Sowing with God’s Kingdom in View
1. To what kingdom did a schoolgirl assign the inquiring emperor, and was her answer beyond question?
The emperor of a Middle-European country was making an inspection of a public school of his subjects. He asked the school class a number of questions. As the story goes, he asked a little girl about “the plant kingdom” and “the animal kingdom” and was pleased with her answers. Following this up, he asked her: “To what kingdom do I belong?” Expecting the answer, “The animal kingdom,” he had tears well up in his eyes when the little maid replied: “The kingdom of God.” Though the church to which the emperor belonged thought the girl’s answer to be correct as well as reverential, did he belong to God’s kingdom? Had this political ruler of a worldly government really been admitted to “the kingdom of God”? Here is room for thought!
2. (a) Admittance to God’s kingdom is to what grade of government? (b) How did the Jews of Jesus’ day show that they were not sowing with that kingdom in view?
2 Admittance to the kingdom of God is the greatest honor that could be bestowed upon a person on earth. The kingdom of God is the greatest of all governments. This was the government about which the Founder of Christianity preached in the Middle East. History says of Jesus Christ: “Now after John [the Baptizer] was put under arrest [in the year 30 C.E.] Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the good news of God and saying: ‘The appointed time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Be repentant, you people, and have faith in the good news.’” (Mark’s account, Mr chap. one, vss. 14 and 15) However, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish people did not repent and have faith. Appallingly, they had Jesus put to death as an enemy of the Roman emperor, Caesar. Figuratively, they did not sow with God’s kingdom in view. But who of us today is doing so? How can we know? We shall see.
3. About what illustration given by Jesus to a seaside audience did his disciples ask, and what did he say about the ear?
3 Most of us today like illustrations of things. Jesus Christ became famous for making illustrations or telling parables. As an itinerant preacher, he drew large audiences. Once, from a boat on the Sea of Galilee, he taught a seashore audience. He gave an illustration of four types of agricultural soil. Privately, his intimate disciples asked him about the meaning of this. After explaining and making additional comments, he said, even to these close associates: “Whoever has ears to listen, let him listen.” (Mark 4:1-23) How many of the seashore audience had such kind of ears, we do not know. But Jesus expected his disciples to whom he gave the explanation to have listening ears. By means of such ears what they had heard from him would find permanent lodging within them and furnish enlightenment to them. Who of us today has such kind of listening ears? It will help us in sowing aright with God’s kingdom in view.
4. Of what importance is it for one to have a ‘listening ear,’ and why do we not want to be like the soil along the roadside?
4 If we do not have “ears to listen,” we shall not pay attention to what Jesus taught. Attention is important, for the Bible writer Mark goes on to record: “He further said to them: ‘Pay attention to what you are hearing.’” (Mark 4:24) Never should we be like the first kind of soil in Jesus’ parable. This was the soil alongside the road. It was packed down so hard that it would not let the seed sink in, but left it exposed for the birds to pounce down upon and eat. (Mark 4:4, 15) We do not want Satan the Devil, by means of his agents, to snatch Christian truth away from us due to our inattention. This would betray a lack of respect for what the Teacher, Jesus Christ, was and now is in God’s arrangement.
5. After giving his admonition on paying attention, what did Jesus say about measuring out and receiving back?
5 A rule oft stated is that we get out of a thing what we put into it. Jesus indicated the benefit that we would get from paying the deserved attention to what he was saying. He did this by adding to his admonition on attention the words: “With the measure that you are measuring out, you will have it measured out to you, yes, you will have more added to you. For he that has will have more given to him; but he that does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”—Mark 4:24, 25.
6. As regards the measuring out of interest and attention to him, did Jesus promise merely a balancing of accounts in return?
6 Consequently, if we measure out to Jesus little interest and attention, we cannot expect to get much from him, at least from what he is saying for our guidance, for our benefit. But if we show that we do appreciate him as our Teacher and we deal out to him our fullest measure of attention, then he will respond by giving us a comparative amount of information and enlightenment. In this regard, however, he is not concerned with just evening up things and balancing accounts. Rather, in his generosity and according to his ability, he will favor us with more than we expected. Thus we are enriched and are more able to share with others our own abundance, imparting to them the understanding of things.
7, 8. How did Jesus’ foregoing words prove true in the case of his intimate disciples, and why?
7 A favored disciple must have the humility and willingness to learn, yes, genuine regard for his Teacher and an appreciation of what he teaches. Being thus disposed, he will have more given to him. For instance, after Jesus’ speech from aboard the boat, his intimate disciples did not at once dismiss the matter as of only passing interest. They kept his parable in mind. Later, privately, they asked him to explain. For their extra efforts to learn what his teachings meant, more was given to them than to the seashore audience. They were not discouraged by Jesus’ earlier remark: “You do not know this illustration, and so how will you understand all the other illustrations?” (Mark 4:13) That was the state in which most of the seaside audience remained. But Jesus’ apostles had the urge to learn and understand. Therefore, they made it their business to ask for more than the mere outline of things. So more than the expected was given to them. In their case, Jesus’ words proved true:
8 “To you the sacred secret of the kingdom of God has been given, but to those outside all things occur in illustrations.”—Mark 4:11.
9, 10. How did matters work out for the outsiders, and why?
9 The outsiders remained satisfied with merely the outline of things set out in the illustrations. They lacked the driving urge to learn the facts behind the illustrations. So they gained no understanding of the illustrations. They did not want to act on what the illustrations taught. So they avoided the greater responsibility that comes with understanding. Not caring to seek God’s kingdom first, they appreciated material things more than spiritual things, “the sacred secret of the kingdom of God.”
10 By not inclining to seize hold of the opportunity opened up to them by Jesus’ illustrations, the outsiders, in effect, lost everything. What they had in the way of familiarity with Jesus’ illustrations, or parables, was taken away from them. By means of human agents or by means of occult arts, Satan the Devil snatched it away from them. What light they may have had through hearing Jesus’ illustrations became overtaken by darkness. The light of truth, advancing beyond what grasp of things they had from Jesus illustrations, left them in relative darkness, with only a rudimentary knowledge of Biblical things. So they groped like blind persons.
THE PARABLE OF A MAN CASTING THE SEED
11. According to Mark 4:26-29 what illustration did Jesus then give?
11 In illustration of the foregoing, Mark 4:26-29 records: “So he [Jesus] went on to say: ‘In this way the kingdom of God is just as when a man casts the seed upon the ground, and he sleeps at night and rises up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows tall, just how he does not know. Of its own self the ground bears fruit gradually, first the grass-blade, then the stalk head, finally the full grain in the head. But as soon as the fruit permits it, he thrusts in the sickle, because the harvesttime has come.’”*
12. What do some Bible students think this illustration teaches as respects God’s kingdom?
12 In Jesus’ earlier illustration given from aboard a boat, he described a sower whose seed fell on four types of soil. (Mark 4:1-9) Did that sower picture the same as the caster of seed in this later illustration? Many Bible students think so. They think that the man casting the seed abroad also pictures the foremost proclaimer of God’s kingdom, namely, Jesus Christ. On this basis they reason that the “seed” pictures the members of the heavenly Kingdom class. Thus the whole illustration pictures the growth of the Kingdom class from the 3,000 on Pentecost day of 33 C.E. to the final full number of 144,000. (Rev. 14:1) Hence, we must now be in “the harvesttime” of the final members of the heirs of God’s kingdom. However, such an explanation of Jesus’ illustration runs into a number of insurmountable difficulties. What may these be?
13. When did Jesus begin building his spirit-begotten congregation, and in what condition was he at that time?
13 Well, the illustration says that the man scattering the seed “sleeps at night and rises up by day.” How does such a description fit the glorified Jesus Christ since he began building his spirit-begotten congregation on the day of Pentecost? It does not fit at all! First Peter 3:18 speaks of Jesus as “being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit,” so that he no longer is the perfect man that he used to be on earth. Ever since God the Almighty raised Jesus from the dead on Sunday, Nisan 16, 33 C.E., the exalted Son of God “is the reflection of his glory and the exact representation of his very being.”—Heb. 1:3.
14. As regards the mere matter of sleeping at night, why could the man casting the seed on the ground not picture the glorified Jesus Christ?
14 That being so, then what? Well, Psalm 121:1-4 says: “My help is from Jehovah, the Maker of heaven and earth. He cannot possibly allow your foot to totter. The One guarding you cannot possibly be drowsy. Look! He will not be drowsy nor go to sleep, he that is guarding Israel.” (Note also Jeremiah 1:12.) How, then, could the glorified Jesus Christ at God’s right hand possibly go to sleep regularly with the setting of the sun in the Middle East like a man on earth? He no longer needs an earthly night’s sleep in order to be fit for the work of the daylight hours. Why, what is 1,000 years for man is like a mere day for the Godlike Jesus Christ! (Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8) For this reason alone the man casting the seed upon the ground could not possibly picture the glorified, immortal Jesus Christ.*
15. What shows whether the prehuman Son of God knew about the growth of seed and of how the ground bears fruit of its own self?
15 Another point to note is that Jesus’ illustration goes on to say: “And the seed sprouts and grows tall, just how he does not know. Of its own self the ground bears fruit gradually.” (Mark 4:27, 28) If, now, the seed that sprouts and grows tall pictures the Christian congregation in its growth from a small membership to a large one, it means that the sower does not know how the congregation keeps growing to 144,000 strong. But the prehuman Jesus Christ was a coworker with Jehovah God on the third creative day, when “the earth began to put forth grass, vegetation bearing seed according to its kind and trees yielding fruit, the seed of which is in it according to its kind.” (Gen. 1:12) Thus the prehuman Son of God displayed full knowledge of the growth of plants and of how the ground bears fruit of itself gradually.
16. What vision in the last book of the Bible shows whether the glorified Jesus Christ is drowsy or asleep as to the growth of the Christian congregations?
16 However, as to congregation growth, the Bible’s last book, Revelation, written about 63 years after Jesus ascended to heaven on Thursday, Iyyar 25, 33 C.E. (May 12, 33 C.E.), pictures Jesus Christ as walking in among the seven lampstands that stand for seven congregations in Asia Minor. With his eyes like a “fiery flame,” he should be wide awake as he inspects the spiritual state of these seven prominent congregations. So he is not pictured as being drowsy or asleep with regard to the growth of the congregations. He must have known how those congregations grew to the spiritual state in which he describes them to be.—Rev. 1:14; 2:18.
17. What vision described in Revelation 5:6 shows whether the glorified Jesus Christ could be pictured by the man who casts the seed on the ground and sleeps at night?
17 With regard to Jesus’ ascending and appearing in God’s heavenly presence, he is pictured as a lamb just slaughtered, but again alive with “seven eyes, which eyes mean the seven spirits of God that have been sent forth into the whole earth.” (Rev. 5:6) Far from suggesting drowsiness or sleepiness, such sevenfold vision of the Lamb of God would signify the state of being wide awake and all-discerning, constantly. Plainly, then, the glorified Jesus Christ could not be pictured by the man who casts the seed upon the ground and who sleeps at night and who does not know how the growth of what he planted comes about.
18. Whom, then, does the man in the illustration logically picture?
18 Whom, then, does the man in the illustration picture? The Gospel writer Mark calls this individual farmer to our attention right after Jesus advises his intimate disciples to pay attention to what they are hearing. A certain measure of attention was to be recompensed with proportionate returns, even more being added to such. Reasonably, therefore, the man in the illustration pictures each individual who professes to be a disciple or learner of Jesus Christ, the foremost Preacher of the kingdom of God.
INDICATIVE FEATURES OF THE ILLUSTRATION
19, 20. What two main things embrace the whole illustration, and so what is the point that is made by the illustration, and with what in view, quantity or quality?
19 Jesus opened up the illustration by saying: “In this way [or, Thus] the kingdom of God is just as when a man casts the seed upon the ground.”—Mark 4:26, NW; Kingdom Interlinear Translation.
20 We note two main things that embrace the whole illustration. First, there is a sowing of the seed in connection with God’s kingdom, and, secondly, there is a harvesting, or reaping, of the crop that results from the seed sown. So the point is that, just as surely as there was a sowing, or a planting, of the seed, there must be expected a harvesting, or a reaping. The one thing inevitably follows the other. The solemn truth is that what a person sows with relation to God’s kingdom leads on to what he will harvest, or reap. Rather than quantity, the quality of what he reaps is important!
21. Did Jesus specify the kind of seed or the type of soil on which it was cast, and yet what question arises as to the seed?
21 Jesus did not specify the kind of seed or the type of soil involved in the planting. He said: “But as soon as the fruit permits it, he thrusts in the sickle [a small hand instrument], because the harvesttime has come.” (Mark 4:29) The Jews to whom Jesus gave the illustration had three harvests during the agricultural year. The first took place right after the spring Passover festival, a sheaf of the barley harvest being presented on Nisan 16 by the high priest at Jerusalem’s temple. Fifty days from then, the high priest presented the firstfruits of the wheat harvest at the temple and after that this harvest went forward. The third harvest came at the end of the summer and was memorialized by the festival of ingathering, or of the booths (tabernacles), beginning on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, Tishri. (Ex. 23:14-17) Which of these three harvesttimes was the one meant in the illustration is not stated. But, whatever seed it was that was sown, what does it picture?
22. If not picturing members of the Christian congregation, what does the seed picture, and is the growth of such “seed” beyond control?
22 Jesus’ illustration says that the seed sown sprouted and grew tall and matured to having the full grain in the head. We have noted that the seed sown does not picture the members of the Christian congregation. As the next article will show, the seed scattered about upon the ground pictures the seeds of the sower’s personal qualities, attitudes and capacities for service in connection with God’s kingdom. He must seek nourishment for these as from the ground. The growth of these personal traits to maturity and ripeness for harvesting is gradual. This is a thing for us to watch, for it is not beyond control.
Compare the following with The Watchtower of December 1, 1950, page 492, paragraphs 34 and 35.
See All the Parables of the Bible by Lockyer, page 252, paragraph 8; also, The Pulpit Commentary on Mark by Spence and Excell, Volume I, pages 159 and 205.
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“In this way the kingdom of God is just as when a man casts the seed upon the ground, and he sleeps at night and rises up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows tall.”—Mark 4:26, 27.
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Each individual professing to be a disciple of Jesus Christ sows seeds of personal qualities, attitudes and capacities for service in connection with God’s kingdom