Jesus told the parable in today's text to a group of disciples who were impatient with the slow results of their work. Even though they were new at what they were doing, still they wanted action, and they wanted it immediately! Jesus' parable is a reminder that God's kingdom was not in their hands. It was in God's control. The seed germinates and grows silently in the dark, damp soil. A tiny mustard seeds grows up to become a huge plant. The growth of God's rule on earth follows that pattern….
First, all genuine progress is slow. This is true for civilization as a whole and for our lives in particular. You are the person you have been becoming all your life. You did not arrive at this time and place instantly. Neither your virtues nor your vices were formed overnight….
When we find ourselves disappointed, remember that some things cannot be changed. For example, time cannot be pushed. A slow but certain rhythm is built into the universe, and we cannot change it. What we do is learn to live within the constraints of change and progress. This is not a call for complacency or apathy. It is instead a biblically realistic call to realize that some things simply take time. The seed grows quietly and unnoticed.
Next, remember that God is in control and works at his own pace. Paul said in Philippians 1:6: "And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus." This is true on both a personal and global level.
These parables about the seeds, especially the mustard seed, proclaim that mighty forces come from small beginnings. God's kingdom, his Lordship, is spreading and cannot be stopped. Even when things look dark and it seems as if the forces of evil and chaos are winning, we must remember that the seed of the Kingdom is growing.
In London during the Second World War a church was decorated to celebrate harvest homecoming. The blitz began and the building was destroyed before the celebration could begin. Some of the sheaves of corn were scattered by the bombs. During the next spring, a small patch of corn began to grow through the rubble of the church. Life will not be stifled….
Hear the gospel in these parables. God is alive and active. His kingdom is growing like a seed germinating in the soil. From tiny origins come great results. We may aid the sowing and the reaping, but the seed is up to God.
- Don M. Aycock, "Dealing With Disappointment" (Mark 4:26-34), excerpted from the book The Word Is Near You: Sermons For The Church (CSS Publications, 2000).