Responsive Reading: Mark 4:3-8, 13-20
Key Verse(s): Mark 4:20
Background Scripture: Mark 4:26-29
Everything in life starts from a tiny seed. Just think about that for a moment: the vegetables and fruits that we eat start off as a tiny seed. Look at us: none of us started out as fully developed adults but we came from the seed of a man and a woman. From a tiny seed, all is born and in it there is potential, promise, hope, and growth.
The Kingdom of God
There has been a seed sown in our world and the sower of that seed has much hope in what He has sown (Jer. 29:11). Now, the seed that I am speaking of is the same seed that Jesus spoke of in a few parables that we will look at today.
In Mark 4, we will see where Jesus spoke to a great multitude that had gathered to Him by the sea of Galilee about the kingdom of God. We, mankind, have always had an invested interest as to why we are here (why we were created) and what’s to come after our life comes to an end. Such thoughts have led some of us to wonder about the kingdom of God; I believe this was what led those that had gathered to Him by the sea of Galilee.
So, to paint a picture of God’s kingdom to the people, in the parable of the growing seed, Jesus expressed, “the kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter (sow) seed on the ground (Mark 4:26).” After having scattered his seed, Jesus said that the man went to sleep and over time he noticed that his seed had sprouted. At this moment, I imagined that Jesus paused the parable to express to the people that the man did not fully understand how or why the seed sprouted – it simply happened (Mark 4:27).
I would tell you that the man was not alone in his understanding of how things work exactly. Yes, we have made strides in our science to understand nature, but at the end of all of the research, our understanding of sowing is the same as those back then; seeds need good soil, water, and sunlight to which hopefully the seed will take root.
Every planter, gardener, and even those with the magical green thumb will admit that after planting seeds, all one can really do is sit back and hope to see that their seeds took root. In other words, every planter and gardener does what they can up to a point, but afterwards, everything else is left up to nature for the seed to sprout up (Mark 4:28).
So, if we view the kingdom of God as Jesus initially describes it in the parable of the growing seed, then we should understand that the kingdom of God is like a tiny seed sown in a field. The seeds that are in that field will either grow or not grow according to nature.
The Sown Seed
The hope of the sower in this parable is the same as any sower today: hopefully the conditions of the field are conducive to yielding a ripened crop for harvest. Nobody plants a seed that they do not want to see spring up!
The parable of the sower
In the parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-8), we will see Jesus draw our attention to the soil that the seed has been scattered in. Jesus first stated that the ground that some of the seed fell on was by the wayside – the part of the field closest to the road. Some of the seed fell on stony ground, while other seed fell among thorns, and lastly, some fell on good ground.
Jesus explained that the ground of the wayside was not good for the seed to take root because the birds of the air would quickly devour the seed (Mark 4:4). The conditions of the stony ground was also not conducive for the seed to take root because it ended up being scorched by the sun (Mark 4:5-6). The conditions of the ground filled with thorns was also not conducive for the seed to take root as thorns would choke out whatever grew from the seed (Mark 4:7).
Lastly, Jesus tells us that there was a part of the field that was good for growth; it was not close to the road nor were there any stones or thorns. So, the seed that fell on this good ground was easily able to take root without being devoured, scorched, or choked out. Because the seed was able to take root, it sprang forth a great crop (Mark 4:8).
Now, Jesus was speaking figuratively about the kingdom of God and many of the people were struggling to understand the spiritual message. So, to further explain this parable, Jesus broke down the parable into its simplest parts. Jesus said, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man (Matt. 13:37)” — Jesus is the Son of Man. Therefore, we should understand that Jesus was the sower in the field.
What was the seed that Jesus was sowing in the field? Well, let us consider what Jesus had come to make known to the world: Jesus made known the divine truth. The seed Jesus that Jesus was sowing at that very moment was the holy and righteous Word of God; the message of God’s heavenly kingdom and the promise of salvation.
With that in mind, because Jesus shared the Word with the people, that would mean that the people were as the field. May I also suggest to you that Jesus’ word of salvation and the heavenly kingdom is still being sown in the world today to all people? That would then mean that we are also a part of the field that the tiny seed – the Word of God – has been sown in. Has the Word of God taken root in your heart?
Meeting the right conditions
Now, unfortunately, the Word of God does not take root in the hearts of all people. Why is that? Sadly, like all seeds in general, the Word of God can’t simply take root on any kind of surface. You see, the truth of the matter is that not all hearts are conducive for the tiny seed to take root in.
To speak plainly: if the condition of your heart (soul) is not conducive for growth, then the holy and righteous seed will not take root within you. There are many people who haven’t grown up in their soul because their heart isn’t conducive for growth! There are many people who are dead, on the inside, because their heart could not receive the Word!
Jesus explained this for us when He stated that the wayside is not conducive for the Word of God because Satan immediately comes and takes it away (Mark 4:15). To speak plainly, this is one who will hear the Word of God but the Word goes in one ear and out of the other. Those who are like the wayside have no traces of the Word of God in their heart.
The hearts of those that are like stony ground, Jesus said, are also not conducive for the Word of God to take root. Those who are like stony ground are those who hear the word and immediately receive it with gladness (Mark 4:16). Yet, Jesus said that when spiritual conditions get rough for those who are like a stony surface, they stumble at the first sign of trouble. The reason for the stumble is because the roots were too thin; the Word of God was not well rooted within their heart (Mark 4:17).
The hearts of those that’s like a thorny surface, Jesus again said, are not conducive for the seed to take root. Those whose heart is like ground filled with thorns are those who heard the word but their care is for the world; they end up putting riches and other desires before the Word of God (Mark 4:18-19). In doing this, the world ends up choking out the tiny seed, and therefore, the world kills the Word of God in their heart.
Good and fertile ground for growth
The hope of Christ, as the sower of the tiny seed, again, is that the Word of God takes root in you! We know this because in the book of Isaiah, the Lord said, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void (empty), but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Is. 55:11).”
God, I want you to understand, did not send His only begotten Son to sow seed of His Kingdom for it not to grow as He desires. Again, I say to you, no planter plants their seed and wishes for it not to grow! Jesus has sown a holy and righteous seed that will spring forth that which is also holy and righteous in a good and fertile heart! So, understand this, if the seed does not take root in us, it is not because the sower – Jesus – did something wrong but because the condition was not right within us!
Nothing holy and righteous can take root and grow from you if the conditions are not right in your heart. Nothing holy and righteous will spring forth from the wayside, nor stony ground, nor between thorns. However, you better believe that the Word of God in good and fertile ground will produce a crop that the sower will happily harvest. Are you that good and fertile ground for the Word of God?
My hope is that all of us is ground that is good and fertile for the Word to take root within us and spring forth that which is holy and righteous. With the Word of God well rooted in me, I know of all that I have gone through and all that I have overcome. Had the Word not been well rooted in me, I know what the world would have done to me and I know that I wouldn’t have made it through all that I have gone through.
So, do you desire to be good fertile ground for the seed that has been sown by Christ? Do you desire for something holy and righteous to grow from you? If so, then you must do these things:
- Let go of your lusts and love for the world so that the world does not choke out the Word of God.
- Turn away from Satan so that the devil isn’t on your shoulder to take the Word of God away from you immediately.
- As the key verse says, we must be attentive and receptive to the Word of God so that the Word can truly take root within your heart.
What the Tiny Seed Becomes
So, with all of that said, what does this tiny seed actually sprout into? From our key verse, when you and I are attentive, receive the Word, and it takes root in us, the tiny seed sprouts up and yields a crop that Jesus said bears fruit to be harvested!
From just that tiny seed of God’s word, something so wonderful can be born into the world. Now, to me, the most remarkable thing about seeds is when they fulfill their potential; it is an absolutely beautiful sight to see. It is a beautiful thing when the Word of God takes root in you and you fulfill the full potential God created you in.
A tree of God
As He spoke from the boat, Jesus shared a parable about the kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, which Jesus noted, is smaller than all the seeds on earth (Mark 4:31). In Matthew’s gospel, Matthew records Jesus also saying that the mustard seed is the least of all seeds (Matt. 13:32).
When we think about the kingdom of God, we picture His kingdom being so massive that its size cannot be defined — it is eternal! Yet, the divine message of the heavenly kingdom of God, we have seen, is just a tiny seed! I suppose this is why the kingdom of God is so easily missed: it is not like silver and gold which easily catches the eyes of mankind and wins the hearts of many.
Yet, I feel I must ask, what is it that can actually grow from silver and gold? One would probably answer, sarcastically, that their bank account can grow! I suppose that is true and all that a lot of people care about, however, I must ask what can silver and gold make you holy? Can silver and gold give you salvation from sin? Absolutely not.
James wrote that those who become friends with the world become an enemy with God and His enemies will be cast away forever (Jas. 4:4). In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that Timothy should command those who were rich in this present age not to trust in uncertain riches but to be rich in good works; to store up for themselves a good foundation so that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19). From just a tiny seed has come the future and guaranteed promise of salvation.
Though Jesus likened the kingdom of God to the mustard seed, I want you to understand that we do not grow into a mustard plant; we are of more value than that. In general, the mustard seed grows into a shrub that isn’t of that much use; its leaves can be eaten but that’s about it. The mustard seed is of more value when it has been ground up and mixed with water and vinegar to make the condiment. The Word of God is of more value being whole rather than being ground up.
Now, in the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus spoke about how the tiny seed sprouts up into an actual tree that the birds are able to nest in (Mark 4:31-32). While this sounds remarkable in nature, we should notice that the tree doesn’t have any fruit to sustain the birds; they would have to go elsewhere to be sustained!
The seed sown by Jesus, as God has said, is not going to come up empty; it is supposed to bear fruit that is holy and righteous! Understand, the seed planted in you will certainly grow into a tree – it will be a tree of God. However, let us understand that a tree that is of God is a tree that bears life giving and sustaining fruit. I ask you today: do you desire to be a tree of God?
Greater than all riches
No, the tiny seed may not be silver or gold but the tiny seed – the Word of God – is of far greater value than any riches of this world. The riches of this world can give us temporary happiness and life, but the world will quickly take back that life. However, the tiny seed is forever giving.
Jesus shared this message with those that desired to know about the kingdom of God and it should speak loudly to all of us who are genuine believers today. The world struggles to find value in the Word of God which is why it can never take root within those that are of the world. However, to those who are of faith, whether it is little or strong, Jesus is calling on us to properly value the kingdom of God.
If you desire to become a well planted tree of God, then I tell you to get right in your heart today. The Lord has already sown a seed in you and now all you must do is get right in your heart. From a tiny seed, there is a future and a hope; there is much beauty and also much practicality as well. God has sown a seed in you so that you can be strong and sustained but also so that those around you can be sustained as well.
Again I repeat to you this week, just as Jesus said, man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). So, I encourage you today to become good fertile ground for the Word of God so that it can firmly take root in you. Yes, it will be good for yourself but even more importantly, it will be great for all of those around you.