Question: "What is the meaning of the Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29)?"
Answer: The first thing we notice about this parable is its similarity to the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:2-9. In some ways, this parable expands on Jesus’ teaching of how the “good soil” (a receptive heart) receives the “seed” (the Word of God).
In the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus tells of 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” (verse 28).
The parable ends with a harvest. As soon as the grain is ripe, the sickle is employed, and the seed is harvested. This happens at just the right time.
Jesus did not explain this parable, as He did some others. Instead, He left it to us to understand its meaning. Taking the seed to be the Word of God, as in Mark 4:14, we can interpret the growth of the plants as the working of God’s Word in individual hearts. The fact that the crop grows without the farmer’s intervention means that God can accomplish His purposes even when we are absent or unaware of what He’s doing. The goal is the ripened grain. At the proper time, the Word will bring forth its fruit, and the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2) will be glorified.
The truth of this parable is well illustrated in the growth of the early church: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Just like a farmer cannot force a crop to grow, an evangelist cannot force spiritual life or growth on others.
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!