The Life of a Seed (Mark 4:26-29)
When I think back to my childhood, some of my favorite memories are summers at Nannie and Papaw’s. Papaw grew an unbelievably large garden. Papaw grew corn, peas, green beans, tomatoes, cantaloupes, potatoes, cucumbers, green onions, watermelons, zucchini, lettuce, and yellow squash.
We ate like kings out of that garden. Nannie would often call Mom and say she was cooking supper—she’d fry corn and potatoes and zucchini and green tomatoes; she’d cook up a mess of green beans and peas and corn bread and killed lettuce; on the table would be fresh sliced tomatoes and onions and cucumbers in vinegar. After supper, we’d go outside, and Nannie would slice a cold watermelon.
Papaw spent many hours in the garden. Let me tell you, no weed ever stood a chance against Papaw. Any bug would be promptly killed. Pie pans hung on stakes throughout the garden to scare away birds.
I know many of you enjoy gardens, too. Some of you have told me about memories you have of watermelon or some other fruit or vegetable in the summer. Others of you spend a great deal of time raising a garden. Food simply tastes better if you grow it yourself than if you buy it at H-E-B.
Jesus talked about raising a garden in this morning’s text—he spoke of a man who scattered wheat seed and then enjoyed a bountiful harvest. We raise gardens today because we enjoy raising a garden and eating from it; that wasn’t the case in the days of Jesus—you raised a garden to live. The Lord, because he spoke in an agrarian society, often spoke about agriculture in his parables, and this morning’s text is no exception.
Mark arranged this section of his Gospel—the part we call chapter four—with agricultural parables. He began with recounting Jesus’s telling the Parable of the Sower. Mark then recorded our text—the Parable of the Growing Seeds. Immediately after this morning’s Parable, Mark recounted the Parable of the Mustard Seed.
The Lord taught an important lesson in the Parable of the Growing Seeds: “The secret to growth is the word of God.” Let’s examine the text to see how that’s true and then how we can apply it to modern life.
Scripture (Mark 4:26-29)
At the time Jesus spoke these words, the kingdom of God was a secret (Mk 4:11). In Greek, “secret” is “mystery.” A “mystery” is something God keeps hidden—secret—until the time is right. Because God wasn’t yet ready to share the full extent of his kingdom, Jesus often spoke about the kingdom in parables.
A man scattered seed on the ground.
The man would sleep and rise night and day; in other words, the farmer went about with his daily life. The seed sprouted and grew, but the farmer didn’t know how. The farmer didn’t know what caused seed to sprout in fertile soil from the sunlight and water it needs; you don’t understand that process, either. But not understanding the ins and outs of how the seed grows doesn’t keep it from growing.
The earth produced by itself; the Greek word for “by itself” is automate; you can easily tell we get the English “automatic” from it. The idea is that the farmer didn’t do anything to get the seed to grow; you can’t force a seed to grow—it’s grows on its own.
The seed germinated small and then grew into a full plant.
When the grain was fully ripe, the farmer harvested his crop.
Interpretation of Parable
The interpretation of the Parable of the Growing Seeds is really easy.
- The farmer represents one sharing the gospel—he’s sowing the seed of the kingdom.
- The seed would be the word; that’s the interpretation Jesus gave in the Parable of the Sower: “The sower sows the word” (Mk 4:14).
- In the context of Mark’s Gospel, the disciples are sowing the message of Jesus.
- The one sharing the gospel doesn’t understand how one comes to Christ.
- We know that hearing the word produces faith:
- “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).
- “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess 2:13).
- However, the sower doesn’t understand why some come to Christ and others don’t.
- We know that hearing the word produces faith:
- The seed grows to maturity automatically—the sower doesn’t force it to grow: One plants and one waters, “but God [gives] the growth” (1 Cor 3:6).
- When the grain is ripe, the farmer comes to harvest.
- Jesus simply told a parable, a metaphor, to explain the kingdom of God; we cannot take everything too literally.
- I say that because the farmer goes from being one sowing the word of the Lord to the Lord himself who comes and harvests for judgment.
As you look at the interpretation of the Parable of the Growing Seeds, this truth becomes evident: “The secret to growth is the word of God.” The word of God is sown on good soil (Mk 4:8, 20), a crop comes without any further work from the sower, and that growth will be harvested at the last day. The word, not the effort of the farmer, produces the harvest.
How can we apply this truth? We need to think about how to apply this passage to the church as a whole and then to individual Christians.
Churches must focus on the word of God.
Many congregations are moving away from focusing on the word. They use gimmicks and fads to grow the church. They may get a crowd and get many bodies coming week in and week out, but, with all due respect, that’s not kingdom growth! No gimmick is going to save your soul. Only the seed sown on good soil will save souls.
There is nothing wrong with drawing a crowd. As you look at the speeches in Acts, you find God did many things to draw a crowd; the clearest example would be the powerful way the Holy Spirit drew a crowd when he powerfully came on the apostles at Pentecost. However, every single time the apostles got a crowd in Acts, they preached the word.
I’m willing to do anything the Scriptures permit to seek every lost person in this community and beyond, but our focus must always be on the word.
Our focus must always be on the word, for only the word of God will save the lost. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Js 1:21). “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23).
The word of God must always be the focus of this congregation!
Christians must focus on the word of God.
You need to focus on the word for yourself.
As we just noticed from Scripture, the word of God will save your soul. Therefore, you need to spend some serious time in Bible study: “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge” (Prov 15:14). What greater knowledge can you have than that of the word which will save your soul?
Spend some time this week studying the Scriptures for yourself. Spend some time this week in congregational Bible study that you might learn to apply God’s truth to life.
You need to focus on the word for others.
As we have noticed from Scripture, the word of God will save every soul. Therefore, you need to spend some serious time in Scripture that you might be prepared to share that word that will save the souls of others. “By this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb 5:12). That could be said to nearly every one of you. You need to be prepared to teach the word of God with others.
You need to sow the word.
That’s exactly what the farmer did in the Parable of the Growing Seeds. Had he done nothing, there would have been no harvest; only because he was willing to sow seed did he reap a plentiful harvest.
You have so many opportunities to sow the word. World Bible School. Speaking with your next door neighbor. Leaving tracts in the waiting room at your doctor’s office. Inviting a good friend to worship. If the farmer had done nothing, he would have had no harvest. If you do nothing, you will have no harvest.
“When the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mk 4:29). When the time is right—when the harvest has come—the farmer puts his sickle to the grain. One day, Jesus is coming back to “put his sickle to the grain” and bring judgment on this earth. Will you be prepared on that Great Day?