The Coming of the Kingdom
The gospel of Mark is notable for its lack of extended accounts of Jesus’ teaching. Furthermore, Mark gives us noticeably fewer parables than do Matthew and Luke. However, in chapter 4 of his gospel, Mark records four parables. He begins with the lengthy parable of the sower, then follows with three short, pithy parables, each clearly communicating one central idea, as do most parables. All three of these parables teach us something about the kingdom of God.
In 4:26–29, Mark writes:
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
In this parable, as in the parable of the sower, Jesus taps the metaphor of sowing and seed. Here, however, Jesus does not talk about the different soils into which seed is sown, but about one of the most remarkable dimensions of nature. We plant seeds and go to bed. Overnight, rain falls on the seeds. The next day, sunlight warms them. Germination occurs and tiny green shoots emerge from the ground. Soon, the crop is ready for harvesting. Jesus said the spread of the kingdom of God is much like this process. It begins small, but while our attention is elsewhere, so to speak, the kingdom grows. Like the growth of a seed, it is a mysterious process.