Having read these two parables, the one of the seed growing and then being harvested and the other of the mustard seed growing o become a great tree, we are confronted with the fact that Jesus had to explain these and other parables to the disciples,” …as they were able to hear.” This signals that we have some work to do here.
The promise is that the more we listen the deeper we will go and the more we will receive. That is what we learned last week.
First of all Jesus is signalling in his telling of these parables the prophecy of Joel, specifically Joel 3:13 and the prophecy of Isaiah, specifically Isaiah 40:18. These two verses and the verses that surround them deserve reading. Jesus echoing them is significant.
NT Wright, in Mark for Everyone, says of these two parables that the message in them is so explosive Jesus could only say what he had to say through them.
These two parables complete the three Kingdom parables reported by Mark. In the first we learned how we need to hear and go deeper with what we hear from God. We need to do this because when confusion comes; suffering, sickness, disappointment, opposition, temptation, what is well rooted will survive. Every other voice will fail.
Jesus is drawing us out of our agenda and calling us to be patient. God is able to do amazing things; he is creator and all creation speaks of him – even the seed sprouting and growing as we sleep and rise. The growing of the seed mirrors our daily rising; it happens. And in the small seed is a mighty tree.
The very word Jesus plants in our hearts in that moment of revelation; that tiny stirring, is the Kingdom!
Even if we feel what we have is so very small, by God’s provision it will grow. The disciples had to set aside their expectations of a violent revolution to restore Israel; we need to be patient.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Joel 3 speaks of the joy of the restoration of Israel. All are called to be armed and to be prepared for war but the irony is that there is no war, God is the Judge, it is God who avenges the blood that has not been avenged. Israel gets to enjoy the land flowing with God’s provision. We get to draw from the fount of God’s being. The weak cry, “I am a warrior.” With a roar from God they receive from God’s bounty.
Joel saw in part, with these parables Jesus shows us the fulfilment. The setting of the sickle is swift; judgment day waits for the fulfilling of the promise of the harvest. This is God’s mercy and the shade of the tree and the strong branches are the blessings of the Kingdom, the fount of God’s blessing.