“And Jesus was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows – how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come’ ” (Mk 4:26-29).
Lest we become discouraged by the two kingdoms – the wheat and the weeds of our last parable – growing together, Jesus gives us a message of hope in the parable of the automatic kingdom. And the message of hope is that the good kingdom will not be choked out by evil, but will grow, flourish, and prosper in the present age. How do we know this?
There is an interesting Greek word buried in the middle of this parable. Notice in verse 28 that the seed – the kingdom of God – is growing “by itself”. “The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head” (Mk 4:28). By itself is translated from the Greek word automatos; the Greek root of our English word, automatic. We are all familiar with the word “automatic” used to describe things that seem to run “by itself”, like an automatic transmission or an automatic dishwasher.
The point is that the kingdom of God is so unstoppable that it appears to be growing automatically. And we know from the rest of Scripture that God is causing the growth that appears to be automatic. As Jesus proclaimed, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it” (Mt 1:18).
This message of hope is a message for us and our children to not be downcast by the evil in our world. When it does not appear to us that things are happening fast enough, when evidence of God’s growing kingdom is blurry, rest assured that God is at work. Our role is not to fret, but to get involved and find where we can join the effort to grow the kingdom.
I recently returned from visiting some churches in a limited access country. An elderly pastor shared with me that twenty years ago he thought the message of Christ was close to being extinguished in his country. But his prayers never ceased, and the flame never went out. And now he is thanking and praising the Lord as an incredible gospel wind is blowing through his country. We cannot predict where the wind will blow or where a new outpost of the kingdom of God will sprout in full bloom. But we have the assurance of Jesus, that the fire will never go out.