The Parable of the Growing Seed

The Power is in the Word

The parable of the growing seed is only found in one of the four gospel accounts.  You will not find this parable in Matthew, Luke, or John.  It is a parable that is only found in Mark.

In Mark 4.1-32, you will find a three parables all related to planting seeds.  In each of these parables, the seed represents the word of God  (Luke 8.11).

  • In the first parable, you will read about the parable of the sower.  It is here that Jesus addresses the condition of the heart in which the seed (the word of God) is planted.
  • In the second parable, you will read about the parable of the growing seed which we will be exploring in this study.
  • The third parable is the parable of the mustard seed. 

Mark 4:26-29:  "And He said, 'The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.  But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.'"



The Meaning of the Parable of the Growing Seed

In the parable of the growing seed, attention is given to the seed and the growth of that seed. 

Notice that there is a progression in its growth.  First there is a blade (v. 28).  Then there is the head  (v. 28).  Finally, there is the full grain.  (v. 28) 

As the seed grows, something happens as a result of the growth.

Mark 4:29:  "But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The seed has grown into grain, and only then can a great harvest be enjoyed.  

Think about what Jesus is saying in this parable of the growing seed.  In the previous parable, Jesus teaches about the seed that is planted in different kinds of soil.  In other words, the word of God was planted into the heart of man, and each man responded to the word differently.  

Some hearts are good, honest, and receptive of the word.  He puts the word of God to work in his life, and it produces fruit.  Yet even if the word of God is planted in a good heart, it still has to grow before there can be a harvest.  

The parable of the growing seed teaches us that we must be patient with those who listen to God’s word.  We must be patient with ourselves when we study God’s word, because spiritual growth takes time. 

As we study the word of God and learn to apply it to our own life’s circumstances, there is a learning process.  You are not going to learn everything God has to say in the Bible in one sitting.  You are not going to know how to use everything you learn in one sitting.  It takes time.


Applying the Parable of the Growing Seed

With this parable of the growing seed and its meaning in mind, let’s think about two applications that we can invite into our lives when it comes to the Bible.  


We Need to Plant the Seed

The first application that comes to mind as we study the parable of the growing seed is that we need to sow the seed.  We need to go out and share the good news of Jesus with others.  

Mark 4.26:  “And He said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,”

Why do we fail to sow the seed into the hearts of those around us?  Why do we fail to talk to people about Jesus?  It is because we do not think that anyone will be interested.  We see an opportunity to talk to someone about the word of God, and we do not take the opportunity. 

We learn that someone is an atheist.  We learn that someone is a Muslim.  We learn that someone is is very worldly.  We start thinking that they would have very little interest in hearing about Jesus.  

If we are not careful, we will judge the person and jump to conclusion, and then decide not to share the Bible with them.  

We need to remember that in the parable of the sower, three out of the four soils in which the seed was planted failed.  

  • Some didn’t have any interest in what Jesus said.
  • Some had interest, accepted it, and allowed peer pressure to drive the word from their hearts.
  • Some had interest, accepted it, and the allowed other things to become more important.  

In that parable, Jesus still had the sower scatter the seed everywhere regardless of the quality of the soil.  He did not sow seed just in the area where he thought the seed would be accepted.

Most of the people who hear what we have to say will not respond well.  Jesus wants them to hear what He has to say anyway.  Consider what God said to Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 2.5:  "As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them."

God sends Ezekiel to Israel with a message.  God says that maybe they will hear and maybe they will reject your message.  But they will know that a prophet has been among them.  God is warning Ezekiel that they are not going to want to hear what you have to say.  But whether they are receptive or not, they need to hear God’s word anyway.  

In the first chapter of Jeremiah, the prophet is told those to whom he preaches will fight him.  In other words they would not only be unreceptive to the world, but they would be hostile to it  (Jer. 1.19).  Did you know that Jeremiah did not have a single convert?  God commanded that he go and preach anyway. 

When the apostle Paul came to Athens and saw that the city was filled with idols, he could have been discouraged and decided that telling them about Jesus would be an act of futility.  Yet notice what he did.  

Acts 17.16,17:  "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there."

Paul went and talked to them about Jesus anyway!

We need to remember that we are not soil inspectors, we are seed sowers.  We have been commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations.  We were not commissioned to step back and measure the likelihood of someone being receptive before we determine whether or not it is worth even trying.


We Need to Trust in the Power of the Word

Mark 4.27:  “and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.

Prior to the harvest, what did the sower do?  Verse 27 says that he slept.  That’s all he did.  He planted the seed, and then he went and slept and allowed the seed to have its full effect.  

What did the sower know in this parable of the growing seed?  Verse 27 says that he does not know how.  This man had no idea about the process of germination.  All he knew is that the seed was planted, and then after some time, a plant began to grow.

He did not do anything.  He did not know anything.  Yet he trusted in the power of the seed to produce the harvest.  

This teaches us about where we ought to place our trust.  Instead of putting our trust in the power of the seed, the word of God, we will put our trust into the power of the one who sows the seed.  

We try to help the gospel along.  We try to be more dynamic, have more leadership qualities, be more charismatic and charming.  Our thinking is that if we can just be more convincing, more interesting, and more believable, then we can be more successful in converting our friends, neighbors and coworkers to Christ.

With this mindset, we begin to believe that the power to save is in our abilities rather than in the message.  The power is not in the personality.  The power is not in a particular approach.  The power is in the word.  Only when we plant the word will there be growth in the hearts of individuals.  That's the message of the parable of the growing seed.

Think about the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 1.16

Romans 1.16:  “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation.” 

Think about the words of the apostle James in James 1.21

James 1.21:  ""receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

We can talk about politics.  We can talk about our jobs.  We can talk about recreation, what we like to do for fun.  We can talk about our favorite television shows.  We can talk to people about all kinds of different things, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But none of those things will challenge hearts and minds.  None of these things will affect eternity.  That power comes only from the word of God.  In this word is where we need give our attention. 

The parable of the sower helps us to remember that we need to plant the seed in the hearts of those around us, and we need to trust that it will be effective in changing hearts. 


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