Pentecost 4 – Proper 6
June 17, 2018
To Live is to Grow
When we stop growing. We stop living. When we stop developing physically, mentally and spiritually. A decline begins. Until death is reached.
Life means growth. Both in this world. And the next. Today Jesus teaches that the kingdom of God is growing. We do not know how it grows. When we are tempted to think the kingdom has lost its influence and power. Jesus offers this profound assurance. From Christ’s perspective. The kingdom is slowly and surely growing. You can’t see it? That’s the point! The Kingdom grows secretly.
Christian people need to be encouraged to ever have a growing edge. To be reassured. That the kingdom is in the process of coming upon the earth. The Parable of the Growing Seed is a parable of Jesus. Which appears only in Mark. The Parable of the seed growing secretly. Is a parable about growth in the Kingdom of God. Today we consider Jesus’ words. As He teaches us concerning the Kingdom.
I. The miracle of growth – v.27 - Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (Mark 4:27)
A. Even when the farmer sleeps. The Kingdom of God is still growing. Its growth is due to God. Not man. And follows its own timetable. The seed of the kingdom grows. While the farmer sleeps. The farmer only sows and reaps. Nothing in between. The sower does not cultivate nor irrigate. The seed does its own growing.
Illustration: Anyone who has read to their children or grandchildren, “Frog and Toad together” knows this. You can sing to your corn. Talk gently to your soy beans. I can play Brahms' Lullaby to my eggplant all day long. It won’t make them grow.
B. The point Jesus is making. - You can do nothing to bring the kingdom of God on earth. You cannot force God’s Kingdom coming by good works. Social programs. Or legislation. This is solely, completely, and totally The Father’s work. – This is exclusively God’s effort.
II. The manner of growth – V. 28 – “All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” (Mark 4:28)
Illustration: Just a few weeks ago. As I set out to plant the garden. I happened to find a package of seeds which read, “Tomatoes” and “Experimental.” How long had I had them? At least fifteen years. Maybe longer. No harm in planting them. Why not? Sure enough! They sprouted. And they continue to grow. Notice what the Savior says. “All by itself the soil produces grain…”
A. The kingdom of God has a growth from the smallest seed to the greatest shrub. There is a contrast between the beginning and the ending of the kingdom. The minimum becomes the maximum. The kingdom will continue to grow until it covers the entire earth.
B. The kingdom had a tiny start. Jesus and twelve men. When it ends some day. When the whole number of persons in this world will be added to the kingdom. Then. And only then. Will the end come. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:13-14) Here is hope and optimism for Christians living in these challenging times. And these difficult days. It is the Father’s world. He alone brings about growth. He alone sustains His kingdom. He alone guards and keeps it.
III. The maturation of growth – v. 29 –“As soon as the grain is ripe; he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:29)
A. One of the great miracles of nature is the power of life in a seed. Put a seed in the ground. Water it. And in a short time. The seed sprouts with new life. God’s Word. Jesus said. Is like seed sown into the hearts of Christian believers just like you. When this seed is received in faith. It has power to produce new life. As you hear to this Word today. The power of the Word of God is working its work in your life.
1. The Word planted into your heart is power to bring you to faith. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – (Hebrews 4:12)
2. The Word planted into your heart is power to grow a harvest of good works in your life. And we continually thank God that in receiving the word of God from us, you did not accept it as the word of men, but as the true word of God. And this is the word which is now at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13) For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)
B. The farmer plants in order to reap a harvest. The Father sows His seed in His people to get a harvest. Christianity is not a religion for religion’s sake. It is not an academic adventure. Into theological discussions. Or far-out mysticism. Christianity is a very practical religion. Though we are not saved by our works. Our faith. If it is genuine. Produces fruit. A harvest is gathered. The good and bad are separated and people receive either good or evil. Says the Lord Jesus, Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and caught fish of every kind. When it was full, the men pulled it ashore. Then they sat down and sorted the good fish into containers, but threw the bad away. So will it be at the end of the age: The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous. (Matthew 13:47-49)
Jesus in these parables is speaking about the Kingdom of God – Not any worldly kingdom. It is not a kingdom that can be seen. It is not one that has a geographical local domain. The Kingdom of God is the people of God who live under the reign of the Father. We call this kingdom the Church. Which is the Communion of the saints. It is invisible to us. And it subjects are known only to God.
Growth comes as the Father permits it. Growth comes as the Spirit gives life. Growth comes as the Lord continues to support and sustain His Kingdom. Thanks be to God. Who has promised both to will and to do His good pleasure to those who seek Him.