Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (11-17)
Lesson: Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm: Psalm 92:1-5 (6-10), 11-14
CLB Commentary – Rev. Gary Witkop
(originally published in 2012)
These two parables start off asking or declaring what the kingdom of God is like. I wonder if modern Christians, especially those of us in a first world nation, wonder about such things. Are we so deeply entrenched in the workings of this world and making a living that we don’t stop to ask what God’s kingdom is like and how we are or should be involved in it? Sadly, I think many of us are.
The way Jesus chooses to describe the kingdom of God to his people is to use illustrations that they could understand. In a culture where farming was a main occupation, Jesus chose to use that as a way of teaching about the kingdom of God. What would Jesus use today; a business model perhaps?
In the first parable, that of a farmer planting seeds and then the seed growing into a crop, Jesus shows that it is not the farmer who causes the seed to grow. We cannot do spiritual work, we cannot cause people to change, we cannot “save” people (our righteous deeds are as filthy rags: Isaiah 64:6). All we can do in God’s kingdom is plant the seeds and work to help provide a healthy place for God to do His work of changing lives. Think of the plant, the farmer tills the soil and plants the seed. The only other things the farmer can do is add fertilizer, pull or spray for weeds, and water as needed. The farmer cannot force growth. In fact, if he tries he will likely stunt or kill the plant. All we can do in God’s kingdom is plant seeds, provide spiritual fertilizer, pull “weeds” and water. God causes the growth. We need to stop trying to be the Holy Spirit for others but we also need to work as to make our churches healthy nurseries where people can grow as God works in them.
In the second parable, the more familiar one of the mustard seed we see the seed growing into a plant that then touches other living things, birds for example. Here is a great illustration of a healthy Christian (or church). In the first parable the seed is planted and grows into a mature plant that bears fruit for the farmer. In this parable, the healthy plant then is used to touch others. In the kingdom of God a person is brought to the Lord as God’s seed is planted in them, then the Holy Spirit does his work to grow that person into a mature Christian and then God uses that mature believer to touch others by planting seeds, watering and fertilizing the soil of their heart, and doing good works (feeding the poor, etc.).
What I love the most about the parable of the mustard seed is that it reminds us that the harvest is not for us. In the first parable it would be easy to see the farmer as harvesting the crop for his own gain and that the farmer could be reaping for our own benefit (prosperity preaching). But in the parable of the mustard seed the seed grows into a plant that is then used to be a blessing to others, not itself and not even the farmer as it is the birds of the air that nest in its branches instead of a crop being brought into the barn. We as Christians and churches are here to be a blessing to others without thinking of the personal gain to us.
So what is the kingdom of God like? A continually growing spiritual organism that becomes a blessing to others as God leads and chooses.