The Sower Who Sleeps
13, 14. (a) Summarize Jesus’ illustration of the man who broadcasts seed. (b) Who is represented by the sower, and what is the seed?
13 At Mark 4:26-29, we find another illustration concerning a sower: “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.”
14 Who is this sower? Some in Christendom believe that this refers to Jesus himself. But how could it be said that Jesus sleeps and does not know how the seed grows? Surely Jesus is aware of the growth process! Rather, this sower, like the one mentioned earlier, represents individual Kingdom proclaimers, those who sow the Kingdom seed by their zealous preaching activity. The seed that is cast to the ground is the word that they preach.*
15, 16. What truth about literal and spiritual growth did Jesus bring out in his illustration of the sower?
15 Jesus states that the sower “sleeps at night and rises up by day.” This is not neglect on the sower’s part. It just portrays the normal routine of life followed by most people. The wording used in this verse indicates an ongoing process of working by day and sleeping by night over a period of time. Jesus highlighted what happened during that time. “The seed sprouts and grows tall,” he says. Then Jesus adds: “Just how he does not know.” The emphasis is on the fact that the growth occurs “of its own self.”*
16 What point was Jesus making here? Notice that the emphasis is on growth and on the gradual way in which it occurs. “Of its own self the ground bears fruit gradually, first the grass-blade, then the stalk head, finally the full grain in the head.” (Mark 4:28) This growth occurs gradually and in stages. It cannot be forced or speeded up. The same is true of spiritual growth. This occurs in stages as Jehovah allows the truth to grow in the heart of a person who is rightly disposed.—Acts 13:48; Heb. 6:1.
17. Who share in the rejoicing when the seed of truth bears fruitage?
17 How does the sower take part in the harvest “as soon as the fruit permits it”? When Jehovah makes the Kingdom truth grow in the hearts of new disciples, they eventually come to the point where they are prompted by their love for God to dedicate their lives to him. They symbolize their dedication by water baptism. Brothers who continue to progress to maturity are gradually able to take on more responsibility in the congregation. Kingdom fruitage is reaped by the original sower as well as by other Kingdom proclaimers who may not personally have been involved with sowing the seed that produced that particular disciple. (Read John 4:36-38.) Indeed, “the sower and the reaper . . . rejoice together.”
It was previously explained in this magazine that the seed represents personality qualities that need to grow to maturity, being influenced along the way by environmental factors. However, it should be noted that in Jesus’ illustration the seed does not change into bad seed or rotten fruit. It simply grows to maturity.—See The Watchtower, June 15, 1980, pages 17-19.
The only other usage of this expression is found at Acts 12:10, where an iron gate is spoken of as opening automatically, “of its own accord.”