The Parable of the Growing Seed

-- Mark 4:26-29 --


          Jesus is the Master Teacher. He used many methods of teaching. He taught with questions. He taught with examples. He taught by explaining and applying Old Testament Scripture. One of the most powerful methods of teaching used by Jesus was to teach with parables. A parable is a method of teaching where a moral or spiritual truth is taught or illustrated by everyday life experiences. Parables often contain the word "like." Parables teach the truth in a very simple and easy to be remembered way. A parable generally contains one great truth that is being conveyed even though there may be other truths included.


          Jesus used parables as a means of reaching His hearers with His message.  This should not have been a surprise to anyone. It was said in Psalm 78:2-3, "I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings (parables) of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us." In Matthew 13:35 Jesus said, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." When asked by His disciples why He spoke in parables He replied, "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive." (Matthew 13:13-14) "Parables made it possible to speak of difficult subjects in a manner that was easy to understand." Lessons of Jesus' parables are easy to understand and likewise easy to remember.


          This parable is unique to Mark's gospel. Several parables are found in more than one of the gospels. That is not true in this case. This parable is only in the gospel of Mark. The message of the parable is that God's seed will grow when it is received, by faith, into an honest heart of a hearer. Someone must sow the seed but it is God that causes the seed to grow. Someone must plant the seed. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." (1 Corinthians 1:21) Let us open our Bibles and observe the parable of the growing seed. (Mark 4:26-29)


          Jesus gave the parable of the growing seed: Many of Jesus' parables are well known and often repeated. The parable of the sower is an example. (Luke 8:4-15) Some of Jesus' parables are longer and others are very short. A small, almost unnoticed, parable of Jesus is the parable of the growing seed. The parable is stated in Mark 4:26-29. "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." There must be someone to sow the seed. Then there must be someone to water the seed that is sown. But it is always God that gives the increase. "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (1 Corinthians 3:6)


          Jesus explained the parable of the growing seed: The gospel seed is sown in the hearts of honest people. In many cases this seed might seem lost or wasted, but, nevertheless, it springs up in that good heart. One of the mysteries of nature is how this seed that is sown in a field grows. The farmer cannot explain the growth that takes place. He simply plants the seed and waits while God makes it grow. The same process is true in conversion and spiritual growth of an individual. I can not explain how it happens. We just plant the seed (God's words) and in some way God, through His Spirit, causes it to grow in the heart of mankind. The word of God is infused with life and power. "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." (John 15:3) The salvation message is a powerful message. "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory." (1 Timothy 3:16) God's work is not accomplished with noise and great fanfare. Spiritual growth comes slowly. "For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head." (Mark 4:28)  The result of spiritual growth, caused by God's word, is a harvest for God. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8)


          Lessons that we can learn from the parable of the growing seed: Let us observe and learn: (1) it is the gospel of God's grace that brings about conversion.  "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32) (2) Conversion and spiritual growth only comes when God's word is sown in human hearts. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." (1 Peter 2:2) (3) An honest and good heart is necessary if conversion is to take place.  "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." (Luke 8:15) (4) None is able to explain how God, through His Spirit, works through the word in honest hearts to wash, sanctify and justify. "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)   (5) The preacher or teacher contributes nothing to the conversion process. He is simply the farmer that planted the seed. God made the seed and makes it grow. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15-16) (6) Christianity is a matter of growth. The beginning is small but the end is a harvest. "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18) (7) God carries on His work quietly and without fail. "But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." (John 5:17) (8) Those that receive the seed and finish their work will be rewarded with eternal life. "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:11-12) 


          The process is simple. A sower must sow the seed, the seed must be watered by someone, and the soil must be a heart that is honest and good. When we plant the seed, the word of God, in an honest heart and water it God will give the increase. We may not be able to explain it, but by faith we accept it because it is God's plan.  Preach the word and God will cause it to grow! In this parable we learn the power of God's word. Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Why substitute modern day gimmicks for the power of God and the Bible? "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.  For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." (1 Peter 1:23-25) This parable ought to reaffirm our faith in the Bible. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matthew 24:35) When another person becomes a Christian it is not about us. The though of a person becoming a Christian is about God and the power of His word. What a challenge: we must be sowing God's seed, we need to be watering what is sown, and we need to be waiting for God to give the increase.


             Those that serve God are blessed here and hereafter. Is it your desire to honor God? If so it is time to become a Christian now! To become a Christian you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus (John 8:24), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as Lord (Acts 8:37), and be baptized to be saved. (1 Peter 3:21) After baptism follow Jesus in faithfulness as He leads you home to heaven. (Revelation 2:10)


By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA