Title: A Word of Encouragement
Text: Mark 4.21-34
Introduction: Farmers have always amazed me. I must say Farmers and Ranchers. My grandpa was a farmer – a sharecropper. Mr. Wade owned the property and my grandpa would farm his land. The produce paid his rent, helped him make a living. As far as I know, my grandpa worked the land until he died at the age of 75 in 1978. Farmers are hard working people. They rise early and work all day. I suppose there might be lazy farmers out there, but I’m guessing they don’t remain farmers for very long.
Ill.: If you haven’t seen this video from Cindy, I highly recommend it!
I think it is the work ethic that amazes me. Usually there is always something to be done. When that work is done, attention is put somewhere else. Something needs tending. Something else needs repair. There are errands to run, equipment to maintain, etc. etc. etc.
The life of a farmer is hard. He must work like it all depends on him, but in the end, he must pray like everything depends on God. The farmer has no power or control over the weather. He can’t make it rain; He can’t cool off the hot summer days; he can’t stop a freeze from hitting. He works, He prays, He waits.
I think often times the Christian life compares to the life of a farmer. For sure, the life of a pastor compares. He works the soil of the soul, but he cannot produce a single convert. There are so many adversities he faces – and he has no power or control over them. We both simply work like it all depends on us and pray like it all depends on God.
We’re in Mark 4 this morning and our topic comes from the agricultural theme of planting and harvesting. Mark 4 contains three parables concerning the Kingdom of God. The three parables have the same subject of seeds but are about large harvests. In the 1st parable, this seed is the Word of God as brought by Jesus, the sower. And, when the seeds are sown, the receptive soil results with large numbers (30, 60, 100-fold). These next two parables deal with the nature of the Kingdom of God and the abundant harvest it yielded. Having covered the 1st parable already, we’ll cover the next two in this section.
A quick note about triplets: Mark seems to like them. There are three types of soil that are non-receptive and non-productive; and, there are the three results of the fertile soil. There are three parables concerning the seed. In chapter five, there are three miraculous healings. There are more, I’ll leave that for you to research and share with us on Wednesday night.
Our focal passage (4.21-34) is broken down into three parts: Part one has two sayings by Jesus, analogies, if you will (21-25) and we looked at that last week. Parts two and three contain two parables concerning the seed (4.26-34). We’ll look at these together this morning. The two parables are a continuation of what he started up in 4.1. The three parables are the seed being sown, the seed being grown and the results being shown.
In chapter 4 there are two different audiences being addressed in different locations at different times. The chapter moves between the public speaking by the sea to a huge crowd and the smaller, more intimate conversations of Christ with his disciples. By the time we get to the end of the chapter, we’re back to the larger crowd by the sea. (Note v 11, 13, 21, 24 – And he said to them. However, in v 26, it changes).
What we have when we break this passage down is a word of encouragement – an exhortation. The Light of Christ isn’t to be hidden. God himself, will bring the growth and that growth will be exponential in degree.
Transition: We looked last week at the analogies he offers his disciples in v 21 and v 24. The point being made was that… #1:
I. The Light of Christ is not to be hidden. (21-25)
Transition: So this 1st word of encouragement Jesus shares with his disciples is The Light of Christ is not to be hidden. Now Jesus moves back to the parables. Here, Jesus offers us a 2nd word of encouragement:
II. God Brings Growth to His Kingdom (26-29)
exp.: read vs. 26-29;
ill.: I’ll never forget traveling to the Shepherd’s Conference in California some years ago and hearing Dr. John MacArthur preach from this text (v26-29). Did you know that this parable is contained in no other gospel? You’ll find it only here in Mark. In the first parable, Jesus spoke of the different types of soil the seed is sown in, among, or upon. That parable taught of the different types of soils and their receptivity to the seed. Here, Christ teaches of the seed and its innate ability to germinate and develop on its own.
The teaching is straightforward and simple: The Word of God (seed) has the ability all on its own to bring about growth and success. The Word of God is powerful and effective. It can accomplish so much on its own. It is the Word that is heard and it, all on it’s own, brings about the change, the growth, and the fruit. Two Truths we learn about the Kingdom’s growth.
Truth #1: There is a mystery to this growth. Only God knows what he is doing.
app.: We’re told a man scatters seed. Then, he works; night and day, he sleeps, he rises, he works, he sleeps, he rises, he works – he goes about his daily life working the soil. The seed sprouts and grows – and the man knows not how. The man sows, he works – but what we learn here is that the results are not up to the man. There is a mystery surrounding the process. The results belong to God. And here we learn a 2nd Truth.
Truth #2: There is a certainty to this growth.
The 1st word in v 28 is the Gk word for which we get our English word automatic: αὐτομάτη. Lit.: Automatically the earth (ground) bears fruit.
Herein lies another great teaching moment: It isn’t up to you to make the seed germinate. It isn’t up to you to make it sprout. It isn’t up to you to produce a blade, a stalk, a stem, the grain. Your job is simply to sow the Word, work the soil and let the seed do what seeds do when they’ve been planted in the soil of another’s soul. And v 29 tells us that there will be a harvest: that sown seed will grow and bring about a tremendous harvest. Rd v 29;
I think there is an apocalyptic feel to this verse. V 29 sounds very much like the book of Revelation. Revelation 14.15f: 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
I must stop here and say I believe this day is close. I also believe that many who are here will experience this in our lifetime. I know, I know, I must sound foolish to many. A couple of thousand of years have past and it hasn’t happened. This year, Israel celebrated it 71st birthday! It was in May of 1948 that Israel became a nation…again. After nearly 2000 years of non-existence, Israel came home and declared her independence. I believe our time to do this work is short. And I believe it is going to get harder.
Now, Back to our story: In one sense, yes, this sounds singular. You sow the seed of God into a person’s heart. They hear and all on it’s own, by its own work, the person is saved. The seed reaps fruit. But in another sense, the kingdom of God is sown among a people – and all on it’s own it grows. It starts with a man from Nazareth. He is homeless and simple. He picks a few followers – a rag tag group of men: a zealot, a tax collector, a traitor, a kid, and some fishermen. It grows – and we don’t know how, but it will grow into something tremendous and huge.
t.s.: And that really is the lesson of this last parable in v 30-33; Our 1st Word of encouragement is: To let the Light of Christ Shine. The 2nd word of encouragement is to know w/ certainty that God will bring the growth. #3…
III. Growth of the Kingdom will be Exponentially Incomparable (30-33)
Warning: this should be our prayer – Lord, bring this growth exponentially for us! But not for… all of these wrong reasons (so our church gets bigger; so we have the finances to do what we want to do; etc.).
exp.: rd v 30; rd v 31-32; now, there are those who have said the Bible can be disclaimed at this point, the mustard seed, is not the smallest seed in the world. Let me note for you that Christ’s goal here isn’t botany. It isn’t to teach agricultural principles. Christ’s purpose here is to teach on the Kingdom and to illustrate these truths from what the people already know. Here, Christ takes a proverb that was very common to them. He takes them from where they are and what they know to where he wants them to be. That’s what every good teacher does. In their ancient sayings, in one of their own proverbs, they knew of this mustard seed and how small it was compared to the tree it would become. It was in many common gardens. It looks like shaking pepper into your hand. And yet it becomes this tree. Amazing!
I know there are questions here. I will address this issue Wednesday night. I’ll take the time to demonstrate for you why this makes sense outside of our 21st Century, western philosophy thinking. – But don’t miss the point: a very little seed produces a tremendously huge plant. – We see that for the individual. We see that for the Kingdom.
When Christ came the 1st time, he taught and preached and healed. It was small at first, but his 2nd coming will be different by far. He will come in power and glory. One day, people from every tribe, tongue, nation, people group will be gathered around the throne. Myriads upon myriads of people will be worshipping around the throne of God. How small it once was. How magnificent it will be.
Conclusion: What a great word for us today. You may be struggling today in your walk, in your faith. You’ve worked long and hard and it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. It may feel like you’ve failed even. Listen, don’t give up and don’t give in. I’m reminded of how Paul encouraged the Galatian believers:
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Therefore, let your light shine before men. Don’t hide it! God will use it to bring growth and an eventual magnificent harvest. Remember what William Carey said: Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.