Parable of the Growing Seed
26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
In the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we read four parables related to the Kingdom of God. And all, but one, parable can be found in one or more of the other Gospels. The parable of the soils can be found in Matt 13:1-23 and Luke 8:4-15, the parable of the lamp is recorded in Luke 8:16-18, and the parable of the mustard seed may be found in Matthew’s Gospel; chapter 13:31-35. However, the parable of the growing seed is unique and exclusive to Mark’s Gospel and its meaning is not explained to us.
In this parable, we read about a sower who sows seed in the field and then goes to bed. He seemingly plays a very small role in this story since the focus of the story shifts entirely to the seed. In the next 3 verses, we read an accelerated history of the seed’s lifecycle as it sprouts, then becomes a seedling, bud, and a fully ripe and mature plant ready for harvest. It is a very short parable and it does not seem to be teaching very much, but Jesus compares this seemingly dull parable to how the Kingdom of God is. Earlier in this chapter and in the verses that follow (1-8; 30-32), we read of a much more interesting parable concerning seeds and the kingdom of God, so why does Jesus provide this uninteresting and ordinary one? In the earlier parable of the soils, the word that is planted in good soil at times yields an unbelievable amount; 30, 60, 100 fold. We understand that we should examine ourselves to see what type of “soil” we are. In the latter parable of the mustard seed, we see how such a small, humble beginning will grow vey large. Those are exciting as we consider how the Kingdom of God will expand to proportions we cannot imagine and that His word, in the lives of believers, will produce an amazing harvest. But what are we to do with the parable of the growing seed?
Well, for one, I think we should consider how the sower mentioned sowing the seed without any knowledge as to what sort of growth will occur. Connecting this to the earlier parable and the context of this parable, I think we can rightly understand the seed as being the gospel planted into a person’s life. The evangelist may not be aware of what growth will occur and “he knows not how” it even grows. Our duty as believers is to be faithful with the word that we have received and to sow it, trusting that God is active and working to complete a good work for His glory. And God’s work has an end and goal, a harvest.
Now, there are two interpretations for what this harvest is. The first is that this harvest represents the end times day of judgment when God will separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares. In this sense, then the meaning for the growing seed story is that God’s kingdom will continue to grow, almost without any notice, and at the time of the harvest those who are righteous will be gleaned by the Lord. This perspective seems to connect this parable to the parable of the mustard seed. The second interpretation is that this is a picture of the work of the gospel in a person’s life. The seed, the gospel, is planted in to a person’s life by a sower, a faithful disciple. And at times, it may seem to have a very little effect on that person’s life, in the end God will bring it to fruition and that person will be saved. In this view, this parable seems to tie very well to the parable of the sower. An objection to the second interpretation is that this parable seems to be tied to the kingdom of God which should refer to God’s actual kingdom. However, some “kingdom” parables describe more than the kingdom in general, but specifically. For example, the parable of the Hidden treasure or pearl of great price in Matthew 13, describes the kingdom specifically.
One thing we must keep in mind is that Jesus was a masterful story teller and teacher. It could be that he meant for both of those meanings to be understood. The application for us then would be for us to have faith that God is working, even when we cannot see or understand, and that it will yield a good harvest. Additionally, we must be faithful in proclaiming the Gospel and having faith that God will bring it to completion in the lives of those who hear.
Grace and Peace,
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