Good Seed

Scriptures: Mark 4:1-34

There are a couple of things I want to note before I get into the core of my sermon, that just struck me. First of all, in the very first verse, Jesus began to teach by the lake and the crowd was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore and at the water’s edge.

I wonder how long he taught there. I don’t know about you, but I have lived alongside a lake. It was a fairly shallow lake, a lot like the Sea of Galilee, although it’s a little shallower than the Sea of Galilee. There’s a lot of turbulence there, even on what seems like a calm day.

When the lake is only about 25 feet deep at its deepest, it doesn’t take much of a breeze at all, or motion or anything, to make the boats rock significantly. That’s one of the reasons why, at least up in Houghton Lake, pontoon boats were the favorite, because they’re the most stable of those boats.

I wondered about him getting seasick as he’s teaching, or at least distracted, as the boat’s moving. Once again, we see the amazing ability of Christ.

The second thing that struck me when I was first reading these, that I never really had thought about before, was in verse 10, it says, “When he was alone, the twelve and the others around him asked about the parables.”

When he was alone, the twelve and the others around him asked about the parables… I don’t know about you, but to me, the word “alone” means alone, by myself, one on one with God. Yet for Jesus, so focused on his ministry, when he was alone there were still others around him. But he was away from the crowds, and that was considered to be alone. That gives you some idea of his celebrity, if you will.

The third thing I noted was that the transition that’s made here. We don’t know when he went back to speaking with the crowds. It looks like he’s continuing to speak to his disciples, but he shifts to parables again, with the lamp and the lampstand, the parable of the growing seed, the parable of the mustard seed.

It notes in verse 33, “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not saying anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything.” So at some point he transitioned back to teaching the crowds. So these things were totally given, solely, to the disciples.

Those might be insignificant things. But when you’re read through these parables as often as most of us have, it’s those insignificant things, sometimes, that can bring new life into the stories.

One of the things that I struggled with, in this passage, was the fact that Jesus gives an interpretation of his own parable. I mean, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” So there’s really nothing else to say, right? I’ll just go sit down. You can reread that passage.

But then I thought to myself, Christ was giving an interpretation of the parable, but God’s word is infinitely deep, and he was preaching to folks that did not know him, did not know the Word, did not understand why he was there. Remember, that’s the crux of Mark’s whole Gospel.

In fact, Jesus says something that many people consider very harsh. “That they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.” Why wouldn’t he want that?

They didn’t know who he was. But we do. This parable can still have impact on us today. So I would like to give you an interpretation that is somewhat non-traditional, today, with regards to the parable of the sower, and the parable of the growing seed, and the parable of the mustard seed.

I want you to juxtaposition and swap places. Everybody is always told how you’re the soil, God’s Word is the seed, and God is the sower. You’re asked, is your soil good soil? Are you going to give the seed the environment it needs to grow, or are you going to let worries choke it, etc.?

Yet in the parable of the growing seed, he says the farmer has nothing to do with it, that it’s a natural course. The seed grows on its own. Of course, God’s Word is imperishable. We know that, we say that at the end of every Scripture reading. So the Word is its own.

So the question becomes, who are the other players? Let me suggest to you that in this day and age, as Christians, as believers, baptized in Christ and members of the family of God, people who believe in the Kingdom of God and the rule of God in our lives – which is what the Kingdom meant, you have to understand that as well.

Every time he talks about the Kingdom of God, he’s not talking about a place. He’s not talking about a geographic area. He’s not even talking about a geopolitical area, where there’s a king. He’s talking about the rule of God, the sovereign God of the universe, in your life. When God rules, that establishes the Kingdom.

When God rules, then, Jesus, as His last commission to the disciples, in Matthew, says go and make other disciples, of all nations. Make other followers.

How do we do that? We spread the word. We become the sowers that are described in this parable. We scatter the seed. But let me ask you a question. What kind of seed are you scattering? Is it good seed?

It’s easy to say, the seed is the Word of God and the Word of God is imperishable and the Word of God is perfect. But what we scatter, what we share, what we spread, is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Sometimes the gospel that we share and spread is really good. And sometimes, it’s not so good.

Sometimes the gospel that we share is contaminated by some of our own prejudices, biases, fears, misunderstandings. That’s how things like the Prosperity Gospel take root. Sometimes the seed of the gospel is tainted by what a lot of people like to point out is hypocrisy.

Continuing your hypocrisy. We all stumble, we all fall, and we pick ourselves back up again with God’s help. But when we preach one thing and practice another – you know that old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Did it ever work with your kids?

Not to my knowledge. Every study shows they’re paying attention to what you’re doing. They’re paying attention to your life. Your life becomes the seed that is shared and spread with other people.

Sometimes that life hits rocky ground, when it’s shared with others. But that’s their problem, not yours. Sometimes the seed hits thorny soil, and you can actually be a great boon to those people that are going through trials, that are weighted down with anxiety. But that’s still their concern and not yours.

Your concern is with the seed itself which you plant. Then God will bring the watering. Then at the harvest time you need to be ready to collect. If the seed is good seed, and it’s been well tended, then there will be a return, it says, of thirty-fold, sixty-fold, even a hundred-fold.

A lot of you are farmers, or know farmers. You know what I’m talking about, much better than I do, about good seed. The best I could do is, I was eating some shelled peanuts last night, and noticing how some of them were good shapes, and some of them were kind of small and shriveled. I almost brought some, just so I could have a visual display.

I wonder sometimes, how good is the seed that I’m planting. Is it nice and healthy and looking like Mr. Peanut, for Planter’s Peanuts? Or is it kind of shriveled and small and full of skin on the inside but no real seed?

If our seed is good and it is tended well, we can see the proof of that in those around us. I believe that if we look at the parable of the mustard seed, it tells us that. When God rules in your life and your faith is the smallest seed there, or your gospel, your word, is the smallest seed there that you are planting, that by your faith, by your exercise of discipleship in your life, it can grow to be the largest of the plants in the garden.

Some scholars say it’s a metaphor for the church, but I think it can be in terms of your own life. How many people are drawn to you for your faith. You can use this as a metaphor for personal, the church here itself, or the church at large.

How many people are being drawn? It says the birds come to nest in its branches. It’s a place of safety and security. How many folks feel safe and secure around you, in terms of sharing their struggles and their trials?

How many folks come to you for advice when they suffer from a question, a moral dilemma, or a tough time? How many folks have you brought to Christ, have you helped in their walk, so that when they have a question of faith, they ask you? What kind of fruit is your seed bearing?

It’s hard to consider. It’s hard to look at. It’s real easy to feel like a failure. There are times where we don’t see the fruit because we’re not the one that’s supposed to harvest it. But I think that we can learn to look at a general pattern. I think that we’re called to do so.

Nobody like to self-examine. It’s depressing, most of the time. Unless you happen to be a narcissist. How’s that song go? “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way. Each morning I look in the mirror, and I get better-looking each day.”

Unless you happen to be one of those folks, self-examination is a chore. But it needs to be done. I think that it needs to be done because we need to be sure that the seed that we are planting is good seed. Are we practicing what we preach? Are we carrying out what we come each Sunday morning to hear?

Are we looking at the Word of God and living it out in our lives? Are we being faithful to the calling? As Paul put it, be worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Are we faithful to the call Christ has put into our lives?

It’s a situation that is regular. It’s a situation that all we can do is our best. But I want to encourage you to do that. I want to encourage you to take time to examine. This is not to list everything that you’ve done.

“I helped with the luncheon, I helped with this, I helped with that…” This is not listing everything you have done. This is dealing with who you are, in your relationship with Christ, and your faith and dependence on God. Do you trust? Can you trust? Can others trust you?

When you answer those three questions in a positive manner, then you know that you’re planting good seed. When you read your Scripture, and you understand it, and you explore it, and then you practice it, you’re planting good seed.

If you plant good seed, then trust God will take care of the rest. For He is a faithful God who will never fail us, and His power is without bounds.

It only takes one. The whole church itself started with a dozen disciples. And of those dozen disciples, we really only hear about three or four. The others just kind of pass away. And from that came a movement that has lasted two thousand years.

Don’t ever underestimate what you can do as a mentor, what you can do as a believer, and what you can do as a faithful disciple of Christ, planting good seed.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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