Summary: To note the greatness of the Kingdom by looking at how it grows by God’s power.
The Gospel of Mark #12:
The Growth of the Kingdom
Text: Mark 4:21-34
Thesis: To note the greatness of the Kingdom by looking at how it grows by God’s power.
(1) After stressing the importance of our preparing ourselves to receive the Word, Jesus now emphasizes the way that spiritual growth occurs.
(2) Basically, the Kingdom of God “advances … typically without fanfare, as individuals hear, receive, and are redeemed by the almost imperceptible planting, nurturing, growth, and fruition of the gospel in heart after heart” (R. Shelly).
(3) In order to illustrate this point, Jesus tells 4 Parables: 1) The Parable of the Lamp (vv. 21-23); 2) The Parable of the Measure (vv. 24-25); 3) The Parable of the Growing Seed (vv. 26-29); and 4) The Parable of the Mustard Seed (vv. 30-32).
I. The Parables:
A. The Parable of the Lamp (vv. 21-23) –
1. “The lamp was a clay dish filled with oil, with a wick put into the oil. In order to give light, the lamp had to ‘use itself up;’ and the oil had to be replenished. If the lamp was not lit, or if it was covered up, it did the home no good” (Wiersbe 1:123).
2. “Invisible light is pointless, and God wants the light of his word to be received” (from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament copyright (C) 1993 by Craig S. Keener published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
3. “The transition from the parable of the sower to the other parables in this chapter is a brief paragraph in which Jesus reminds us that those who have received the good seed into their lives will want to give it away” (Schubert 67).
B. The Parable of the Measure (vv. 24-25) –
1. “The language of ‘measuring’ is the language of weighing food and other commodities at the market; Jewish texts sometimes use it for God’s measuring out just judgments in the final day” (from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament copyright (C) 1993 by Craig S. Keener published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
2. “Those who learn well will gain more and more knowledge, but those who do not learn well will become increasingly confused and ignorant” (Schubert 68).
3. “The difference between those outside and those inside is the measure they give in the way they hear parables” (Black 95).
C. The Parable of the Growing Seed (vv. 26-29) –
1. “Its emphasis is different from the parable of the sower. There the importance of proper soil for the growth of the seed and the success of the harvest is stressed. Here the mysterious power of the seed itself to produce a crop is emphasized” (Wessel 652).
2. “The Lord is teaching us to be patient. The Word is growing secretly. We may not know how it happens. We may not understand it. Jesus is teaching the great truth that God is at work in the conversion process. It does no depend on us. Once we have done what we have been charged to do, then we are to rest in the fact that God will work” (Schubert 69).
3. “The growth of the seed into a blade, a head, and then the full grain suggests an appointed order of development that may not be hurried or skipped over, nor can it be delayed” (Garland 176).
4. “The process of spiritual growth is spontaneous within the kingdom of God, but it remains a total mystery to natural humanity” (Cole 151).
5. Growth “will come in God’s time and in God’s way, not by human effort or in accordance with human logic” (France 215).
D. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (vv. 30-32) –
1. In Palestine, the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds; however, “the mustard plant could grow to heights of 10 to 12 feet and attain a thickness of 3 or 4 inches” (Brooks 85).
2. As far as the birds, they “simply indicate the size and importance of the” plant (Cole 152-53).
3. “All attention is focused upon the contrast between the smallest of the seeds and the tallest of the shrubs” (Lane 171).
4. “This is the way the kingdom of God works. The infinitely small becomes the infinitely great. The dramatic rises from the not so dramatic” (Schubert 71).
5. “Within forty years of Christ’s death the gospel had reached all the great cultural centers of the Roman world, and ever so many out-of-the-way places besides” (Hendriksen 173).
E. In verses 33-34, Mark discusses Jesus usage of parables.
1. “Parables were the public persona of Jesus the teacher. By means of graphic images from everyday life, Jesus teased, tantalized, and tested his audiences, inviting them to an insider experience of the kingdom and of fellowship with himself” (Edwards 146).