Intro: No one could anticipate a harvest without first planting a seed. The planted seed is the beginning of all hope. But it is more than that. The seed is the repository of life. Some of the most basic and immutable laws of nature are the laws of seedtime and harvest. All life on earth is based on the simple principle of reproduction through a seed.
- Genesis 1:11 “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”
- Genesis 1:24“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”
As we considered last week, the divinely established law of reaping and sowing is not restricted to the physical realm. There is a spiritual harvest as well. And so there is a spiritual principle that governs the power of life contained in the planted seed. In fact, the seed/harvest principle is fundamental to understanding what the Bible teaches about the kingdom of God. Consider that principle with me.
I. The Principle of the Seed in the Parables: Some of the most profound truth was taught by the Lord in the simple format of a parable. When asked why He taught in parables Jesus said in Matt 13:11-15… “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’
A. Jesus taught the “mysteries” of the kingdom in the parables. The word “mysteries” describes that which cannot be discovered, but must be learned through revelation. It denotes that which remained hidden, but is now made known. Jesus was revealing the mysteries that pertained to the kingdom of heaven (or kingdom of God) which He was announcing was soon to arrive. This kingdom would begin after His ascension through the preaching of the gospel message by the apostles. But what was the nature of this kingdom?
II. The Kingdom and the Planted Seed: Matthew 13:1-9 – “On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
A. Overcoming Misconceptions about the Kingdom: The religious world today is not unlike the time of Christ. Jesus was confronted by those who were either uninformed or mistaken about the nature of God’s Kingdom. Jesus’ ministry focused many times on overcoming those misconceptions. Many of his parables were targeted in that direction. Misconceptions that still flourish today:
1. The purpose of the Kingdom (and the power of the King) is to provide for the material needs of God’s people. Spiritual truth takes second place. The Jews of Jesus day desired manna from heaven in John 6. Many today say, “Let’s throw a party and when people come we can teach them about Jesus” What is the Kingdom (church) about?
2. The presence of evil and the Kingdom. “The Kingdom will gain control of the world when Jesus leads His armies against the powerful forces of evil of God & Magog in the last great battle” or “How can Jesus be reigning as King when so many evil people are in the world.”
a. Jesus confronts their misconceptions in this first parable of Matthew 13. In Luke’s account Jesus clearly identifies the seed as the word of God. “Sowing” is teaching; the Sower is Jesus, and by extension, others who would teach the word. Although we often call this story the parable of the sower, the main character is the seed. The word is the seed of the kingdom. Jesus presents the seed and 4 types of soil:
1) Wayside – this is the closed mind. He hears but never responds because Satan immediately snatches away the word (snatch conveys violent act) and thus prevents it from penetrating the heart.
2) Stony ground – superficial hearer. He is emotionally effected by the word, and accepts it but does not have the commitment to endure the tribulations and persecutions. (fair-weather faith).
3) Among the thorns – a life suffocated by temporal concerns – faith that is strangled by the worries & preoccupations of life. The devil doesn’t care how he prohibits the seed from bearing fruit – if he can snatch the seed up, good, but if not, he can bring persecution, and if that doesn’t work, he can crowd out the word with a myriad of different things. Just so the seed doesn’t grow. Because if the seed grows the kingdom grows. Notice the fourth kind of soil:
4) Good ground – This is the heart that welcomes the soil and bears fruit through understanding and obedience. The kingdom of God is expanded through the obedience of those in the kingdom. As each heart surrenders in doing, there is fruit born of the seed. Only the seed sown by God can bring the fruit of true obedience.“Faith comes by hearing the word of God.”
III. But the Word of God is Not the Only Seed Sown in the World. Read Matt. 13:24-30 –Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘
This often called the parable of the tares. It presents another aspect to understanding the nature of God’s Kingdom.
A. The enemy (Satan) sows tares (a rye grass with poisonous seeds) in a field of good wheat. He does this at night, and his intentions are evil and malicious.
B. The influence that the tares have in the field represent the evil influence that we see around us every day. The owner of the field allows them to grow with the wheat because He knows the surety of the perfect harvest, and cares about true wheat (those who are from the seed he planted). What can we learn about the kingdom from this parable?
1. Did the arrival of the kingdom usher in a period of righteousness, and the end of all evil?
2. Jesus describes parabolically a kingdom that exists concurrently with evil for a time. Satan has also sowed seed, which has produced after its kind.
3. This parable teaches us that we should not be surprised at the presence of evil, but trust in God to take care of it in the final harvest. Jesus also teaches us the importance of patience as we await God’s work in His kingdom.
a. The kingdom (fruit of the good seed) exists and flourishes in spite of the presence of evil. Those who complain that the kingdom could not exist now because there is too much evil in the world overlook this dynamic and encouraging teaching. The Psalmist said the Jesus would rule with “the rod of His strength in the midst of His enemies” (Psalm 110:2). There is coming a day when Jesus will put every enemy under His feet. (1 Cor. 15:25) But those who allow Christ to reign now shine as “lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 4:15).
b. There will be a final reckoning for the evil in the world. Jesus, as our King will bring it.
c. It is not our place to remove evil by military or political means. Our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual to the casting down of ideas that exalt themselves above God. We are commissioned to win hearts, not wars or political elections.
IV. The Kingdom of God will Grow! Matthew 13:31-32“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
A. The seed Jesus had in mind was probably of the black mustard, a tree that grows to a height of about 15-ft. The Rabbis often used the phrase of a mustard seed to reference something that was very minute. How could a tree come from such a small seed? I suggest3 aspects of the kingdom’s growth seen in the mustard seed parable:
1. It appears small in the beginning and its potential is not readily recognized. Think how insignificant Jesus’ band of apostles must have seemed to the powerful people of the Jesus’ day. Ignorant and unlearned men. Yet within in a few years they turned the world upside down.
2. It contains the power of life. Not everything small grows bigger. A small pebble doesn’t grow bigger. It has not life in it. The word of God has life inherent within it. “To whom shall we go you have the words of eternal life.”John 6:63–“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
3. It produces a great change. The tree does not resemble the seed from which it came. The kingdom is all about change. Not just the size of the group. The development of God’s kingdom must never be visualized in sectarian terms of the number of individuals associated with a certain church or group of local churches. Rather it has to do with the rule of Christ in the heart of individuals. Gardner Hall says, “the development of the kingdom can best be seen, not in statistical growth in a directory of churches, but in the powerful changes in individuals who are freed from empty, selfish lives to become forces for good in the world”.
Conclusion: A seed is planted in confidence of a harvest. On the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles, under the direction of the Holy Spirit planted the seed of the kingdom of God through the preaching of the word of God. The church was born on that day. And even though Satan continued to sow his seed in the world, the kingdom of God continued to grow, as the seed was planted in the good soil of honest hearts. That apostolic message is still the seed of the kingdom today. Will you receive that implanted word that can save your soul? He that believes and is baptized will be saved. He that does not believe will be condemned.