Parables Part 10 - Kingdom Growth
Mark 4:36-32, “And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
As we move forward in the parables Jesus told us I want to take a moment to remind you of a couple of things. First, parables are stories that are told to illustrate and/or teach a spiritual lesson. Second, in the Bible we have something called parabolic constancy, which means that items represented in one parable will then represent the same thing in other parables. For more on this please refer back to the explanation in part 8 of this series. On to today’s parables...
Both parables are talking about the kingdom of God. One of them is a positive parable and the other teaches a negative lesson that we would be wise to heed. In the first parable the kingdom of God is basically a good harvest. The man who sows seed is Jesus, and God is the one who brings the increase. In 1 Corinthians 5:3-8 Paul wrote, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” We may plant, we may water, and we should, but it is God’s Word by the power of God’s Spirit who brings the increase in the harvest. In Luke 10:2 Jesus told us, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” God has sent out His Word, which will not return void (Isaiah 55:11), and His Spirit is working to impart His Word of Salvation through the Gospel to the hearts of humankind. Our job is planting a seed or watering that seed encouraging it to grow, but in the end God is the one who brings the increase, and the church grows supernaturally as a result. This does not diminish our responsibility to go into the world and preach the gospel, this is still our task, commanded and commissioned by God (Matthew 28:18-20). This is to teach us that it is God who does the saving, not us.
In the second parable we get the negative side of this growth. Just like the first parable the Kingdom of God grows supernaturally. A mustard seed is tiny, if you have never seen one I encourage you to look it up online. But this tiny seed grows into a might tree, which mustard seeds do not do. So here again we have the supernatural growth of the church. Think about it, 12 men took the gospel and God used them to reach billions over the last 2000 years. But what happens, birds nest in its branches. Now, if you remember that rule of parabolic constancy, we know that birds represent evil or the devil in parables. Therefore, the supernatural growth will be infiltrated by the enemy. This was happening within 20-30 years of Jesus resurrection and certainly is happening today with churches that compromise the Word of God, cheapen the gospel, and so forth. We are warned in the parable of the leaven that it just takes a little to corrupt the whole, which we will look at next time, but we as followers of Christ need to be aware that we have an enemy who wants to undermine and destroy the work of the church. We are called to be vigilant.
Image Borrowed from Birdbarrier.com