Based On: Mark 4:26-34
How many times have you prayed the Lord’s Prayer and said “Your kingdom come”? But what is the kingdom of God and how does it come? First, the kingdom of God is not a geographic location. It is God ruling in the hearts of his people. For example, when Elijah talked to God on Mount Sinai Elijah claimed that he was the only believer left. God told him that he had reserved 7,000 in Israel who had not worshiped the false god, Baal. That was God’s kingdom in the hearts of those 7,000 believers who only worshiped the true God. Now, how does His kingdom come? Or to ask the question another way, how does God’s kingdom grow? Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God grows in ways that we don’t understand and it grows to a size that we don’t expect.
How does a living plant come from a seemingly dead seed? I know the basics: put the seed in soil and give it water and the plant grows. But I can’t explain how that growth happens and I really don’t need to know to grow a garden. Just like in the parable, “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.” I just plant the seed and God makes the plant grow.
The greater mystery is how someone spiritually dead can come to spiritual life? Again, I don’t need to understand how this works; I just plant the seed and God makes it grow.
This growth is not something I understand, nor can I control it. God is in control. He uses the seed – the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ – to create spiritual life in the dead soil of our heart. The seed is this Gospel message in God’s Word and in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
We don’t understand how this happens, because the message of Christ crucified doesn’t make sense to human reason. Why would anyone believe this message? Yet, this message has the power to create life because God gives it this power. God promises, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
God gives us this message of forgiveness of sins through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and tells us to share it. With this seed thrown onto the soil of human hearts God creates faith and grows children for himself. On judgment day when God puts the sickle to the harvest, we will see how the seed has produced mature plants in the kingdom of God.
Wait, that can’t be all there is to it. Doesn’t a person receiving the Gospel have to make a decision to make the Gospel seed grow? No. What about the person sowing the seed? Doesn’t he need to have a convincing argument or win them with their personality or by their knowledge of the Bible? No. Don’t we need to be friendlier or use contemporary music or have a dynamic preacher in order to attract the lost? Again, no. Just tell them Jesus is your Savior and their Savior. This simple method is not easy to accept. My sinful flesh wants to add something to this message, because it does not understand how God’s Kingdom grows.
Please do not misunderstand. God wants us to use our best gifts in serving him and to do things well, but let us always remember where the power exists to bring eternal life – in the seed – in the Gospel message.
What if we were to buy a very expensive pot for the seed we want to plant? We decorate the pot; put the finest soil in it; put it in a place where is going to get just the right amount of light; water it regularly; but we failed to put the seed in. No plant will ever grow. The power to create living plant is held in the seed, in the same way the power to create spiritual life has been placed into the message of forgiveness through the work of Jesus Christ, not in the melodies we sing or how friendly we are or the speaking ability of the preacher.
As we think about sowing this seed among others let us right here and now sow this seed among ourselves. Let it produce a harvest in our hearts. You and I have sinned. We are guilty of not sowing the seed or of thinking too highly of our role in growing Christians, but Jesus Christ has died for those sins and every other sin. His body and blood that we receive in the Lord’s Supper is the same body and blood that paid for our sins. Remember that when we were baptized we became a child of God and that has not changed.
Take comfort that God did the work of making that seed grow in you and it was done perfectly. Take comfort in the fact that as you tell others about your Savior God will do the work of making the kingdom grow in the way that only He knows.
Finally on judgment day we will see that the spreading of this message did produce a harvest of souls for salvation. Telling others about the Savior did make the kingdom of God grow in a way we didn’t understand.
As we hear the message and the seed of Christ’s forgiveness is sown in our hearts we will want to tell others – we will want to plant more of this seed in the hearts of others. God uses this to make his kingdom grow to a size we don’t expect.
If I were to hold up a mustard seed (about a 1/16 of an inch across) I would imagine that only the people in the first few rows would notice anything, but if we had a full grown mustard plant of the variety that grows in the Middle East, it would be over 12 feet tall. That is a very large plant to come from such a small seed.
Jesus compares the kingdom of God to this plant. It started small and even now it may look small, but God promises that the end result will be larger than we expect.
The Christian church had a total of about 120 believers after Jesus ascended into heaven. That was all, but from there God made His kingdom quickly grow to thousands and tens of thousands. It grew from a single location, the city of Jerusalem, to places all over the then-known world. The growth was tremendous and, from a human perspective, completely unexpected.
Now we look at the world around us and perhaps we wonder, did that growth continue? Certainly there are Christians all over the world. Yet, when we look for the Gospel message that we are saved by Christ’s death and resurrection without any work on our part, we see that Gospel message compromised in too many places. Even though God has blessed us with new members in our congregation we look at the Wisconsin synod as a whole and see it has not grown.
This can be disheartening and discouraging. The church looks small – like a mustard seed. But consider how this parable Jesus told would have encouraged the disciples. Even though they were just a small group, they had this parable in which Jesus promised them that the kingdom would grow beyond their human expectations. This parable is a promise to you and to me that His kingdom will grow and will grow to unexpected proportions.
We might not see much growth here in the United States, but God’s kingdom grows in Africa, and Russia. We might not see a large increase in membership in one congregation, but those attending are becoming more mature in their faith – the kingdom is growing there too.
Of course God is in control and determines when and where His kingdom grows. He tells us to expect the unexpected. And we know He will keep His promise because His kingdom is based on Jesus Christ and the forgiveness he won for us – a very powerful seed. Finally, on judgment day we will see the full grown kingdom of God. We will see how He kept his promise.
With these two parables Jesus not only tells us about growth in the Kingdom of God, but he also promises that it will grow and that it will grow beyond our expectations. We are a part of that kingdom now and we will be a part of that kingdom when it is revealed on the last day.