Summary: It is the message and not the messanger.
It All Starts With a Tiny Seed
When Jesus started to face opposition from grous like the Pharisees and Scribes, He started to address the crowds in parables. The purpose of the parable is twofold. On one hand, it is easy to understand the story as it comes from real life. Jesus used parables using farmers, fishermen, investors, and other professions to compare them to a spiritual truth He wanted to make. But the other purpose of the parable was to hide the truth from those who were not given the key to understanding the parable. In the parable in this passage, it is easy to understand what the sower is doing, and that plants grow on their own without intervention and without the farmer knowing why the seed becomes a plant. I would suppose today with our scientific understanding, it is not as much a mystery as it once was. But obviously Jesus was interested in saying something more than to observe how they grow.
Part of the key to understanding the parable is to carefully read it. One must bring two questions to a parable. One is: “What does it say?” The other question is: What does it NOT say.” Let’s use these two questions to analyze the parable.
First of all it says that this parable describes a truth about the kingdom of God. It is like a man who threw the seed upon the ground. It does not identify what kind of person threw the seed. This detail is not important to the parable. This tells us the parable is not about the man or woman who threw the seed. It could be any man or any woman. It then says that this sower went on with life night and day. It does not say that he cultivated the field, plowed it, watered it, weeded it, or anything else other than days passed. This means that what the man did other than scatter the seed is unimportant to understanding the parable. In fact, this man seems to be somewhat ignorant of the process. He could see what was happening. The plants came up and went to the maturing process by themselves without mentioning any intervention on the man’s part. The Greek word about what happened is the same as our word “automatically.” It is something in the seed and the hand of God that makes it happen. It is in the DNA.
When the harvest is ripe, this man is fast to take the sickle to the grain to harvest it. The recognizing the proper time to harvest and then making haste to harvest it before the fowl and insects ate up the ripe grain is an important detail to the parable.
Jesus speaks a second parable about a mustard seed. Here, the detail to be observed is the tiny size of the seed. Jesus may even have plucked the seed from off the tree to show just how tiny it was. The other detail is the size of the mustard tree. It grew large enough for birds to roost in it. These are the only two important details. In is unnecessary for understanding to include detail like the use of mustard as a spice or some other details. If one were using a slogan it would be: “Great things start from humble beginnings.”
Now we have to realize that Jesus is not giving practical advice. What do these two parables say about the Kingdom of God? Let us look at the first parable. We are called to sow the seed of the kingdom. However, there is a certain humility to this. The gospel is not about us. It is our job simply to scatter the seed faithfully. We like to think that we have to control the process of evangelism. We come up with schemes to sow the seed. We try to prepare the ground, weed, cultivate, etc. We want to control the process. What we have to realize is that it is the gospel itself which causes growth. It’s not what we do but what the Gospel does. God has put the DNA in the message. It comes up of itself, and not by our effort. We don’t even have to understand why it works. We simply get to see it grow. This does not mean we simply sit back and watch. We certainly are called to nurture the seed. We are to teach them whatsoever things Jesus has commanded. What we do have to do is to do it God’s way and not our own. We must feed them the gospel itself, to tell them what Jesus began to do and to teach.
The second parable is prophetic of the growth of the church. The church began with a tiny group of disciples who followed Jesus, Days and nights passed, yet at the Day of Pentecost, the church had only 120 members which is practically nothing compared to the 100 million inhabitants of just the Roman Empire. Then there were 3000, then 5000, which is still not numerically significant. But within 300 years, it conquered the Roman Empire.