Lord's Day After Lord's Day - Mark 4:26-29
One year. You can accomplish a lot in a year. You might not be able to play a musical instrument, but if you practiced a little every day for a year, you could learn. Organizing your home or your personal life might seem daunting, but if you did a little bit every day for a year, you could make some real progress. If you walked or ran a mile a day for a year, you could cover 365 miles.
If you drank three 8 oz. glasses of water each day, you would consume 8760 oz. of water. If you read just 2 pages a day, you could read 730 pages of whatever book or books you chose. What kind of affect could these things have on you? One day doesn’t seem that significant, but our lives are made of days.
What about one year of Sunday mornings in worship? 52 mornings of singing the Word, hearing the Word read and preached and prayed, 52 times obeying God’s command to give tithes and offerings, 26 times receiving the Lord’s Supper as we do here at GS every other week. What kind of affect do those things have on a person? It’s hard to say, based on one Sunday.
We underestimate the value of a day, of a normal Sunday worship service, a normal time of gathering with God’s people on what the apostle John calls ‘the Lord’s Day’ in Revelation 1. Why do we do that? Well, in part, we underestimate the value of a day because we don’t immediately see the progress. If you wear a fitness watch, at any point in the day you can see your progress as far as steps taken, miles covered, calories burned. Seeing the progress is motivating. But much of life doesn’t work that way. You can’t always check stats at any moment to see your progress. And so we undervalue a day, even though the days eventually add up to one year.
This passage in Mark talks about “the kingdom of God,” what is also called “the kingdom of heaven.” The phrase refers to the reign of God over the hearts and lives of his people. There is an “already” aspect to it – meaning God already reigns completely, but also a “not yet” aspect, since his reign is increasingly growing or spreading over the earth. And so Jesus was right to say that the kingdom “has come” and it is “in your midst,” while also instructing his disciples to pray for the kingdom to come.
But we doubt the growing reign of God because it happens slowly over time. It’s not quick like a Google search or a fast food order. The reign of God grows in his own time, day by day, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day. We’re on God’s timetable.
And so we should watch for the coming of his kingdom with patience and diligence while his plans unfold.
But to do that, there are certain things that we should understand. And so Jesus compares the coming of God’s kingdom to crop farming. Like the crop farming, this growing reign of God involves three things:
- a baffling process. (v.26-27)
- a powerful seed. (v.28)
- and a coming harvest. (v.29)
First, Like the crop farming, the growing reign of God involves a baffling process. (v.26-27)
Verse : And he (Jesus) said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.
The man is planting grain. He’s casting the seed over the land. This is what the spread of the reign of God is like. Earlier in Mark 4, Jesus likened the Word to seed. By “the Word” he means the message from God that through Jesus, a person can know and be made right with God. God offers this by grace (meaning that it isn’t earned – it’s a gift) through faith in Jesus, which means not just to mentally accent to his existence but to trust in his ability to cleanse you from your sins.
And by grace, God reigns over the hearts and minds of his people – over the whole person. In this way, he changes a person.
So this message goes out, like seed being scattered. Often through history, this parable has sometimes been overanalyzed. When Jesus told parables, they had a central theme – one main point. They weren’t meant to be complicated for those enabled to understand them. Our eyes might naturally go to the “man” in the parable, but the man is not the focus. He’s involved, but he’s secondary. Look at verse 27.
“He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” The man is puzzled by this process. All he did was throw seed over the land. To follow Jesus’ point, the Word goes out. It lands where it lands. And then the man, the sower, is done. “He sleeps and rises night and day” with no result. But then, a sprout. And it grows bigger. And he’s baffled at how this happens. He’s basically a spectator watching from the bleachers. Jesus doesn’t mention pulling weeds or irrigation or adding fertilizer. Did Jesus forget to mention those things? No. The point is that God makes it grow. The process is baffling to the mind of a person, but not to God.
Have you ever planted a seed, followed the directions, and eventually, a little sprout pops up. And you’re thrilled! Never mind that all around there is vegetation. Trees, plants, fields of crops. Because your little seed is different. Why? Because you planted it! If you took a picture of your little sprout and put it on social media, would people be amazed? Probably not. Because they didn’t wait and wonder and long for growth like you did. They aren’t amazed that the little sprout came up. Now, there’s a sense in which you know how. We understand biology: the anatomy of a seed, the components of soil, water, sunlight. But still, how in the world did that seed make this sprout?
This is how it is with the scattering of the message of God and the slow and steady growth of his reign in the hearts and lives of his people. Often you can’t tell a difference after a day, or a few days or a few weeks. The model in Scripture is not, “Get to a worship service once or twice a year and you’ll be all set.” No, the model is Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, we worship, and something happens. But we’re baffled. We don’t know how, really. It’s not predicated on us understanding how.
Do you have this perspective on the process of God’s increasing reign in your heart and life, and in the hearts and lives of those around you? It takes time and we don’t know just how it works. Receiving the Word each Lord’s Day, through worship with brothers and sisters in Christ, boosts and drives what you receive in your daily life as you devote time each day to God and as you think about him and pray throughout the day. Also as you scatter seeds when you speak the truth to people, that God might reign in them also. It’s a baffling, often slow process. For instance, we shouldn’t think that speaking the Word to someone once or twice will produce instant change. It’s a process in your children, in your spouse or fiancée, in you! But we can we can marvel when we see the results God’s work over time.
Also, Like the crop farming, the growing reign of God involves a powerful seed. (v.28)
Verse 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. That language “by itself” means something like “of its own accord” or “automatically.” Where does this stalk of grain come from? From a little seed. Small, seemingly insignificant, but powerful. In fact, in the verses following these, Jesus tells another parable in which he compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. Mustard seeds are tiny. But Jesus points out that when they’re full grown, they make a huge plant. And the growing reign of God over hearts and lives is like that. Like the old covenant community of Israel, the new covenant community, which is the church since the resurrection of Jesus, had small beginnings, but it has outlasted more than a few worldly nations and regimes. Roman Empire, anyone? Like the grain, the reign of God sprouts and grows. Again, yes, soil, water, and sunlight are necessary, but the point the potential of the seed and the power it possesses.
We read earlier about the power of God’s word. Isaiah 55 states that the Word goes out and always accomplishes its purpose. You might think, “But people don’t always respond. So how does it accomplish its purpose?” But people do always respond. Some respond positively, some negatively, some indifferently. With some, the Word softens their hearts. With others, it hardens their hearts.
But it always accomplishes its purpose. And in 1 Peter, the apostle Peter says that Word is imperishable seed. It is Immortal, incorruptible, undying. It has the power to outlast whatever comes against it. For this reason the writer of Hebrews describes the Word as “living and active.”
Back to your little seed you planted in your garden or in a pot – remember that you followed the directions, but then you left the seed alone to do what it does. You were confident that the seed contained what it needed. As I prepared to preach this week, I learned that, among other things, you could get seeds to grow Redwood trees. The conditions aren’t right here in SC to grow them. They grow best in northern CA and Oregon. Conditions are important, and in other places Jesus talks about conditions for the seed to grow, but that’s not the point Jesus is making here. “The earth” is not the focus in this verse, just as “the man” is not the focus in verse 26. In fact, in the Greek manuscripts, the original language in which this is written, “by itself” comes before “the earth.” The idea is not, “look what the earth did.” The idea is “look what the seed did.”
Do you have this kind of confidence in the Word, not just the verbatim quoting of the Scripture but the supernatural power of it as the Holy Spirit enables you to understand it and obey it, as he empowers you to speak it to others and demonstrate the reality of it in your own life? Can you see what the Word has done in your life over the past year? Can you recognize what it has done at GS over the past year? These things we do, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, are designed by God to do something to us. When you hear the Word, When you sing and hear others singing, and you sing truth, it does something to you. When you pray and hear the Pastoral prayer, when you read the Word aloud with the congregation, when you confess what you believe, it does something to you. When you bring to worship and give from the first portion of what you earn, a tithe for the work and worship of this church, it does something to you. And over time, you change. God reigns over more and more of your heart and life. Again, you can’t tell much from attending a service here and there. Like crop farming, it takes time for the seed to do its work, but it’s a powerful seed.
And finally, Like the crop farming, the growing reign of God involves a coming harvest. (v.29)
Verse 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. This is what the farmer waits for. Whatever took place in that baffling process, from that powerful seed, produces what is, to the farmer, of great benefit. He reaps it, even though he can’t take any credit for it. Sure he scattered the seed over the land, sure he reaps the crop, but isn’t his ability to do so an entirely God-given? If a storm had come to wipe out the crop, could he have done anything about it? Jesus isn’t making a point about what people do. The grain ripened – the man simply observed. The harvest came – the man simply waited. The seed, which is the Word, brought a harvest. We see this idea of harvest over and over in the Bible. Jesus referred to all those who trust in him as a harvest. When Paul instructs the Corinthian church on giving, he tells them that God would provide for them to do so and would “ increase the harvest of your righteousness.” Not that their giving would bind God to give them financial prosperity, but that it would deepen their experience of God’s grace toward them. It would increase God’s reign in them. And James 3 says, “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” The law of sowing and reaping is always in affect in each area of life. If the Word is sown in your heart, there will be an abundant harvest. God will reign in you. He will reign over you, more and more. And this is the coming of the kingdom of God. This is what we pray for when we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We’ve prayed this each time after the Lord’s Supper, and God has done it. His kingdom has increasingly come here in his people.
Earlier I mentioned the apostle John and his vision recorded in the book of Revelation. In chapter 14, he sees a vision of a man with a sickle, gathering the harvest. It’s a vision of the second coming of Jesus Christ – the last day. When that day comes, there is no more growing, no more waiting and watching. Because the harvest is ripe. This is the “Not yet” aspect of the coming of the kingdom. But there is that “already” aspect. For those who trust in Jesus, it is as if he has come to harvest already, because our future is sure. It is cemented by his grace. It is guaranteed, and we rest in this. We are confident that God loves us, not because of our righteous record, but because of the righteous record of Jesus. Philippians 1, Paul writes, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” The harvest is sure.
Can you rest in this? Do you know Jesus in this way? Or are you still trying to hold on to some thread of your own good works and righteous ways? Have you thrown up your hands in defeat, acknowledging that only God alone can save you and sustain you and keep you to the end? Has the Word been working you? If so, all glory to God alone.
Some time back, when I told someone I was a church planter, he said, “Wow, how do you that? How do you plant a church?” What I wanted to say was, “Honestly, I don’t know.” Sure, I’ve done many things, and so many of you have also: Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day here at Briggs, week after week in Life Groups and bible studies. At gatherings and times of prayer and other events. And in conversations with people. But what we see here and enjoy is not something we did. God did it. And for this reason, like the writer of Psalm 126 we can say, “The Lord has done great things for us. And we are filled with joy.”
Let’s pray together.