Like the parable about the light and the lampstand from yesterday, today’s story about the growing seed is difficult to understand until we consider the larger context. Remember that Jesus is telling these shorter parables right after the longer Parable of the Sower that he taught and explained at the beginning of Mark 4. If we keep in mind that the topic in this whole chapter is how God’s Word works in people’s lives, then the growing seed parable shows us again the mysterious but certain connection between the gospel, the work of the Holy Spirit, and personal salvation.
The Text (Mark 4:26-29)
26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The growing seed story is about the growth of God’s kingdom as people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Like the sower, Jesus’ disciples are to spread the Word, the good news of the gospel message, everywhere they go. Some people will reject the message immediately (the wayside soil), while others will appear to receive it but in the end also reject the call of discipleship because it requires too much sacrifice (the stony ground) or because they are too distracted by the stuff of this world (the thorny ground). Yet some people will truly understand and accept the gospel. They will really repent, believe, and be born again. These people will prove their faith by then living new lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, growing in faith, love, and godliness over time. What causes all of this to happen in their lives?
According to today’s Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus says that the salvation of believers appears as a mystery to us. Like the growth of a seed into a crop, we see the results after a period of time but don’t know exactly how it happened. The gospel seed is sown in people’s hearts, and then God’s Holy Spirit goes to work. The Spirit convicts these people of their sinfulness and need for a Savior. He shows them that the only way to be saved is by trusting in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection on their behalf. He brings them to the end of themselves and He gives them the desire and power to repent and believe. The Spirit persuades them to surrender their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ. This process of a person coming to Christ seems invisible to us, but not to God. When the person is finally ready, God saves them and they are harvested, or come to life in Christ.
As we share our faith with unbelievers and pray for their salvation, we must recognize that if they get saved, it is the work of God. It is His Word and Spirit that cause people to desire and receive salvation. But we do not always know exactly what is happening in a person’s heart and life. Sometimes we think a person is surely willing to accept and follow Christ because they have a Christian home or seem like a really nice person, but they keep holding back from making that commitment. Other times, we think a person is very disinterested in spiritual things and far from God, only to see them come down the aisle at a public invitation and catch fire for Jesus. Only when we get to know people and listen to what they are saying, only when we personally engage them about their relationship with the Lord can we have a chance to see where they really are with God. Even then, we must still be ready for surprises when it comes to people’s salvation. When you look back on your own salvation, did anybody else really know what was going on in your heart and life in the days, weeks, or months before you got saved? Probably not. But you did, and more importantly God did. The Word and Spirit brought you to saving faith, and you can trust that He is also at work in the lives of people around you.