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.” (Mar 4:26-29 NIV)
Parables are one of Jesus’ primary vehicles for communicating kingdom truths. In an agricultural community, it makes sense that many of these parables would focus on planting and reaping. Today’s passage teaches us something about who is in charge of the kingdom harvest.
No doubt, we know a lot more about the process of life today than those in Jesus’ day. I say this with some reservation because, with all of our knowledge, we are perhaps more ignorant of the eternal values and purposes behind these processes.
The farmer in the first century knew he could plant seeds in the ground and they would produce plants. He recognized the developmental stages of plants as well as the passing of seasons. But he wasn’t as aware, as we are, of all of the science behind the seed.
Still, even with our knowledge, plant life amazes us. A wheat kernel doesn’t have a mind of its own, in the human sense, but it knows when and how to germinate. The finished product of a stalk loaded with grain is hard-wired into its DNA.
Just because we know more about a process doesn’t mean we have to appreciate it less. In fact, in some cases, our knowledge can restore our sense of wonder. The incredible pictures we now have of babies developing in their mother’s wombs are one example of this truth.
The kingdom is no exception. 2000 years of study, theological debate and subjective pondering has not come close to completely satisfying our desire for spiritual answers. We still want to know how, when and why God moves as He does?
The Pharisees and other teachers of the law in Jesus’ day thought they had it figured out. They believed they could attain righteousness, and to an extent control their world through good works. Yet, what good were their works if they weren’t offered to God to do with as He pleased?
Even today, there are those who seek to “claim” God’s blessings by agreeing with other humans upon those things we can expect of Him. Indeed, God has shared principles in His Word that help us understand His ways, but at no point has He ever asked us to run the universe for Him, or determine how His gifts will be dispensed.
No, the kingdom is not ours to manage. We are the workers in the field and the servants of the house. All we know for sure is that the Master is returning to take what is His, and to have a frank conversation with us about our stewardship of those things He has given us.
Until then, we keep planting, and expecting a harvest. His ways and means are still a mystery. And our role in the process is an adventure in trust.
Dear God, help me understand your ways, and follow them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.