The Parable of the Growing Seed, #21

Mark 4:26-29

 “The kingdom of God is like this,” he said. “A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day; the seed sprouts and grows, although he doesn’t know how.” 

“The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the full grain on the head. 29 As soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

From a seed to a plant. We have no idea how this happens, it just does. This is a “kingdom” parable, one of several that explain what God’s realm is, and how it happens. In this particular story, we’re told how the Holy Spirit works. It also explains our role in this (which isn’t a whole lot).

The farmer puts the seed in the ground—and that’s it. He’s done his work, there’s nothing more he can do. He doesn’t do anything else from this point, and honestly he can’t. And yet the soil needs to be prepared—plowed, fertilized and tilled again. You might say he creates the conditions (that’s what makes a good farmer, I guess) for something to happen.

He doesn’t massage the seed, coaxing it to grow. He doesn’t sing to it, or tell it about the wonders of being lush and green. He does zero. The seed grows on its own. He goes to bed, and gets up. After several days, bingo! That seed turns into a plant—something green and alive. He doesn’t do a thing. Life occurs without his work.

The point is this. God’s work is done invisibly within us (and that’s a relief)!

“The secret of growth is in the seed, not in the soil nor in the weather nor in the cultivating. These all help, but the seed spontaneously works according to its own nature.”

Robertson’s Commentary

God’s kingdom works pretty much like this. The farmer doesn’t cause the seed growth, all he does is go to bed! He sleeps and waits and watches. It grows and he hasn’t the slightest. It’s a complete mystery. He has done everything he can, and God has done the rest. He “shares” in this amazing transformation, but the father has done it all.

We trust in a process we cannot see, or really understand.

We don’t dig the seed up every morning to see what’s happening. We just let the (super)natural happen. And it does!

The farmer has faith in the process (after all, he did plant the seed), but that’s it. There’s a verse in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 the should be considered. It gives us confidence and a definite trust in this process of growth. The Apostle Paul understands this “principle of growth.”

“We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing.”

We must trust God completely to grow. We’re responsible for tilling and planting. But you need to understand what happens after that is up to him. The kingdom of God is supernatural. It’s exactly how the kingdom happens—and we must be patient and wise.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

Arnold Glascow

Hiding the Yeast, #4

Mix it up and watch out!

Matthew 13:33 (context, vv. 33-35)

 “He told them another parable.” 

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

One version says 50 lbs (or 40 liters for your metric fiends) of flour. Crazy, why that much is beyond me–some figured it out and it would be enough bread for 100 people at least. Far more flour and yeast that was close to normal use. The parable that Jesus taught would certainly be humorous to the listeners. I suppose their imaginations were in overdrive.

What Jesus taught in these stories was the truth that engaged the listeners. They would leave and the stories would stick.

These parables, or stories, were like bombs that would eventually explode in the hearts of the people. Sooner or later, maybe when they least expected it, these parables would suddenly make sense. A lightning strike. Very seldom did they connect immediately. We can see this by the disciples’ desire to have them explained. They didn’t get it at first. But when Jesus illuminated them, they understood.

Back to verse 33. Lots and lots of flour, and just a bit of yeast (leaven). It doesn’t take much to make bread rise.

Notice she “hid” the yeast. Perhaps she didn’t realize the power they had when they mixed–and why the secrecy? What was going on with that?

I’m starting to think that the kingdom of God has a definite power. It works secretly, it’s not visible to anyone. It just does its stuff. The yeast, combined with the flour is a hidden process–something that isn’t observable. Perhaps that’s the way God’s kingdom comes, quietly, secretly but powerfully. Once the flour and yeast have come together it’s pretty difficult to stop it.

The kingdom is working in our lives.

And most of the time it’s a hidden work. We can’t understand the process or grasp how it’s happening. We seldom know what God is doing. We may concentrate on being a witness to our neighbor, (which is a good thing, please do) but perhaps the Holy Spirit is working instead on our patience or love.

What we think is going on escapes us. I’ve been in ministry for almost 40 years now, and I’ve tried to be faithful and worked on my discernment. But it seems I don’t quite grasp yet what the Father is doing inside of me. And I admit, I’m not really sure what’s going on in the lives of those I teach and counsel. Most of the time, I have no idea what he’s doing.

And that’s alright. I know he loves me very much and I trust him to work in me.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

The Story of the Itty-Bitty Seed, #3

From a Seed

Matthew 13:31-32

“He put another parable before them, saying, 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Matthew is writing to Jewish readers, so he chooses to use the phrase “kingdom of heaven” instead of the kingdom of God. Essentially they’re the same thing, but his readers probably would object to the use of “God.” Matthew wanted to avoid any kind of controversy–he really didn’t want to create issues, he honestly wanted them to understand. A good move.

Is the mustard seed the smallest? Not really, but for the sake of the story it is.

A small seed gets planted, and guess what? It gets bigger than everything else in the garden (“Miracle Grow?) The little seed becomes a big tree. The birds even build their nests in it. (Some have suggested that the birds are satanic, but I think that’s a stretch.)

Small beginnings which grew up even larger than anyone’s expectations. The little seed exploded into this humongous tree. Who would’ve guessed?

That’s the way his kingdom is to grow inside of us and inside the Church.

The kingdom of heaven (or God) erupts into our lives. It grows fast, and it grows big and it doesn’t fool around. It’s just a very small thing, that takes off and it’s enormous. Everything our Father does grow, but only if it’s his doing.

Obedience is necessary, but the Spirit is critical. Growth is packed inside every seed, I don’t really understand it all, but Jesus has this figured out.

“In the future, the mountain with the Lord’s temple will be the highest of all. It will reach above the hills; every nation will rush to it.”

Isaiah 2:2, CEV