May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship
of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Mark 4:26 “And He was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man
who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and goes to bed at night and gets up
by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows– how, he himself does not
know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the
head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop
permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has
come.’ 30 And He said, ‘How shall we picture the kingdom of God,
or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed,
which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the
seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, grows up and
becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches;
so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR can NEST UNDER ITS SHADE.’
33 And with many such parables He was speaking the word to them
as they were able to hear it; 34 and He did not speak to them without
a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own
In the Gospel lesson this morning Jesus tell two parables. Both parables center
on a seed and the growth of that seed into a plant and both parables are intended to
illustrate a truth about the kingdom of heaven, the church. The first parable is short
and to the point. “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil;
and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows–
how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade,
then the head, then the mature grain in the head.”
Jesus moves immediately from the first parable to the second. [The kingdom
of heaven] “is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is
smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, grows up and
becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches.”
The point of the first parable is that the farmer has nothing to do with what is
in the seed. He doesn’t even know how it manages to change from seed to plant or
how it grows. The point of the second parable is that something very small grows to
become very large so that it brings a benefit and comfort to many.
Now we know more about the process of germination than they did in the
ancient world. We also know that farmers do a lot more work than simply throwing
down seeds in a straight line to bring a crop to market. There is a lot of work that
goes into a productive farm field.
But as always Jesus is teaching us a theological lesson, a lesson by the way
that a very many Christians still do not understanding. In the kingdom of heaven, the
seed does the work.
Just think about what we do know about the process of germination. It takes a
complex biochemical processes to turn a seed into a plant. Germination uses the
energy from the sun to draw water and nutrients out of the soil and the air into itself
to change and grow. In time pollen moves from tassels to silks and other complex
biochemical processes use the genetic information to produce the grain.
It takes a lot of work to start with a seed buried in the ground, have it
germinate, grow a stalk that is seven feet tall, and produce an ear full of grain?
Farmers put in a lot of work to provide the conditions that encourage his plants to
grow and produce a good crop, but it is the seed and plant that does the growing.
When Jesus told these parables about the seed, the farmers knew enough to
plant, water, fertilize, and keep the weeds down, but the actual process of
germination, growth, and fruit bearing were a mystery to them. Jesus uses this
mystery to teach us about the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, which centers in
and grows out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The seed of Mark 4:26 and the muster seed is the Gospel of Christ. First note,
it is not the Law. The law has only one effect. It kills. It does not give life and it
does not cause growth. 1 Corinthians 15:56 “The sting of death is sin, and the
power of sin is the law.” No where in either of these parables does Jesus even imply
that the farmer is the cause of growth or that God produces a yield because the
farmer did this or that.
Jesus went on to say, “[The man] “goes to bed at night and gets up by day,
and the seed sprouts up and grows– how, he himself does not know.” (Mark 4:27)
Just as a crop’s growth was a mystery to the people back then, so is the work of
God’s Word a mystery to us today. It is a mystery and one that many Christians
don’t like. They want the mystery of conversation to make sense, to have an
explanation that contributes something to human nature.
That was Nicodemus problem. He wanted to resolve the mystery. He wanted
to find something in human nature that would explain conversion and true Christian
faith. But Jesus told him, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone
who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not
understand these things?”
The Augsburg Confession gets it right. [The Holy Spirit] works faith, when
and where it pleases God. (AC: I, art. v, par. 2). The whole thing, faith, forgiveness
of sins, life, and salvation all begin with the speaking or communication of the
Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Now the chief thing to remember whenever you read or hear Jesus say
something about a seed in a parable, is what the Lord God said in Genesis 3:15. The
Lord God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And
between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall
bruise him on the heel.”
When we run across a parable that has the Seed as the center piece, Jesus is
talking about Himself. That is the point of parables. They are not morality stories
told to teach or order us to do some kind of good work to please God or to help God
out. Parables do the same thing that Jesus’s other statements do. They prove that we
can do nothing, we cannot keep the Law and that He does everything. That of course
is the mystery.
In the first parable Jesus is the Seed that sown in the ground. Remember we
are talking about the kingdom of heaven, the church. He does it all. His Word. His
spoken and preached Word. His written Word. And the Word made flesh that dwelt
among us brings about life.
Enter the parable of the muster seed. “And He said, ‘How shall we picture
the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard
seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that
are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, grows up and becomes larger than all the
garden plants and forms large branches; so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR can
NEST UNDER ITS SHADE.’”
Again we start with Jesus as the Seed. Although He is God, Jesus became
small by assuming a human nature. Philippians 2:7-8 [He] “emptied Himself,
taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being
found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the
point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus became a fetus, which by the way means a small one in the womb of the
Virgin Mary. He became small and lived the life of a ordinary boy as he grew up as
the son of a carpenter. He lowered Himself to live under the authority of the law and
He kept it perfectly. He humble Himself, that is became small enough to stand under
the authority of Pilate and the Roman soldiers to die on the cross. And like a mustard
seed, He rested in the ground.
Just as a mustard plant rise up from the ground – Jesus rose up. This is the
comparison Jesus was making as He was speaking the parables of the seeds. And just
as a mustard tree becomes the largest plants in the garden so also Jesus becomes
large life giving Man in world history. As a mustard tree fills a garden and is large
enough to host the birds of the air so Christ and His body the church grows and fills
That brings us to the Old Testament lesson. Ezekiel 17:22-24 “Thus says the
Lord GOD, ‘I shall also take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I
shall pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I shall plant it on
a high and lofty mountain. On the high mountain of Israel I shall plant it, that it
may bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and become a stately cedar. And birds of
every kind will nest under it.’”
Christians are the birds of every kind. They are the birds of Ezekiel 17. We
are the birds in the muster tree. We live in the tree of life. Just another note. The
tree of life is the opposite of the tree that once stood in the middle of the garden of
Eden about which the Lord God told Adam and Eve “but from the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it
you will surely die.”
Jesus is the Seed in both parables. He was the twig that was set on the high
hill of Golgatha who withered away and died and went into the ground, but on the
third day rose from the dead. John 12:24, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies,
it bears much fruit.”
As members of Christ’s body, as a people who live by faith, no matter how
often and how grievous we sin, no matter how often we mess up, God forgives us for
Jesus’ sake through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith. Our sins are paid for. Contrary too
all the evidence we are saints, holy ones in God the Father’s eyes.
Even though your pastor is the chief of all sinners, the words of absolution,
the words he speaks at baptism, and the words that he speaks in the institutionare
valid and powerful because the power of God is in the Seed, in the Gospel of Jesus
Christ. The words of baptism, absolution, and institution are Christ’s words.
MAY THE PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR
HEART AND MIND IN CHRIST JESUS. AMEN.
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship