Mark Pt: 20 Kingdom Cultivation
26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. 30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. 33 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
One of the hot topics of Today, is the war that rages between the proponents of organic food and those who are push genetically modified food.
Even as I say those words, I will have invoked opinions amongst you all, one way or the other.
Now I don’t wish to stoke the fires on this topic, but I am using it as a springboard into our portion of scripture this morning, because at its very core, at its simplest the GM and Organic debate is really about natural growth versus artificial growth.
And its this very thought that Jesus deals with with the two parables we have just read, except he is not dealing with crops, but the Kingdom of God.
Now the when we get to talking about the Kingdom of God, and the other phrase used in Matthews Gospel “The kingdom of Heaven” a lot of folks will state that the two terms are used interchangeably, but that is not the case, and we don’t have the time to deal with that this morning.
I want to focus on the growth of the Kingdom of God, so lets get into our body of text and deal firstly with...
1. Natural Kingdom Growth
1. Natural Kingdom Growth
In the first parable of our two, Jesus uses an agricultural illustration to describe the Kingdom of God, this is not a new teaching method of Christ, remember we looked at the parable of the sower the seed and the soils earlier in Mark, and we noted how the listeners would be familiar with the farming principals, the same concept applies here.
26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
keeping context from our previous parables the seed is the word of God
14 The sower soweth the word.
So the man sows the seed, this is a picture of our Part in Kingdom growth, we are to sow the seed
The Sowers Mission for the Seed
The sower has one desire as he enters his field: to get his seed into the soil. He wants to plant his crop so that he can reap a harvest at the proper season.
God’s mandate to His people is that we take the seed of the Gospel into the field of the world and sow it for His glory.
We are commanded to share the Gospel:
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Is there a burden to get the Gospel into the field of the world? If there is, then honour it and go. If there isn’t, then get before the Lord and pray until He places such a burden on your heart!
Preach the Word, share the Gospel, thats our part and thats the only bit we are responsible for
The real miracle however is when God does his part, you see the life is not in the soil, and it doesn't come from the sower, the life is in the seed.
We cannot do very much. All we can do is take the seed and sow it. Anyone can do that.
Nobody needs a degree in agriculture to be able to take handful after handful of seed and throw it on the soil. However, the marvel and wonder of what follows ought never to cease to amaze us.
Let’s read verses 27-28
27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
What happens, the farmer after sowing the seed can only wait.
any of you budding gardeners (you see what i did there) no this well
What else can you do, yes you can water and fertilise the soil, make the outside conditions as best as possible, but you cannot make the seed germinate and grow.
Now that phrase 'of herself' is a translation of the Greek word 'automate', it's the one we get our English word derived from 'automatic'.
Kenneth Wuest, in his Greek commentary, says: 'This word means 'self moved', 'spontaneously', without external aid and also beyond external control, with a way and will, so to speak, of its own that must be respected and waited for'
Now let me first of all address what that does not mean: this parable does not teach that there are not contributory factors to the growth of the seed.
It grows independently, but that doesn't mean that nothing else affects its growth.
Though the growth is independent, and the life is in the seed itself, someone needs to go and put it out onto the soil.
It's the same with the gospel, people will not get saved if we just sit and rest on our lees and do nothing about it, but as Paul said in Romans: how shall they hear without a preacher?
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
There needs to be a sower. It pleased God, through the foolishness of preaching, Paul told the Corinthians, to save some - so there are contributory factors to the growth of this seed, though it grows independently.
There must be a sower to sow. Then secondly, not only must there be a sower, there must be water.
6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
He's indicating there that though God gave the increase, and the seed's growth was independent of anything else, because the life is in the seed, there was a contributory factor to the growth of that seed, and that was watering
A sower must sow, the seed must be watered, and thirdly: the soil must be fertile.
Have we not learnt that already in the parable of the sower.
So this parable is not teaching that there are no contributory factors to the growth of the seed, it doesn't teach some kind of determinism - what I mean by that is that God will save, even if we don't preach, and don't pray, and don't prepare our hearts, and don't seek to prepare the hearts of others.
In 1786 William Carey had laid on his heart the burden of world mission, and he laid it before a ministerial meeting in Northampton in England. The eminent Dr. Ryland stood to his feet and said to him: 'Young man, sit down: when God is pleased to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine'.
Not so, there is an inevitable and independent growth of the seed, but there are other contributory factors that God has ordained: the sower must sow.
This parable is teaching that we, as mere human beings, even sowers and waterers of the seed and tenders of the soil, we cannot create the phenomenon of growth.
It is God that brings life, and that is Natural Kingdom growth, or we could say supernatural Kingdom growth.
what then of the second parable, well here Jesus deals with
2. Artificial Kingdom Growth
2. Artificial Kingdom Growth
Here we get to one of the most misunderstood parables of them all, the parable of the mustard seed.
30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
here Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a Mustard seed, what does this mean you ask
Well to help us we will go to the parallel passage detailing this parable in Matt 13
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
Here speaking about the development of the Church and Christianity in the interim period between His first and second comings.
Now the mustard plant spoken of here is in all likelihood the black mustard that was/is so popular in Israel.
It is a herb, that though it has little beginnings grows into a plant some 12-15 feet in height.
It has a stalky stem, almost like the trunk of a tree, and indeed it is possible for birds to rest in its “branches”.
Christianity began its history as a mustard seed – something very small and insignificant.
It began with one person – Jesus Christ, described by Isaiah the prophet as a “tender plant” – “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant…” (Isaiah 53:2)
It went from one, Jesus, who drew to Himself twelve more, the apostles, which in turn became 70, then 120 then three thousand, before adding multitudes more.
This was the normal, natural growth of the early church. We might be tempted to speak of it as phenomenal growth, but even with these numbers in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that much.
notice though vs 32a – The ‘Herb’ became a ‘Tree’
it is unnatural for a herb to become a tree, yet that is what Jesus says took place… “…when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree.”
"Herbs" are an entirely different species from trees, this "herb" became a "tree;" that is to say, it developed into something entirely foreign to its very nature and constitution.
What became of the church?
Something Sinister – vs 32b – The Tree Became A Shelter for the Birds
The Greek word in verse 32 is precisely the same as that which is rendered "fowls" in verse 4, which are explained in verse 19 as "the wicked."
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
These "birds" symbolise Satan and his agents.
The “tree” here whose wide-spreading branches afforded lodgement for birds is a familiar Old Testament figure for a mighty kingdom, which gave shelter to the nations.
The “tree” symbolises earthly greatness, worldly prominence, giving shelter to the nations.
Let us think about what became of the church in the world.
Following his conversion, the Emperor Constantine issued the "Edict of Milan," in 313 A.D. and commanded official toleration of Christianity and other religions.
In 314 AD the image of the cross appeared on Roman coins, ALONGSIDE the images of the Sun god and Mars.
By 380 A.D. the Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the state religion.
And with this marriage of church & state, the church became part of a vast political-religious system.
The church became something it was never meant to be. Christianity became “Christendom”, a marriage between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdoms of this earth. The herb became a tree, and set its roots deeper into the earth.
Christianity soon became great in the earth.
Caves and caverns as places of worship gave way to costly churches and ornate cathedrals. Simple faith gave way to pomp and ceremony. With its gorgeous vestments, its imposing ceremonies, its pompous priesthood, it lured the unbelieving and unregenerate; and multitudes applied for baptism. More and more the leaders sought after temporal power, and more and more were their longings gratified. In consequence, worldly-minded men were the ones who sought after and secured the highest offices.
Hence we find the "birds," the agents of Satan, lodging in the branches of the "tree;" secured in positions of power and directing the activities of Christendom. The birds are not part of the tree, but have joined themselves to it. There is a difference between the TRUE church and the professing church
The Church we see today “Christendom” is artificial Kingdom growth, the herb became a tree
These two parables are teaching that there is a natural Kingdom growth and an artificial Kingdom growth.
The first parable gives us perspective, when we consider the unusual productivity of the word of God. It happens in spite of us, we have an involvement but the life springing forth has got nothing to do with us. The second thing that we can learn about the word of God: there's need not only for perspective, but patience in the work of God.
Its God that gives life, and we may not see that seed grow when we want but it can grow up at anytime
On one occasion a seed was taken from a 600-year-old rattle necklace that was found in South America, and this seed was planted. In 1968 it germinated, and it grew to a six foot tall plant, and then eventually flowered and bore fruit! 600 years being in a necklace!
Hudson Taylor, that great pioneer missionary to China, said that there are three qualifications for missionaries: patience, patience, and patience.
That's a qualification for anyone in the work of the Lord.
There is a natural Kingdom growth, when we fall in behind God and let him lead, we sow and wait for God to bring life.
The second parable shows us artificial growth, it is man made and manufactured, the herb became a tree, something it was never meant to be and what we have ended up with is Christendom, a weak monstrosity, large but limp, prominent but not powerful.. a house of charlatans, money grabbing, power seeking, scripture denying charlatans
Thats the artificial growth of the Kingdom we have witnessed.
Folks we want the real thing, natural Kingdom growth, we want God’s work done his way by simply obeying the book and getting back to basics, rejecting any man made tradition or teaching, that has been used by the enemy for artificial Kingdom growth