s closely related to “The parable of the Sower” which is found in Mark 4:1-20.

Jesus often introduces a parable with the phrase, “the kingdom of heaven is like.” For example, in Matthew 13:34 Jesus says, “the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” In Matthew 13:44 He says that “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.”

In Mark 4:26-29, we find ‘The Parable Of The Growing Seed,” where again Jesus introduces His parable with the phrase, “this is what the kingdom of God is like.”

Jesus has just finished explaining to His disciples ‘The Parable Of The Sower.’ But the disciples still didn’t understand and so Jesus asks them in Mark 4:13 ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?’ And so Jesus explains “The parable of Sower” to them and we pick the story up from Mark 4:26.

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain–first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

We’re not mistakes of God, we’re not fellow mistakes with Christ and we’re certainly not mistakes of God’s kingdom. In fact, we’re a part of the kingdom which God spoke about way back in Old Testament times. So before we get into the meaning of the parable I would like to say a few words about this kingdom.

The word ‘kingdom’ literally means ‘reign or rule’ and the idea of the kingdom has its roots way back in the Old Testament. From the beginning, the people of Israel are described as being unique and a chosen people of God. They are the recipients of His special favour and God Himself is their King.

The people wanted Gideon to rule over them and be their king but he tells them that God Himself will be their leader and He will rule over them, Judges 8:22-23.

If you have a kingdom, you need a king to rule over that kingdom. And in 1 Samuel 8 we find that God’s people are looking for a physical king, 1 Samuel 8:5. But Samuel wasn’t very impressed with this, so he prayed to God.

In other words, they already had a King, God was their King, so the Israelites weren’t rejecting Samuel, they were rejecting God Himself, 1 Samuel 8:7.

But even though they rejected God, God gave them a king, King Saul, but as time went on, those who were wise, recognised that there was no other authority except God’s authority, Psalm 103:19.

And it was during the days of David and Solomon that the Israelite’s kingdom reached its peak, but as we know, even this was short-lived. And so they lost their kingdom because they rejected their true King and His commands, and they ended up in captivity.

And it’s during this time in captivity that the prophet Jeremiah gets a word from the Lord, Jeremiah 30:8-9, as does Daniel, Daniel 2:44. In other words, God was saying that there was a time coming when He would reaffirm His kingly reign and restore to His honour the people called by His name.

After John the baptiser was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God. And He said in Mark 1:15 “The time has come; the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Jesus said a little later in Mark 9:1 “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”

Now did that time come? I believe it did. In the Book of Acts, we find people being added into that kingdom, Acts 2:47. And remember we’re dealing with a spiritual kingdom here, not a physical one.

The first thing we need to notice is that the kingdom isn’t something that sprung up in a moment, Mark 4:26-29. It was planned, it was prepared for and brought into being in the past and even now awaits its final consummation.

In other words, it started its life in the mind of God, it was spoken of by the Old Testament prophets as we looked at a moment ago.

Jesus said it was near and in Acts 2 the spiritual kingdom was established. And if you’re a Christian today then you can be sure that you’re part of that kingdom today, Colossians 1:13-14 / Hebrews 12:28-29. In other words, we’re in that kingdom now, 2 Peter 1:10-11.

Just as a side note whenever the Bible talks about the kingdom in the future tense, it’s talking about heaven itself. And this is the central truth taught in this parable. The kingdom spreads all over the world. And that’s what we’re going to look at, the growth of this spiritual kingdom.

I want to share with you 4 points about kingdom growth.

1. “The kingdom growth is gradual”.

In the production of grain, nature works step by step, in other words, there’s a step-by-step process by which it grows. And nearly all of its marvels are formed gradually. And those of you who are gardeners will plant a seed in the ground and after a while, you will see the results of that growth.

But the actual process of growth is barely visible, and it’s the same with the kingdom of God. Jesus says in the second half of Mark 4:28 “First the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” And if we were to apply this parable to an individual person, we would get a lesson in patience.

Christian growth is gradual, when a baby is born, they don’t walk and talk straight away, they have to be encouraged to walk and talk. And the more they try, the more confident they get at it, it’s the same with baby Christians. We shouldn’t expect them to be able to preach a sermon or teach a lesson in a lady’s class straight after their baptism.

They need time to learn the simple things about Christianity. Things like learning how to pray, and learning how to read and study God’s Word by themselves. And when you think about it, if it’s possible to expect too little of ourselves, it also must be possible that we expect too much of ourselves.

And so in our moral and spiritual development, we want to take giant steps. And if we fail, we end up being so disappointed in ourselves, that we need to learn to walk before we can run. And the mature Christians among us should never forget nature’s lesson, and that’s the necessity of gradual growth.

People have come up with hundreds of ways to get people into their congregations. They have got plans on how to get people to become Christians. Some use musical instruments to attract people into becoming Christians, some say, “look how spiritual I am, I speak in so-called tongues.”

But we need to remember that a person doesn’t go to bed as a sinner and wakes up the next morning as a Christian. It doesn’t happen like that, we need to be patient and we need to trust God. We need to let young Christians develop gradually and we need to trust God to add people to His kingdom, Acts 5:14.

2. The kingdom’s growth is orderly.

When the seed is sown and buried in the soil, its very existence seems to be threatened but the seed’s growth is marked by an orderly development, Mark 4:26-27. In other words, just like we go through different stages in our physical growth, it’s the same with kingdom growth.

When kids are born and they go through the teething process, then they grow a little more and go through the terrible two’s, three’s, four’s and five’s. And then they start to go through the rebellious stage, which starts at age 6 and goes on until they are 18 years old. And in between all of that, they go through what we call puberty, which is another fun part of growing up.

But most people grow in the same order, infancy, childhood, youth and manhood. And it’s almost impossible to tell when one period ends and another period begins. But at the same time, the different stages of development can be clearly recognised.

And it is the same with the Christian development, Peter says that recent converts to Christianity are like newborn babies, 1 Peter 2:1-3. But sadly you also get Christians who aren’t young but haven’t grown out of the baby stage yet, 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.

And then we get other Christians who are growing up and maturing, Matthew 5:48 / 1 Corinthians 14:20. In other words, there are different stages of Christian growth that we all need to be aware of.

A young Christian may do and say things that aren’t very mature because of a lack of knowledge and understanding. But those who are mature should recognise this and give them a helping hand in their understanding.

Have you ever wondered why some Christians do nothing but complain and grumble all the time?

I believe that one of the reasons they complain and grumble all the time is that they haven’t grown up in Christ, they’re still babies. But every Christian should be growing spiritually.

We’ve all got a duty to grow up, but we’ve also got a duty to understand the different development stages of the Christian growth, Ephesians 4:15. In other words, we need to be patient with those who are slow to develop.

3. The kingdom growth is from God.

Can anyone here really explain how things grow? A seed can be taken into the laboratory and analysed, but the scientist can’t tell you what makes a seed turn into a flower, the best scientists in the world can’t explain it, Job 36:26-29.

And it’s the same with a farmer, a farmer can do many things to the soil, things as ploughing the soil, fertilizing the soil, and weeding the soil, but he can’t make the seed grow, Mark 4:26-28.

In other words, the lesson here is that there are some things that God alone can do. And it’s the same in the spiritual kingdom of God, whatever growth takes place in His kingdom is due to the operation of God.

In other words, we may sow the seed, but we can’t make it germinate in the human heart, we can select the seed and prepare the soil.

And how do we prepare the soil? We prepare the soil with prayer, Colossians 4:3-4, but we can’t make the seed grow. Paul says it’s only God who causes it to grow, 1 Corinthians 3:6.

Now how does God do that? We don’t understand how God makes the seed grow, but we know He does or we wouldn’t be here as Christians today.

But just because we allow God to make the seed grow, that doesn’t let us off the hook. We’ve still got a responsibility to carry out because we’ve still got a vital part in the growing process and our part is an active one, Philemon 6.

In other words, we accept that we can’t make the seed grow, but we still need to make sure that the conditions are right so that the seed will have a chance to grow.

And the right condition is this, John 4:24 where Jesus said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” At the end of the day, the kingdom belongs to God and the growth of the kingdom will be from God.

The sower must sow God’s seed and wait patiently for God to do His part. We must sow the seed, but it’s God who causes the growth, it’s God who gives fruit.

4. It’s God who harvests that fruit.

Jesus is saying that it’s God who produces growth, hence the fruit, then when this fruit is ripe, it’s God who will bring the matter to a conclusion, not man, Mark 4:29. He’s saying that judgement is certain, James 5:7-8.

For people who have been born again, this is our hope. For those who haven’t been born again, this will be the Day when they will wish they had never been born at all, Revelation 14:14-16. Judgement is certain and so when you think about it, this whole parable puts us in our right place.

And that’s we’re all helpless without God and we have to wait patiently for His return, Lamentations 3:25-26. It’s not enough just to work, we must work and pray. We can do a lot as Christians but there are some things we can never do.

And if you’re not a Christian today, then you can be sure that whenever you hear His word being preached that His seed has been truly planted in your heart.

The question is this, are you going to humbly accept His Word in your life or are you going to stubbornly resist His Word in your life?

I pray you choose wisely.

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