Mystery Seeds

Click here to read Mark 4 on BibleGateway.com

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head – Mark 4:27-28

Jesus’ parables are some of the most famous passages in the Bible, especially the Good Samaritan, the Sower, and the Prodigal Son.  But Jesus gave us many parables, so why do we choose to just focus on a few?  Is it just because they’re familiar?  Why do we think of these as the “good” parables and others as the “minor” parables?  I suppose we could argue that we tend to focus on the longer parables, but we also like the wheat and tares story, and that’s fairly short.  So why is it we skip over some parables, like the Shrewd Manager or the Growing Seed?

Ready for my theory? Perhaps it’s because we don’t like parables that confuse us (the manager is good because he cooks the books?), or maybe because it doesn’t fit our own worldview.  We want to read the stories of how God forgives our worst sins, or “safe” parables like the Sower (“safe” because we know we’re the good seed, right?), but not the ones that make us re-evaluate ourselves.

ONLY GOD CAN MAKE A TREE

 In our chapter for today, we find the story of the Growing Seed. Without claiming any deep theological insight here, it seems like God is telling us that ultimately, everything is outside our control.  We can plant, and water, and fertilize, and weed, and all this, that, and the other, but nothing we do can force a seed to grow.  It just grows.   

Moreover, it takes a process.  The seed doesn’t turn into the full-grown plant overnight.  It goes through a slow process of foundation (the stalk), maturity (the head), and finally production and reproduction (full kernel).  No matter how much you encourage and yell and prod a plant with electrodes, it will still take time for that plant to grow. 

And that makes us uncomfortable. Assuming the Seed is the Word, we don’t like the idea that growing in Christ takes time.  We want to have a process of growth that is under our control, on our schedule. We love the stories of our transgressions being forgiven (the Prodigal), but we’re a little less excited to dwell on the idea that ultimately we need to depend on God for everything, or that things may take time rather than respond to our demands for speed.

NOT YOUR FIELD

And it’s not just growth in ourselves. Many of us desperately want to “force” the Seed to grow in someone else, to make them get saved.  We preach on hellfire, we cajole with God’s love, we may even use excommunication or affection to try to convince someone to trust God.  But ultimately, the growth of the seed in others is outside our control. 

If I may, my friend, let me put your mind at ease.  You can’t force that friend of yours to get saved.  You can’t make that relative fall in love with Jesus.  That’s not your calling.  Your calling is to love them with Christ’s love, and to pray.  The Seed does its work as we do ours.  You might be planting that seed (like Paul), or watering the Seed (like Apollos), but ultimately only God makes it grow (and for the free will people, we also choose how the seed grows in us.  But not in others.)

We want so desperately to have Christian maturity under our control, but the heart of the gospel is giving up our control to the Lordship of Jesus.  And that includes our own growth and the growth of others. We have to trust that growth is happening, even if it’s below the surface, just out of sight.

Take heart.  Sometimes that Seed is growing; it just takes time.  

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