In Mark 4 Jesus tells the parable of the sower (or parable of the soils). A farmer sows the seed. Some falls on hardened soil and doesn’t take root at all (in fact the devil snatches it away). Some falls on rocky soil, but when it grows there’s not enough soil to put down good roots, so it dies off in the heat. Some falls on soil that has a lot of weeds and thorny plants that choke out the good seed. Then some falls on soil that produces a crop with a surprisingly abundant harvest.
As Jesus explains the parable to his disciples, he explains that those who hear and receive the Gospel will produce a crop that’s 30x what was sown… or 60x what was sown… or 100x what was sown. When these agrarian people living in the fertile region of Galilee heard these numbers in the parable, their ears really perked up! A 30, 60, or 100-fold return was outrageous when the normal return was only 10x! Let’s put this in terms of an investment in the stock market. A good return over the years might be 8-10% (8-fold or 10-fold). So, an investment of $100 might produce a return of $8-10 over a year. That would be a great return for most people. However, the numbers in the parable are totally outrageous! A $100 investment that yields a return of 30x would be $3,000… 60x would be $6,000… and a yield of 100x would be $10,000! That’s an outrageous yield for even a 10yr stretch let alone 1 growing season! So the people listening would be astounded to hear of a yield of 30, 60 or 100x! That would grab their attention as they wondered how this kind of unimaginable excessive return could possibly take place!And that’s exactly the reaction Jesus wanted to get… because he’s not talking at all about an abundant grain harvest. No! He’s talking about the Kingdom of God! Not only would this have blown away the people listening, it would have blown away the disciples & the Twelve apostles! I can imagine this question coming from James or John: “Uhhh.. Peter… is Jesus saying that we’re gonna be part of something really, really big, something fantastically fruitful?” Whether they really understood the parable or not, at least they were getting the idea that if they stuck with Jesus, something extraordinary was going to happen! Something abundant would be produced.
Just as it’s in the DNA of the seed to grow a crop, it’s in the DNA of the Gospel to grow the Kingdom! Growth or expansion of the Kingdom is the work of the Lord. Our part is to plant the seed. Every event, every outreach, every small group, every discipleship group, really every activity we do as a Church, should include somewhere in it the element of planting! Sowing the seed is our work. Planting the seed is our job. Growth is the Lord’s work! Listen, if the farmer doesn’t plant the seed, the crop never grows, and the harvest never comes. The Kingdom will not grow if we’re not spreading the Word of God. That is our part. That is our responsibility. The Church was started by Jesus not just to be a gathering for worship, not just to be about fellowship and shared meals, but to also be a spiritual light for people to see, and to be the voice of the Gospel for people to hear. The rest is left up to the Lord. May you and I be faithful in our part! May you and I persevere in our part! May we not be distracted from our part by the temptations of the devil… or by religious persecution… or the cares of the world… or the pursuit of wealth and money! We must stay focused on the message of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.