Mark 4:26-34 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.”
30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
Here in Mark 4 Jesus is speaking in parables about the Kingdom of God. These parables contain hidden truths. The common thread of all these first parables of Jesus is that God’s Kingdom cannot be seen by the naked eye but it is a real kingdom of which the evidence can be seen. It is a spiritual kingdom in which Jesus Christ reigns:
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
It is also a perfect future Kingdom which will be finally and ultimately revealed to all when Jesus Christ returns to judge the nations. The authority that Jesus Christ has even now following His resurrection from the dead has not yet been fully revealed to all of mankind but will one day in the future.
The first parable in Mark 4:3-9 describes seed being scattered. Only the seed that fell into good soil grew and produced a harvest. The evidence of those who have entered into the Kingdom of God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is seen as the Word of God which is planted in their heart produces new life and a complete transformation in the believer. They are no longer as they once were. Just as a good secret or surprise is only hidden for a while (with the purpose of being revealed) so too is the believer in Jesus Christ going to be revealed to all around them (Mark 4:22). They are a blessed surprise and God rejoices in them! What they really are cannot be hidden just as a lamp is not put under a bed but on a stand to fill the room with light for all to see (Mark 4:21). And who they really are, as born again Christians, is revealed in how they treat others. We are willing to forgive others because we know God has forgiven us through faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t condemn others but desire for them to know Jesus Christ and be saved. And in the final judgment, when Jesus Christ returns from heaven, we will be rewarded for the faith that has been revealed in us (Mark 4:24).
In these final two parables Jesus reveals more imagery describing the Kingdom of God (this spiritual kingdom that cannot be seen in which Jesus Christ reigns). In Mark 4:26-30 He describes how mysterious the child of God is in reality. He describes a man scattering seed on the ground but not really knowing how the seed sprouts and grows. The man who scattered the seeds does not produce the grain but it is the earth that produces by itself. The seed sprouts and grows and develops into a blade, then an ear, and then a full head of grain in the ear. He plants and he harvests but he doesn’t really comprehend how the seed grows. It is mysterious. So it is with the born again Christian- the child of God in the Kingdom of God. There is a beginning: a spiritual birth as the seed sprouts and grows (as we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ- called justification). And there is an obvious end: a harvest as we are glorified and made perfect when Jesus Christ returns (called glorification). An obvious transformation happens in the believers life but no one really knows how God produces this change. It is mysterious as God manifests His presence and power in the heart of every believer. But there is always an obvious beginning and an end- a progression of genuine spiritual growth that produces an overflow just as one seed always produces more at the harvest. The believer in the Kingdom of God always expands the Kingdom of God in some way as the Good News is shared through them to others and the darkness and evil that they once knew is removed and forced back around them.
The final parable in Mark 4:30-32 describes a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed, growing into the largest garden plant with enough strength that a bird can safely build a nest in its branches. This not only implies the hidden aspect of the Kingdom of God but also its surprise. No one would expect a seed so small to be able to produce a plant so large. And the Spirit of God always produces the same result in the heart of every genuine born again believer. It is amazing what God can do in a person’s life if they are totally surrendered to Him and they are seeking Him with all their heart! It is astonishing and defies human comprehension! How could we, who were once so vile and evil now reflect His glory? How can we who so rejected and despised the One who came to save us now love Him with all our heart? How can we who used to only think about ourselves now be more concerned about the salvation of others?
Do you see why Jesus began with these parables? Do you see how the unbeliever cannot comprehend them? They cannot see the unseen. They do not know this Kingdom of God. They do not know the love of God although they may claim to know Him. It is only as we come to hear the voice of Jesus Christ and are enabled by the Spirit of God to understand that our heart is touched. It is as the Word of God is shared and believed that lost souls are brought into this glorious Kingdom where righteousness reign! How amazing is this Kingdom of God! How awe inspiring and majestic are His ways! How contrary are His ways to all human understanding- our natural thinking! He constantly is at work transforming hearts that were evil and making them good! He always saving sinners from the suffering of eternal fire! Are you as a grain of mustard seed? Are you someone of insignificance that God desires to save and raise up to reflect His glory? Can you see Him? Do you know Him? Is His continually in your thoughts and in your mind? Does He direct your paths day in and day out? Do you see His hand of favor in your life even in the midst of great trials? Do you have peace with God?
All who heard these parables and were being drawn to Jesus Christ understood them. Do you understand? Do you have true faith or is it merely an illusion? Are you filled with God’s love to overflowing? Are you being drawn heavenward, nearer and nearer to the throne of God where Jesus Christ is reigning even now? Do you live in awe of God in all His majesty?
Pastor Murray Hack