Mark 4:31

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Mark 4:31 

“It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil,” Mark 4:31

We now come to the parable of the mustard seed. Jesus starts with the following. “And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it?” Mark 4:30. I believe this was a rhetorical question, for I find it had to believe He did not have an answer to it. It was probably said for the benefit of His disciples.

Then He lays out the parable which He presented to the crowd. “It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” Mark 4:31-32. This Parable is a short one. In essence it refers to the Kingdom of God, which He says is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches. The Jews recognized that even from this small seed a large plant, large enough to give shade to a man, could grow.

In this parable, Jesus tells the crowd of amazing growth of the kingdom of heaven. The mustard seed is quite small, but it grows into a large shrub, up to ten feet in height, and Jesus says this is a picture of kingdom growth. The point of the Parable of the Mustard Seed is that something big and blessed, the kingdom of God, had humble beginnings. How significant could the short ministry of Christ be? He had but a handful of followers, He was a man of no rank and without means, and He lived in what everyone considered a unimportant region of the world. The life and death of Christ did not catch the world’s attention any more than a mustard seed would lying on the ground by the road. But this was a work of God. What seemed inconsequential at first grew into a movement of worldwide influence, and no one could stop it. Even Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, understood this. “And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” Acts 5:38-39. The influence of the kingdom in this world would be such that everyone associated with it would find a benefit, pictured as the birds perched on the branches of the mature mustard plant.

The history of the church has shown Jesus’ Parable of the Mustard Seed to be true. The church has experienced an explosive rate of growth through the centuries. It is found worldwide and is a source of sustenance and shelter for all who seek its blessing. In spite of persecution and repeated attempts to stamp it out, the church has flourished. And it’s only a small picture of the ultimate manifestation of the kingdom of God, when Jesus returns to earth to rule and reign from Zion.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Luke 8:8

Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 8:8 

“And other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great. As He said these things, He would call out, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Luke 8:8  

Today we will look at one of the many parables Jesus told His followers in order to help them understand the Christian life as He intended.  This one is known as the parable of the sower.  It also was called the Parable of the Four Soils.  The main character mentioned here is a sower who scatters seed in the field, which ultimately falls on four different types of soil.  The seed represents the Word of God, and the ground on which it falls is a picture of man’s response to it.  Now, let us look at each of the soil types alluded to here.

First, “and as he sowed, some fell beside the road; and it was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air ate it up. Luke 8:5.  The hard ground speaks of a person who’s heart is hardened by sin.  They hear what is said but do not understand because they choose not to take the time to consider the reality of it.  The picture is of a seed that does not take root because of the hard soil, just as the Word of God does not take root because of a hardened heart. They are therefore distracted by the things of this world which prevent the truth from being planted in them.  Therefore, truth is trampled underfoot or is taken away.   

Next we see the stony ground.  “And other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” Luke 8:6.  The stony ground represents a man who professes joy in the Word; however, his heart is not changed, and when trouble arises, his so-called faith quickly goes away. When seed is planted in shallow soil it will often start growing, there will be some signs of life. But that life does not last. The soil is simply not deep enough to sustain life. There’s not enough water for the plant so eventually the sun will scorch out all life. In essence, as plants need deep roots to get water and nutrients, Christians need deep roots in the Word and teachings in order grow and refresh their faith. Without it, they have no roots. Their belief does not last, and they fail to stand up to testing and temptation.

Other seeds then fall among thorns. “And other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.” Luke 8:7.  These are not an overgrown thistle-field, but a place in the farmland that is suitable to grow crops.  The idea is that the thistles and thorn bushes have been cut off from the land, but the roots are still intact and they grow up again, entirely suffocating the crops, since they grow much quicker. The true picture is good seed competing with bad seed where they grow up together. The implication is obvious. Our lives may look pure with no known danger of bad weeds, but the bad seeds are there. It is important that we guard our heart. We need to be constantly looking out for anything that wants to attack our faith.

And finally, in our focus verse, “And other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great. As He said these things, He would call out, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:8. The good ground portrays the one who hears, understands, and receives the Word and then allows the Word to accomplish its result in his life. The man represented by the good ground is the only one of the four who is truly saved, because salvation is proven by the fruit we produce.  This soil represents those who hear the Gospel and follow Jesus. Their roots go deep and can sustain the hardships of life. They have guarded their hearts to ensure no thorns can choke out their life. They are primed and ready to grow. And grow they do. Their lives produce more than they could have ever imagined.

To summarize, a man’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart. A secondary lesson here is that salvation is more than a superficial, yet joyful, hearing of the gospel. Someone who is truly saved will go on to prove it. They will be that shining light that draws the lost to our loving God.  Let us go out and be that seed that grows in the good soil and produces a great harvest of followers of God.  Let us go out and make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples, ad infinitum.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Mark 4:26

Verse of the Day Devotion Mark 4:26 

“And He was saying, the kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil.” – Mark 4:26

Today we will look at the Parable of the Seed Growing.  Here is this parable as found in Mark’s gospel.

And He was saying, The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29 

This parable is only found in Mark’s gospel. Though it shares several elements with the Parable of the Soils, i.e.: a man scattering seed, the seed itself, and the harvest, the idea that is the focus of that parable should not be read into this one.  This parable by itself has its own message to tell. 

In the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a man who scatters seed on the ground and then allows nature to take its course. As the man who sowed the seed goes about his business day by day, the seed begins to have an effect. First, the seed sprouts; then it produces a stalk and leaves, then a head of grain, and, finally, fully developed kernels in the head. Jesus emphasizes that all of this happens without the man’s help. The man who scattered the seed cannot even fully understand how it happens, it is simply the work of nature. All by itself the soil produces. 

Many believe the kingdom of God should be likened to something grand and glorious: to shimmering mountain peaks, crimson sunsets, the opulence of potentates, the glory of a gladiator. But Jesus likens it to seeds, something that is small and somewhat commonplace. The theologian James R. Edwards puts it this way. “The parable of the seed growing by itself has its own unique message to convey. Determining the precise focus of the parable is difficult. The sower plays a minimal role. Furthermore, the seed grows without his effort (or lack of effort) and in a way that is a mystery.” And this is the key point.  What brings success to the Christian message is not based upon human effort or understanding, though Christians certainly need to plant/scatter the seed.  Success comes via the power of God through the seeds planted. And this brings success because our God is an active God.  And we see this success comes from God alone.  “The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.” Mark 4:28. Yes, we plant the seeds, but it is God who does the work in the hearts of people.

Then in the final verse, we read of the harvest.  “But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:29.  Putting forth the sickle for the harvest often pictures the arrival of God’s kingdom.  “And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Revelation 14:15. The metaphor of reaping, with its inevitable separation of wheat from weeds, or grain from husks), is a common picture in the Old Testament of the end of the age. It always involves the concept of judgment as well as salvation: chaff and weeds are burnt, wheat is saved. This is to be the final realization of the rule of God, which has begun already in Jesus. “Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.” Joel 3:13. 

To summarize the point of the Parable of the Growing Seed: The way God uses His Word in the heart of an individual is mysterious and completely independent of human effort. May we be faithful in “sowing the seed,” praying for a harvest, and leaving the results to the Lord! And we can look forward to this time. “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you.” 2 Peter 3:13-15.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.