Mark 4:26-34: The Potent Gospel

Jesus uses the mystery of seed germination as an illustration in this passage. What hidden natural process most fascinates you?

What did the seed represent in the parable we studied last week? (The gospel, and more broadly, the Word of God.) Jesus now tells another parable about the gospel seed.

Let's read verses 26-29.

What different aspects of planting do these two parables (verses 1-20, 26-29) emphasize? (The first emphasizes the condition of the soil, our hearts. The second emphasizes the mysterious power of the seed, the gospel.)

What do we learn about God's Word from this story? (Like the hidden germination of a seed, God's Word has power which works on the heart and gives it life.)

Tell us of a time that God's Word was working on you "night and day", as Jesus says here. [Rephrase if necessary: Do you remember a time when God spoke powerfully to you through His Word, to convert or convict or encourage you?]

How can this parable encourage and direct our evangelism?

  1. However fruitless our efforts may seem, we never know what life-giving action is happening underground. Currently, Christ's message was receiving a cold reception – from Pharisees and even family. But Jesus wanted the disciples, and us, to know that what is observable on the surface may not be an accurate measure of the final outcome.
  2. We should be sure to get beyond peripheral issues in our witness, and spread the good seed – the stuff that can really sprout. That is, we've got to share the good news of the gospel, and if possible, bring our pre-Christian friend in contact with the Scriptures.
  3. After sowing our seed, we can relax, knowing it's not our job to convert people. As verse 27 says, "whether [the sower] sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how." The Holy Spirit speaks life into hearts through the Word.

Isn't it amazing the changes a plant spontaneously undergoes? As Jesus said in verse 28: "All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head." A little sprout appears… little leaves grow… every part matures until it flowers and bears fruit. Likewise, God plans to grow you until He finishes what He started in you. Look back on your Christian life and reflect on how you've grown. How are you different now than when your Christian life first sprouted?

His goal in growing us is to prepare us for His presence that we'll experience when harvest time comes, as Jesus alludes to in verse 29.

Let's read verses 30-34.

What happens in Christ's third parable about planting? (The smallest seed, mustard, grows into the biggest garden plant.)
How does this illustrate the kingdom of God? (The King came modestly, with no earthly power, and with only a few acknowledging His rule, but history has seen His kingdom expand to include millions the world over.)

As we go to prayer, let's praise God for the mysterious power His Word has to grow our faith and bring new life to those we share it with.