This parable, often called “The Parable of the Growing Seed”, begins in Mark 4:26 with a familiar image. It is, once again, a farmer scattering seeds on the ground. But now the metaphorical imagery has changed.
The seeds no longer represent the word of God, as they did in Mark 4:1–20 (see here), rather now they are symbols of the kingdom itself.
That is, the farmer scattering seeds in the field is a picture of the slow and steady growth of the Kingdom of God. There is certainly more that could be said about the seeds, but it is nothing less than this notion, and that will be our focus today.
Now before we move forward with our analysis, we have to make a one caveat about parables in general, and it is this: parables use broad paint strokes to craft pictures of reality and, as such, not every detail is always meant to be analyzed or interpreted (see its full definition here). This may sound odd, especially for literary scholars and enthusiasts today, but that is the way this genre is constructed. That being said, the figure of the farmer in verses 27, 27 and 29 as well as the life cycle of the seed in verse 28 do not lend themselves to interpretation. They are mere devices to move the plot forward.
These peripheral figures and elements all serve one purpose: to describe the hiddenness of the Kingdom of God.
For example, at the end of Mark 4:27, which states, “he knows not how” the seed “sprouts and grows”, the point is that, in general, the world has a limited knowledge of how the Kingdom of God grows. In other words, the kingdom of God grows even though people do not know how. This truth should encourage us because this means that no nation or government or terrorist cell will ever be able to prevent the kingdom of God from growing. Their limited knowledge makes them unable and indeed incapable of any real struggle against the growth of a kingdom controlled by an all-omniscient, all-powerful God.
This limited knowledge holds true for both how the Kingdom of God is growing on earth as well as the time of its completion.
From its very inception to our postmodern era, people continue to wonder when God’s Kingdom on earth will be “ready”, or finished, and this is an important debate for many as they see the completion of God’s Kingdom linked to the return of King Jesus (which is true). Jesus anticipated these questions both then and now, and gives us an answer. In verse 29, he confirms that one day the Kingdom of God will be finished (the grain will be “ripe”) and in that day “the sickle” will come to take up all who believe to reign with Him for all eternity. But He does not tell us a date. That is not important for us. Rather what we should take away from this parable is that God and His Kingdom will win! Let that truth sink in today: God’s Kingdom wins.