Mark 4:26-27 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows though he does not know how.”
The seed that makes God’s kingdom grow is God’s Word. You and I have a rather narrow and specific role here. We are like the man who scatters the seed on the ground. All we can do is scatter God’s word around. Actually, there is enough work there to keep us occupied our entire lives. There are about seven and a half billion people living on planet earth. More than five billion of them do not follow Jesus yet. Two hundred and fifty more people are born every minute–about 360,000 every day. That is enough to keep us busy just getting the seed spread around, just trying to make sure that everyone has heard the gospel.
Sometimes we don’t like our role very well. We aren’t satisfied to stick to the business God has given us. We grow impatient, because the seed of God’s Word doesn’t sprout and grow as quickly as we want. Then we get the idea that we are more than sowers. We think we are also genetic engineers. Perhaps we can create some hybrid seed that will grow even faster. We start tinkering with the message to make it more appealing. If we could just leave some part out, people would find it easier to believe. We might remove unpopular parts, like those that teach us God’s design for human sexuality. We might ignore the seemingly unreasonable parts, like the teaching about a God who is one and three all at the same time. We might tone down the scary parts, like the eternal torments of hell. People don’t want to talk about these things. It doesn’t make them feel uplifted.
The problem when we tinker with God’s Word, and produce our own hybrid seed, is that we don’t get what we think we will get. At best, we have introduced a weakness into God’s kingdom that threatens the life of the new sprouts. At worst, we don’t produce Christians at all. All that new life we think we see is just weeds. New people may be present, but they have no faith.
It is for our faith and comfort that Jesus has placed all the power to grow in his Word, and not given that responsibility to us. “All by itself the soil produces grain–first the stalk, then the head, then full kernel in the head (Mark 4:28).” This is good news, and we have all benefitted from it ourselves. You have felt the power of God’s law cutting your heart open, exposing your pride, your selfish choices, your mean-spirited way of treating others, your cowardly giving in to sin. You know the power of the law to make you look over the cliff’s edge at the river of fire your sins deserve, and to know that God has every right to give you that final shove.
Even more, you know the power of forgiveness. God’s grace has overwhelmed your hearts with peace. When you have looked at the cross, your eyes aren’t stopped by the violence, the cruelty, the pain, the injustice, the seeming uselessness of it all, able to look no further. You see salvation. You see the love of God that is so big it made this sacrifice to set you free from your sins. You trust the promise that this death is your death, his life is your life, because he made your guilt his guilt. Now God considers you guilty no longer. You believe, because the seed of God’s word sprouted and grew in your heart all by its own power.
There is no reason to think that this same seed will lack the power to grow when we plant it in others. You know the promises. “My word…will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).” This is how it works, Jesus says. You plant the seed. Then your work is done. The power is in the word.