Life is all about stories and every person has a story. God, too, has a story – the grand metanarrative – that makes sense of every human story; for the sacred Scriptures make known two kinds of wisdom so that every human being can make sense of, and interpret properly, his or her story in light of His story:
+. a soteriological wisdom: to make us wise unto salvation which is by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15)
+. a hermeneutical wisdom: to help us make sense of life’s story in light of His story and the many stories recorded in Scripture (Matthew 13:11, 16-17, 51-52; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
One third of the recorded teaching of Jesus consisted of parables. In the parables, Jesus is describing the kingdom of God in action and telling us something that happens when God is busy re-establishing Himself as King among humankind.
In the parable of “the kingdom growing secretly,” what essential teaching does Jesus share with us about God’s response to the human condition so that we might benefit from its wisdom and grow in our discipleship as “a wise scribe, trained for the kingdom” (Matthew 13:52)
26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The meaning of the parable “then and there”:
+. the kingdom is like a farmer who sows, goes about his life, and the “automatic earth” produces a plant and its fruit; and then comes the harvest
+. the kingdom process is already under way as evidenced in the teaching and ministry of Jesus; and it will continue until He returns through the ministry of His disciples
+. the kingdom of God will grow as a result of the word being sown; and there will be a harvest when the task of proclamation is complete
+. the parable also emphasizes the mystery of growth – which is independent of the sower and is wrought by the power of God alone – “the Word of the Lord grows…”
The meaning of the parable “here and now”
+. His kingdom will come and this is how it will come – through the sowing of His Word in the hearts of those who hear – yet its growth is mysterious since the seed’s ripening is independent of the sower’s effort
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts…” (Small Catechism)
“In order that we may obtain such faith, God has instituted the ministry of the Word, that is, has given the Gospel and Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith where and when He pleases in those who hear the Gospel -- the Good News that teaches that we have a gracious God through Christ’s merit, not through our own merit, when we believe this” (Augsburg Confession, article five).
+. before the harvest, the sowing and growth must take place in accordance with God’s plan; and the harvest will certainly come when the time is fulfilled – and it can neither be hurried along or delayed
+.an insight that Leonard Sweet shared at a conference several years ago, when he talked about the role that “nudges” played in bringing him back to the faith; he estimated that it took about 60-70 “nudges” from Christians, as they shared a message and witnessed to him, that were used by the Holy Spirit to bring him back to the Christian faith – these people were instruments and messengers of the Holy Spirit in his life so that he could “come to his senses” (the parable of the lost son) and be restored as His child
In closing, let us impress these words from Scripture upon our hearts that talk about the gracious working of the Gospel as it is made known through the ministry of the Word:
+. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
+. “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32)
+. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33)
+. “Jesus answered him (Nicodemus), ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you – you must be born anew. The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.’” (John 3:3-8)
+. “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God; for ‘all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord abides forever.’ That Word is the good news which was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-25.