26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
Seeking Out Hidden Paths
It would seem that God grows the Kingdom of God regardless of the efforts of man. However, the planting of the seed is key, so who plants it? The answer could be Jesus or his disciples. Jesus was planting seeds throughout northern Israel at this point in his ministry. He didn’t have to get up and fret whether God was using what he was doing. Jesus knew he had a role to play and his Father would orchestrate the rest behind the scenes. The Kingdom of God goes through stages of growth as faithful disciples grow and give life to new ‘plants’. The idea of ‘getting people saved’ seems inadequate to explain what ‘preaching the Kingdom’ may mean. It starts with people accepting that the Kingdom has come and deciding to follow it, however, there must be growth and reproduction. I see that less and less in a western culture that wants a latte with their McFaith.
Growth and results are key to both parables. However, the results are unseen. Many in the west may be watching church influence decline as Christians are understood to be more and more out of step with the culture. I there are faithful disciples in the west who orient their lives around Jesus, then God will do miraculous things through them quietly. Marriage might become less and less well defined, sex may be a consumer option on a Saturday night, and language may become inexact, vulgar and rude, but Jesus works to further something profound. Perhaps the sheep are being separated from the goats and the chaff distinguished from the grain. However, let’s not worry too much at what we see. Let’s rest assured that God works in hidden ways and we must seek them out.
I am grateful that whether I am on board or not, you are working for good in the world. You are changing hearts and establishing your rule in the faithful. Those who played at the faith are falling away, but those who want to bring your Kingdom will be empowered to change the lives around them. It is easy to worry about the changes in society and the abandoning of churches. However, if we are committed to you, there are strategies to walk in hidden paths as Christians have in darker times in history.
- What two illustrations does Jesus give in the passages above?
- What is the point that unites both passages?
- How would Jesus’ disciples have acted differently after hearing these parables?
- In what ways has God’s Kingdom grown around and through you in hidden ways?
- How might hearts devoted to Jesus change people and the world for good in your sphere of influence?