Here is another illustration of what the Kingdom of God is like: A farmer planted seeds in a field, and then he went on with his other activities. As the days went by, the seeds sprouted and grew without the farmer’s help, because the earth produces crops on its own. - Mark 4:26-28
A famous organist was visiting a number of small towns giving recitals in the local churches. At each stop he hired the services of a small boy to pump the organ manually. After a highly successful recital, the boy who had been pumping said to the organist, “We had a great recital tonight, didn’t we?” The organist replied, “I had a great recital. Not we! I! I had a great recital tonight!” The following night, halfway through the repeat recital, the organ ceased to function. Then a small face appeared from behind the screen where the pump was. With a grin, the boy announced, “We aren’t having such a great recital tonight, are we?” The organist had developed such confidence in his own skills that he had overlooked his dependency and forgotten his limitations.
Jesus made sure that his disciples were aware of their limitations. He spoke about a farmer who sowed his seed and then went on with his normal activities while the seed germinated, developed, and matured—all without his help or even his understanding how the procedure worked! Jesus told his disciples, “As the days went by, the seeds sprouted and grew without the farmer’s help, because the earth produces crops on its own” (Mark 4:27-28).
The disciples certainly had a role to play in scattering the seed of the word, but they were totally incapable of producing the lasting effects of the Word in people’s lives. Only God can do that. The mysterious power hidden in the most unprepossessing, dry, little seed, when planted in good soil, has the ability to grow and produce in remarkable ways. Even in our enlightened scientific world there are still great mysteries about life that the finest brains have not fathomed. That is how it is with the work of God’s kingdom, too. God’s people must recognize what they are called to do—and do it. Then they must depend upon God to do what only he can do. And he will.
There’s something wonderfully humbling about knowing your limitations—and liberating, too. Once the disciples had presented the message, they were free from responsibility for the response of the hearers. They had to plant the seed, but they didn’t have to make the seed grow. And they could watch with amazement as it did.
One word of caution is in order. The farmer, despite his limitations, was still called upon to put in the sickle and harvest the crop (4:29). Knowing your limitations is no excuse for laziness. Knowing what you cannot do does not allow you to fail to do what you are called to do!
For Further Study: Mark 4:26-34