The Parable of the Seed
This simple parable of planting, growing, and harvesting teaches us the certainty of success in the sowing of the seed of the gospel. The parable that the Lord had spoken immediately before this one might have discouraged the disciples because it had intimated that only one fourth of the seed sown brought forth fruit. Possible disappointment and failure are suggested by that parable of the sower. When the evangelist thinks of the “wayside hearer,” “the stony ground hearer,” and “the thorny ground hearer,” he might be tempted to say, “Well, what is the use of carrying on when so much of the seed seems to be wasted?” This beautiful parable is the complement of the former one, and is intended to encourage the sower, giving assurance of success.
This heavenly story spoken by the Lord of the Harvest assures of the sure though secret growth of the seed and of the certainty of a harvest. Some of the salient points to be noticed in this parable are:
The Quality of the Seed
The prudent farmer selects the best graded seed to cast into the earth. That which God has given us to sow is called “good seed” (Matt. 13:24), and “incorruptible seed” (1 Pet. 1:23). This seed is the Word of God; therefore, we do well to heed the instruction of Paul to Timothy, “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Illustrations have their place for they often illuminate the truth, but let God’s Word have pre-eminence in all our preaching. The gospel seed contains the germ of life within itself; consequently, we ought to pack much of the Word of God into our messages.
J. B. Gough was an old man at twenty-five. Nobody seeing him that night would have suspected that he had seen so few winters, and nobody would have thought that forty-four summers filled with sunshine and song would have lain between him and his grave.
He is sitting at a bare table in an empty cheerless room. He has folded his thin arms across the table, and his haggard face rests upon them. Sitting in that squalid room he suddenly finds himself possessed of incalculable riches.
He has been thinking of his mother in that Kentish home where he spent his boyhood. It seems as if the very light she radiated at the time of her passing has spanned the chasm of those seven dreadful years and has struck open his heart. Passages of Scripture that she had taught him, that had been buried in his memory, have come to him as if again they were being whispered into his ear by her loving lips, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” This is the very thing that he needed. He wanted to be saved. If that be true, thought the disconsolate figure, then Christ is the Saviour for me. Eventually he rises; draws his sleeve across his eyes; pulls himself together, and clutching at that text as a drowning man clutches his rescuer’s hand, walks out of that room in the power of a new and endless life. God’s Word will always operate and prosper in the accomplishment of the divine purpose (Isa. 55:10-11).
The Sower’s Limitations
Perhaps the disciples watched a man. He cast the seed into the ground, he slept, he arose the following day and went about his daily tasks. This he now does for several days before he sees the seed grow up. He does not know how it germinates, but he knows that it does, and that it grows. Let us learn from this that, having sown the seed earnestly, faithfully, and in fellowship with God, we can do no more, and that we must leave the results with Him. God never abandons the field; He watches over His Word to perform it. There is the sowing time and the reaping time, and between these two periods there is the waiting time. The growth is sure for God giveth the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). Let us wait, watch, and pray expecting results.
The Miracle of Growth
The growth is secret: After the sower has cast the seed into the ground, he sleeps (not the sleep of indolence and carelessness but of confidence), and as he sleeps the forces of nature impel the seed to fruition. In the quiet watches of the night as well as under the sun’s rays the growth goes on. It is thus with the gospel seed you are sowing; unseen by you the power of God in the spiritual realm operates (John 3:8), and what a joy and delight to see the first signs of divine life!
The growth is orderly: “First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear” ( 28). This does not teach gradual conversion, but, rather, the progress of divine life in the soul of the one who has professed faith in Christ. This is beautifully exemplified in the life of young Timothy, who from a child had known the Holy Scriptures which were able to make him wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15). The blade represents his early conversion to God; the ear, his growth in grace; the full corn in the ear, the full maturity of his Christian life for Paul speaks of him as “A man of God.”
The Apostle John in his First Epistle also gives us these three stages in the development of the seed, “I write unto you little children because your sins are forgiven for His Name’s sake,” the blade; “I write unto you young men because ye are strong,” the ear; and, “I write unto you fathers because ye have known Him that is from the beginning,” the full corn in the ear (1 John 2:12-14).
The Certainty of Harvest
The certainty of reaping ought to encourage us to continue sowing the incorruptible seed. What joy it will be to meet souls in the glory who shall be our “crown of rejoicing” in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 2:19)! Even now the Lord of the Harvest cheers us in our service for Him with definite conversions, but the full results will be known only when the harvest is safely garnered at the end of the age. What an honour to share in the joy of winning souls for the Best of Masters!
“Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadow,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilly breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labour ended;
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”
Beloved, men do not know what God is like, but we ought to give them some idea by our lives. We should allow the Holy Spirit so to develop the fruit of the Spirit within us, that we may, day by day, wherever we are, show them something of the beauty of God.
A missionary in Jamaica asked a little black boy, ‘Who are the meek?’ He answered, ‘Those who give soft answers to rough questions.’