Scattered & Sown

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Mark 4:36-34

My first house had a down-hill slope from the front yard. One side of the driveway was lush and green. The other side was hard soil and deep shade, and I could not get anything to grow there. I plowed, fertilized, seeded and sodded that land over and over, and nothing seemed to work. It was just destined to be a bald spot.

Eventually, we sold the house and moved on. The next time I saw that yard, it had the lushest green grass all over that spot! I just had to find out what was that magic secret that turned that hard-clay hill into such a nice lawn.

So I asked the new owners, “What did you do to get grass to grow over there?”

“We didn’t do anything,” they said. “Truth is, we really liked not mowing half the yard, so we dumped gravel on it and started parking there. Now, we can’t get rid of the grass.”

Everything I know about plants did nothing to make grass grow on that yard. The new owners were good with that; they just threw gravel on it to hide what little dirt there was. But that gravel, that little roughness that would hold the dirt and keep the seeds from washing away, was exactly what was needed.

I don’t recommend gravel to make grass grow, but if you’ve ever had to fight grass growing through the sidewalk or up through the pavement, you can see how that happens. Sometimes, a plant needs that last thing we’d guess it needs. It’s one of life’s little mysteries, and that’s just the point: The Good Lord moves in mysterious ways!

How many times do we give up on someone, and the next thing you know they’re thanking you for your words and prayers? I guess pastors run across that more than other people, not because we’re any better at it, but because we try so many times with so many people.

I have a friend who was hardly a friend when we first met. He was one of those boomerang kids who moved in with Mom, then he brought his girlfriend in, and finally he started dealing drugs out of the house. My advice to his mother was kick him out NOW! She brought him in for counseling, and this man scared me to death!

Eventually, she did kick him out. I called the cops on him when he threatened the church. All that was enough to get him in rehab. He was doing pretty good when his mother died in the hospital, and I thought surely that would trip him up. But when he saw how the church rallied to honor his mother, he got even closer to God. Today, he’s a manager at a rehab facility near Atlanta, walking with the Lord and married to a girl who used to be his drug buddy. They’ve been sober more than 10 years, and he still calls me to thank me for helping him find the Lord.

When I look back, I didn’t do a thing. In fact, I sort of threw gravel on the situation. I told his mother to kick him out and told the cops to lock him up. At best, I scattered a few seeds in his life, and I never expected them to grow.

That’s what the kingdom of Heaven is like, Jesus said. A man scatters seed, and that’s all he does. If it grows, it grows all by itself, and the man doesn’t even know how. At harvest, the man gathers the produce and gets too much credit.

Jesus doesn’t explain the parable here. We read that he explained it to his disciples, but we don’t get the explanation. We probably don’t need it, because the symbolism is the same as the parable he does explain earlier in Mark’s gospel.

It’s in the beginning of the same chapter, Mark Chapter 4: “Listen!” Jesus said. “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rockey places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they whithered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” Then, Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:3-9)

I love this parable, and I think it connects well to the next. Here, Jesus explains that the seed is the word. The various conditions are people, and the outside stuff is just that, outside stuff. The birds are the devil snatching away the seed. The rocky ground is shallow soil where seeds sprout quickly, then die off. The thorns are riches and the cares of this world, growing up to choke off the plant. It’s interesting that soil that’s good for the plant is also good for the weed. We have to keep the weeds out of our lives to grow in the faith.

So what does today’s parable add? I presume that the seed here is like the seed there, the word of God that we share by scattering it. Where do we plant? In both these parables, the sower isn’t very careful at all about where the seed goes. He has lots of seed, and it’s just seed. The sower throws seed willy nilly, on the road, in the weeds, on rocky ground, and sometimes on good ground. The parable today adds something to the parable: The sower does not know where the good soil is. If it grows at all, it’s an act of God, and so is the harvest. The sower thought this was a good spot, and it didn’t work. He thought that was wasted seed, and it brought forth a bumper crop!

I always called my friend a Bad Seed, and as far as I could see, he was rocky soil. But God had a need for that man in the kingdom, and that tiny bit of seed grew tall and increased a hundred fold. Yeah, I threw seed, but it was mixed with a lot of gravel, and I thought that was wasted seed. Boy, was I wrong.

The lesson here for me is that there is no wasted seed. It might get eaten by birds, and it might get choked by weeds, but without me knowing it, it might hit paydirt.

Here’s my question: Have you given up on someone? Have you thrown seed on the ground over and over again, only to watch it wash away or get eaten by birds? Don’t give up! Even if you threw gravel; even if you called the cops; don’t give up. Throw some more seed over there; God has plenty.

I know you’ve heard the old joke where God says to Jesus, “You catch ‘em, Son! I’ll clean ‘em!” Our job is even simpler than that. Jesus said He’d teach us to catch people, but sometimes it’s our job to chum the water.

Paul made the same point in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 – “I planted seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

We have one purpose, to win souls for Jesus. You’re all sowers, and water-bearers, and spotters for the harvest, but we have one Lord and one job – to tend to this field. So don’t give up. Keep sowing the Word, even when you think the ground is too rocky and the weeds are too thick. Because you never know when a seed might get stuck in the gravel, find the dirt, and bring forth the harvest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s