God’s Word for You
Mark 4:26-29 The Growing Seed
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, April 30, 2022
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (NIV)
The preacher, the teacher, the parent, the friend—all are God’s agents. Each is the one who scatters the seed. It doesn’t matter what goes on after that in that man’s life, as far as the seed is concerned. Jesus could not make it more plain: “Night and day, whether he (the planter) sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain.” This is not man’s doing, nor is it the effort of the one who hears. This is why we confess in the explanation to the Third Article:
“I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe
in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit
has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts,
sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
All of this work is God’s work, not ours. The gospel is powerful all by itself. Two men could be lost in a desert, nearly out of water, nearly despairing for their lives, and happen across a ruined village. They find a few treasures there that are of no use to their emergency, but they might find a Bible. Even though they have no prior knowledge of God or know the name of Jesus, the word itself has the power to work in their hearts. They could become, in that event of hearing the message, believers in Christ. Their conversion would be instantaneous. They would still have many things to learn, but they would be saved believers from the moment that faith was planted in them by the word. “Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” Those words are not a diagram of the possible, but a statement of the fact: Faith in Christ saves. Sins are swept away and forgiven, not on account of man, but on account of God’s mercy and love. “In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17).
The earlier parable of the sower described why the seed doesn’t grow in some hearts: Man can resist the word of God, and the devil can kill the working of the word, because the devil is a liar and a murderer. This parable reminds us that the power of the seed is in this seed, which is the gospel. God does not force people to become his children; the fallen free will of sinful man can resist. But the miracle of the word of God is that man’s resistance is sometimes overcome. The prophet Micah rings a bell over and over to proclaim the power of God over the stubbornness of sinful man with God’s emphatic “I will” statements:
“I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob;
I will surely bring together the remnant.
I will bring them together
Like sheep in a pen,
like a flock in its pasture” (Micah 2:12).
And so the flock is rescued; and the congregation thrives. The seed grows: First the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. It is the growth of faith in us that Jesus is describing. A little (the planted seed) is followed by a little more, a strengthening of the faith (the stalk). Then it begins to produce evidence of its existence: the head, and finally the full kernel in the head. Each time any of us progresses in our faith, the results of that can be seen in our lives. The language we use to describe this evidence is different, but the idea is the same, whether we call it our faith-life, our faith-walk, the path of faith, or the life of sanctification. These things are just ways of talking about putting our faith into action. But thanks be to God. He is the one who put it there in the first place; he is the one who makes it grow.
O Holy Spirit, enter in
and in our hearts your work begin
your dwelling place now make us.
Sun of the soul, O Light divine,
around and in us brightly shine,
to joy and gladness wake us
that we may be
truly living, to you giving prayer unceasing
and in love be still increasing. (Michael Schirmer, 1606-1673)
Pastor Timothy Smith