Summary: Pentecost 4: Jesus’ comforting words about the Kingdom span the ages to bring comfort and assurance to the believer.
The lens through which we can see things doesn’t provide the full panorama of the Kingdom. “For we know in part and we prophesy in part… Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror… Now I know in part…” (1 Corinthians 13.9a, 12a, 12c) Sometimes what we think that we see is really not; that which we think that we understand, we fail to grasp; And when we begin to imagine that we have a full grasp of the Kingdom of God, we err – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2.9)
We’ve been let down by those who have been called to serve. Confidences have been betrayed. Holy teachings have been corrupted. Eternal values communicated by the Lord Himself have been adulterated with worldly ethics. The trust of many has been wounded. And so the church seems tainted. The Church seems to lack power. The kingdom seems weak. It seems unable to an agent of transformation to a hurting and wounded world.
Seems is a good world to describe our limited perspective of the kingdom – because we know in part… we see in part… we see but a poor reflection. Whatever misperceived weaknesses of the Kingdom are certainly due to our inability to understand its depth and breadth and meaning. And because of this, we sometimes despair needlessly. We imagine that the world will overwhelm the Kingdom. As we see the trials that come into our lives, we imagine that they are a result of the walls of the Kingdom being breeched – of a weak Savior – of a Cross with no power – of a grave that hasn’t been vanquished.
Into this reality come the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. They describe what cannot fall; what cannot be overcome; what exists to usher the saints of the living God into eternity. Let’s read about it together. Let’s read the Gospel lesson for today:
26 Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seeds on the ground. 27 He sleeps at night and is awake during the day. The seeds sprout and grow, although the man doesn’t know how. 28 The ground produces grain by itself. First the green blade appears, then the head, then the head full of grain. 29 As soon as the grain is ready, he cuts it with a sickle, because harvest time has come.”
30 Jesus asked, “How can we show what the kingdom of God is like? To what can we compare it? 31 It’s like a mustard seed planted in the ground. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds on earth. 32 However, when planted, it comes up and becomes taller than all the garden plants. It grows such large branches that birds can nest in its shade.” (Mark 4:26-32)
Verses 26-29 describe the mystery of the Kingdom. So incredible is the mystery that the Lord uses a parable to communicate its mysteries. The Kingdom begins with a scattering of seed. It starts with planting – with sowing. A seed falls into the ground and for all practical purposes, it seems to have died. But soon, says the Lord, a green blade pushes its way out of the ground. It grows slowly but surely.
The key thought of this is expressed in the second half of verse 27: “The seeds sprout and grow, although the man doesn’t know how.” Indeed, I don’t know how – I do not see clearly – as but a poor reflection in the mirror. And even though I do not understand, God returns the harvest. The power of the seed to germinate and grow is power placed there by God. And even though we are given the task of sowing - of planting the seed – it is God who makes it produce. It is God that makes it yield the harvest. Human involvement is perfunctory. It is God power, not man power, on which the Kingdom depends.
I’ve gone through a lot of words and a lot of trouble to get to make that point. So I’ll say it again: “It is God power, not man power, on which the Kingdom depends.” And this is wonderful news for us, beloved. You see, if it depended on us – we’d be up the creek without a paddle. I guarantee you that you don’t want the Kingdom to depend on me or any other human pastor. You don’t want the Kingdom to depend on the integrity of buildings or on the foibles of humankind.
Into this uncertainty the words of our Savior come to bring peace and security. When Jesus spoke these words, it was to a people who remembered God’s hand of deliverance coming to them; People who had wandered in the hot and arid deserts; People who had been enslaved and were freed; People who had been taken captive and delivered by the powerful hand of the living God. That is the picture that Jesus wants to convey to us with this parable. Jesus wanted to evoke the memory and visionary impulse of Yahweh who acts to deliver his chosen ones from occupation and oppression.