Jesus used agricultural illustrations many times as He explained the secrets of the kingdom of God to His disciples. Because our world was created by God, everything in the natural world reflects Him. I’ve heard people say, when instructing someone who is creating something, they need to be able to put themselves into it. That’s what makes art impactful, whether it’s painting, sculpting, writing, or composing music. It comes from the heart, mind, and soul of the one creating it.
This is so true of God’s creation. The cycles of planting seeds and watching them grow illustrate spiritual growth; judgment is illustrated by harvest imagery. The physical world is a reflection of the spiritual realities in God’s world.
In Mark 4, Jesus tells three “agricultural” parables. As you unpack each one, you get another bit of wisdom, another facet, of how God is revealing and building His kingdom. The parable of the soils shows us how much the condition of our human heart plays in how we receive the gospel. The parable of the man who sowed seed at night, and it sprouts and grows – “how, he himself does not know” tells us the kingdom of God is not produced by human effort, but by the supernatural work of the Spirit, a work we can’t really explain.
The last parable is about the mustard seed. The seed is tiny, one of the smallest yet grows into a tall shrub (estimates range from 6- to 20-feet!), so tall and wide that the birds gather to nest in its shade. Jesus is giving us a picture of how His kingdom will grow. The New Testament church started with 11 disciples, and around 120 believers at the time of Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:15). On the day of Pentecost, when Peter preached his first public sermon, 3,000 came to faith. Who knows how many have come to faith since that day? The church may have had a very small beginning, but over 2,000 years later, it is still going strong, spreading across the entire globe.
Skeptics and opponents of Jesus will tell you He is irrelevant, and that you are in a very small minority if you are foolish enough to believe in a literal interpretation of scripture. They relegate Him to the size of a mustard seed in a world filled with many other options. And yes, the way is narrow that leads to life and far more people will choose the wide gate to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14), so at any given time, Christians are definitely in the minority. Yet, no matter how hard the world tries, the gospel cannot be extinguished. It spreads and grows across the centuries, and one day, the kingdom of God will be revealed in all its glorious maturity, just as Jesus said. One day, a great multitude from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people will gather around God’s throne and worship Him.
Do you feel small today?
Does the work you are doing for God seem insignificant?
Do you feel like your day-to-day life doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things?
Take heart. God’s economy works differently. The smallest seed of faith in Jesus will produce great things for the kingdom – things that will only be revealed in the harvest.