The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

June 20, 2021

Mark 4:26-34

Look at God’s Kingdom through His Eyes!

 

He also said, “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.  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”  Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”  With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand.  He did not say anything to them without using a parable.  But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

If we were to compare the Kingdom of God here on this earth to the earthly kingdoms we see all around us, what would we see?  If we were to look at size, we would see that approximately 31% of the world’s population claim to be Christians.  While that adds up to about 2.5 billion people, it also means that the majority of people on this earth are not Christians.  They are not a part of God’s Kingdom.  If we were to compare the power and the influence of God’s Kingdom here on this earth to the power and influence of the earthly kingdoms we see all around us, what would we see?  We would see that from a purely human perspective the power and the influence of God’s Kingdom seems to be waning while the power and the influence of secular kingdoms seem to be growing stronger.

 

What if we were to take that discussion and apply it to our own congregation?  If we were to take the size, the power and the influence of our congregation and compare it to the size, the power and the influence of the secular organizations we see around us, how would we compare?  Once again, from a purely human perspective we would not compare very well, would we.

 

Our sermon text for today gives us an opportunity to clarify our perspective on God’s Kingdom— and if necessary, reshape our thinking on God’s Kingdom.  With that in mind let’s study this portion of Scripture under the theme:  Look at God’s Kingdom through His Eyes!  As we look at God’s Kingdom through His eyes, our text for today reminds us of two things.  First, we are reminded of the fact that while we see the planting— God sees the harvest.  Then, we are reminded of the fact that while we see the small seed— God sees the mature plant.

 

The Lord Jesus begins this parable by revealing to us that while we see the planting of God’s Kingdom— God is able to see the harvest!  Jesus says, “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.  All by itself the soil produces grain— first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

 

The key to understanding this parable correctly is to realize that “the seed” represents the Word of God.  Just as a seed that you plant in your garden has a wonderful and amazing power to grow and to produce a harvest, so also God’s Word possesses a wonderful and amazing power to grow in the hearts of people and produce a harvest for the Lord.  We, of course, know from personal experience that the person who plants the seed has nothing to do with the power that enables the seed to grow.  In the same way when we “plant the seed” of God’s holy Word in someone’s heart, when we share with them what Jesus has done for them (Pointing to the cross), we can’t do anything to cause that seed to grow!  We watch and we pray and we let God’s Word work!  Only God has the power to cause the “the seed” of His Word to produce the gift of saving faith in a person’s heart.  The Holy Spirit emphasized that exact truth when He inspired the apostle Paul to write, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

 

This is an important truth for us to remember when we look at the Kingdom of God here on this earth, my friends.  While God has graciously given to us the work of “planting the seed” of His Word, He reserves for Himself the power to cause that seed to grow.  Our “job” so to speak, is to plant the seed carefully by proclaiming God’s Word faithfully.  We don’t need to lay awake at night and think, “I wonder — if I do this or if I do that then maybe my friend would come to faith in Jesus.”  We don’t need to lament that the empty seats in church on Sunday morning must mean that we’re not doing our “job” correctly.  We simply “plant the seed” of God’s powerful Word and let God do what only God has the power to do!

 

When we stay focused on “planting the seed” then we can confidently rejoice in knowing that God is not only in charge of producing the “harvest,” but He already sees the “harvest”!  As the God who lives in the eternal present, our Lord knows exactly when the “harvest” needs to take place.  This is true on both an individual level as well as on a worldwide level.  Look at it this way:  Every time a child of God is called home to heaven the good Lord is “harvesting” their soul.  He is “gathering” them into the safety and protection of His heavenly Kingdom.  On Judgment Day the good Lord will send His mighty angels to “harvest” the earth.  They will separate the “wheat” from the “weeds” (See Matthew 13:36-43).  They will “gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:26, 27).

 

Just as seeing God’s Kingdom through His eyes leads us to stay focused on the planting and leave the harvest up to God, so also seeing God’s Kingdom through His eyes will lead us to remember that we see only the small seed, but God see the mature plant.  Jesus brings this truth out in these words, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

 

The picture that Jesus paints here was very familiar to His disciples.  They were very familiar with the fact that the mustard seed was “the smallest seed you plant in the ground.”  They were very familiar with the fact that the mustard seed “becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”  What Jesus’ disciples were not familiar with was how the mustard seed enables them— and us!— to look at God’s Kingdom through His eyes!

 

Who would have believed that the promise which God made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden would grow to embrace billions upon billions upon billions of hearts— including yours and mine!  Who would have believed that a tiny little Baby born in a manger in Bethlehem would rule victoriously over a Kingdom that extends all across time and into eternity?  Who would have believed that a handful of disciples preaching a simple message of salvation through faith in what Jesus has done for us (Pointing to the cross) would spread a religion to followers on every continent and in every century?

 

Who would believe this?  We would and we do— purely by the grace and power of God!  Because we believe this, because we see the small seed but God sees the mature plant we continue to “plant the seed” of God’s Word and marvel at what our God can and will accomplish through our faithful and humble efforts.  We continue to faithfully “plant the seed” of God’s Word because we want other people to enjoy the “shade,” the peace and the rest which can only be found in God’s Kingdom— including and especially our own family.

 

The fact that God’s Word has the power in and of itself to grow in a person’s heart, the fact that God’s Word has the power in and of itself to become a mature plant which provides spiritual shade for the weary and an eternal harvest for the faithful, gives us a very good application of the fact that we are studying this portion of Scripture on Father’s Day.

 

As Christian Fathers we know that our heavenly Father has given to us the responsibility of making sure that our children are brought up “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  We are responsible for making sure that from the time they are little our children hear and learn the powerful Word of our God.  We are responsible for making sure that from the time they are little our children are able to see and to hear how important God’s Word and God’s Kingdom is to us.  We don’t wait until they are older and then encourage them to decide for themselves which church or which philosophy or which whatever fits best with what they want to believe.  We “plant the seed” of God’s powerful Word in their heart long before they can even read.  We “water” that seed with devotions and Sunday school and church attendance and prayer.  We pray every single day that God will cause that Word to grow in their heart so that someday, when the good Lord decides the time is right, someday they will be a part of God’s eternal “harvest.”

 

Mark closes our text for today by emphasizing both the purpose of Jesus’ parables and the importance of Jesus’ teachings.  Mark writes, “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand.  He did not say anything to them without using a parable.  But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.”

 

The purpose of all of the parables that Jesus spoke was to help people like me understand and remember eternally important truths— truths such as, “The kingdom of God is like….”  At the same time, the fact that each of Jesus’ parables is designed to communicate one central truth of Scripture reminds us of how important each and every one of Jesus’ teachings are!  Today you and I are reminded of how foolish it is for us to think that there is something we can do to help make God’s Kingdom grow— as if using God’s Word alone is some kind of limitation.  The fact that the “seed” of God’s Word has the power in and of itself to cause saving faith to grow in a person’s heart, the fact that while the “seed” of God’s Word might seem “small” to us, it has the power in and of itself to grow into a mature plant that richly provides for all of our spiritual needs— this is what Jesus wants us to keep in front of our eyes as we strive to share God’s powerful Word with as many people as we can!

 

If we were to compare the Kingdom of God here on this earth to the earthly kingdoms we see all around us, how would it compare?  As that question was marinating in my mind this past week, I kept coming back to the realization that the portion of God’s Kingdom that we are able to see is just a tiny fraction of the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.  The portion of God’s Kingdom that we cannot see— at least not yet!— consists of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation7:9).  It is a Kingdom concerning which Jesus says, “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).  It is a Kingdom which our heavenly Father has “prepared for (us) since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  It is the Kingdom that exists right here in our hearts.  (See Luke 17:20, 21)

 

May the good Lord grant that we take all of that into account as we strive to look at God’s Kingdom through His eyes!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen