The Parable of the Seed – From the Sermon on the Seashore
26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,
27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.
28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.
29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Verse 26 – “The kingdom of God is as if…” This opening phrase is very similar to; “the kingdom of Heaven is like” as used in other parables. This parable is also somewhat similar to the parable of the sower. However, some have understood it to be an extension of that parable, in that it deals with only the “good soil.” If that is the case, then it shows what happens when the seed is sown in good and honest hearts.
Proverbs 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
Verse 27 – “… the seed should sprout and grow…” While the farmer sleeps, God is still growing the plant. “… he himself does not know how…” The man does not understand how the seed turns into a full grown plant. But, he is responsible for sowing the seed and tending to the growing plants. In the first century there was much that disciples didn’t know about God’s “seed.” Yet, by faith, they were expected to sow the seed. Christ’s disciples gained more and more knowledge as the word was revealed to them by the Holy Spirit.
Verse 28 – “… For the earth yields crops by itself…” God himself has set the ways of nature and man. God has provided the soil. God has provided the seed that germinates. God has even provided the water, but he expects man to carry the water if the weather does not bring it. God provided “the land” (to the Israelites) to whom the gospel was first given. The seed is the gospel. The sowing of the seed is the teaching of the gospel by Christ or his disciples.
Verse 29 – “… immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” God has set his own timetable for when the harvest will be. God has designed the seed to produce fruit within a limited growing season. At the appointed time, the plants are ready for harvesting. The “harvest” of what has been planted is a recurring theme that Jesus uses (Matt 9:37-38, 13:30,39, Luke 10:2, John 4:35, Rev 14:15).
2 Corinthians 9:10
10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,
Another reason for this parable was perhaps Jesus’ attempt to prevent his disciples from being discouraged. The lifetime of the 1st century Christians was certainly ample time to live in expectation of his return. It was 40 years from the time that Jesus ascended until he returned and Daniel’s prophecy came true.
7 Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.
The disciples did a lot of “planting” during that 40 year space of time. They were often persecuted and rejected. Yet, as we will see in the parable of the minnas (Matt 25:14-30). God expected his disciples to “invest” time/money in his kingdom/vineyard and not be slothful like the one unfaithful servant. In that parable they did not know when the master would return. Just as the father didn’t reveal how a seed works, Jesus didn’t reveal the “… times or seasons…” (Acts 1:7) of his return. When writing to the disciples in Corinth, Paul described the process this way:
1 Corinthians 3:6
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
This reading is pretty specific as to what the Corinthians were then experiencing and to what they would soon experience. It is related to what Peter had to say to the then living disciples:
1 Peter 4:12-13
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Remember that Paul began the letter to the Corinthians with these verses:
1 Corinthians 1:4-8 (NKJV)
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul spoke to them as if both he and they were expecting to be living when the “revelation” (the revealing) came in “… the day of our Lord…” Paul closed out his first letter to the Thessalonians in a similar manner:
1 Thessalonians 5:23
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Was Paul praying for something that was totally impossible? Or did he expect that Christ’s return was very soon (Matt 16:28)?
Yes, there was a “harvest”(Matt 13:30,39), a “gathering”(2Thess 2:1-12), by the “reapers” (Matt 13:39) in the 1st century. The previous “holy people” (Dan 12:7) were “judged” by fire (Matt 13:40-43, 2Thess 1:4-11), their covenant was “fulfilled”(Matt 5:17-18). All this was done so that Christ might “marry” (Rev 21:9) a new people.
“The kingdom,” the “new covenant” (Luke 22:20), “the wife”(Rev 19:7), “the holy city, the New Jerusalem”(Rev 21:2) continues forever, and the Gospel must still be sown in the hearts of wise men and women.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Brent E. Hughes