Mark 4:26-34 - Two Kingdom Parables
Mark 4:26-34 - And He said, "In this is the kingdom of God, as a man throwing the seed upon the earth. 27 Then he sleeps at night and rises in the day after day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 Of itself the earth produces fruit, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain. 29 When the fruit is ripe, immediately he sends 'the sickle because the harvest stands'" (Joel 3:13). 30 He also said, "What is like the kingdom of God? What parable should be used? 31 It is like a mustard seed when sown in the earth, the smallest of all seeds put into the earth, 32 yet when planted grows to become the greatest of all plants and grows large branches so that “the birds of heaven can nest under its shade” (Dan. 4:14; Ez. 17:23, 31:6). 33 And with many such parables He spoke the Word to them because they did not have the power to hear. 34 So He did not speak to them without parables, but to His own disciples He explained everything (G Strawbridge trans.).
The Invisible Kingdom Growth and Harvest - In the first parable, The Parable of the Soil, Mark alone presents this parable. The emphasis is that the soil produces growth all by itself (literally the Greek word is “automatically” v28). This growth happens “without visible cause.” Tertullian said, “Observe how the created order has advanced little by little toward fruitfulness. First comes the grain, and from the grain arises the shoot… In just this way has righteousness grown in history.” It does not depend upon men and refers to the work God does (invisibly). The image of harvest is drawn the the Day of the Lord prophecy (Joel 3:13). “Jesus is telling them that God’s promised moment is indeed coming — but it won’t look like what they were expecting. God is not simply vindicating Israel and condemning those outside” (N. T. Wright, 48).
The Expansive Kingdom Growth and Blessing - The second parable, The Parable of the Mustard Seed, is well known (v31, Mt. 13:31, Lk. 13:19). It teaches that though the Kingdom what starts in a tiny way can grow very large. The tiniest seed can produce a giant plant. In fact, the Mustard plant (of this region) could reach a height of 12-15 feet in just a few weeks. This parable teaches us to expect great growth of the reign and rule of Jesus at God’s right hand. And blessings will follow. “According to Ezekiel the day will come when God will plant a small sprig on top of a mountain (i.e., Jerusalem), which will grow into a noble cedar whose branches will shelter ‘birds of every kind’ (i.e., the nations)” (Evans, Eerdmans, 1077).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more