Blog / Book of the Month / The Seed that is Sown / Mark 4:26–34 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 13th 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Seed that is Sown / Mark 4:26–34 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 13th 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Seed that is Sown / Mark 4:26–34 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 13th 2021 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 13th 2021: Season Pentecost / Mark 4:26–34 "The Seed that is Sown"

And [Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

And He said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables He spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to His own disciples He explained everything.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Saint James in his Epistle writes, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” He continues to say, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and [God] Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”[1] This verse came to mind upon hearing our readings today. In the Old Testament reading and the Gospel we hear about small things growing into big things and in the Epistle we hear about life swallowing up death, about the things that wear out in life, the perishable things being renewed into things that by comparison are imperishable: Canvas Tents & and House of Stone. 

Back quickly to the verse I quoted from the Epistle of Saint James. There we find how sin starts small … just a little desire, a feeling, a thought, implanted into the heart of man not by God but by your enemies Sin, Death, the Devil, the World and even by your Old Adam that sinful inclination that fights with your renewed baptismal life in Christ. And this little, small thing, this ungoldly desire, Saint James says “when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” If left unchecked it will grow and bring death: Physical death, spiritual death, eternal death. So we are to remain steadfast under trial and keep a watch on our heart and the desires we find there, looking to see if they are God pleasing or evil, if they are seeds of the weeds of sin or seeds of the good news of Jesus: A seed of death or a seed of life. The sooner bad seeds of desire are dealt with the better, otherwise they become like quackgrass in the field of your heart.

Now what is the antidote to this problem? James uses the image of a woman who conceives and then becomes pregnant, and then gives birth, to warn us of desire that becomes sin that becomes death. Scripture tells us of something similar that brings forth not death but life. We confess this in the Creed when we say we believe in Jesus Christ “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,” in Advent and at Christmas we call Jesus the “Desire of nations,” as we sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”[2] Jesus the one long promised (as we heard last week in the Old Testament Reading from the book of Genesis), Jesus long desired through time is conceived in the womb of the Virgin Marry, she then gives birth to Him, to this Jesus (Immanuel – God with us) and Jesus when He was fully grown brought forth life. This Jesus is the man who remained steadfast under trial, Who stood the test and received the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him and now gives that crown to you. Jesus experienced all temptations common to man and He remained true, His love of His heavenly Father never faltered even when the World crushed Him with a crown of thorns, even when the World gave Him beatings and a public execution intended to strip Him bear of His reputation in as humiliating a way as possible. But when Death swallowed up the innocent only begotten Son of God at the Cross of Good Friday Death was not able to keep Jesus, Death could not hold Jesus and it is the reverse that happens, Jesus is risen from the dead and it is Jesus who swallows up death. The Mountain they thought was theirs turned out to be His Holy Mountain, and on His Holy Mountain He was the one who swallowed up Death,[3] “O Death where is your victory? O Death Where is your sting,” yes as Saint Paul says, for the Christian, that which is mortal is swallowed up by life, and now puts on the immortal in Christ Jesus, who is the Life:[4] As we hear in the Gospel of John Jesus is "the Way, the Truth and the Life."[5] 

Think about what we heard in our Old Testament Reading from Ezekiel about the sprig from the lofty top of the cedar.[6] This too points to Jesus. If a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar is not planted and cultivated it will not survive but Ezekiel paints us a picture of the incarnation of Christ, of the conception, birth and life of Christ Jesus where something good which is seemingly small grows and grows until it is a blessing to all people, a noble cedar like no other under whom will dwell every kind of bird; and under the shade of whose branches birds of every sort will nest, a Tree that produces good fruit and points to the LORD. Jesus likewise reinforces this picture language when He talks by way of parable of another plant, a plant that is produced by a very small mustard seed, which against expectations “when it is sown … grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Often Christians remember the mustard seed in regard to faith implanted in us.[7] They remember small faith moving mountains while this passage, also containing a muster seed, is not as easily recalled. Think of the mustard seed here as one not about the nature of your faith but rather as a parable of Christ Jesus, and His incarnation, birth, life death, resurrection and ascension. Both St. Peter and St. Paul talk about the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion being a tree upon which Jesus was hung.[8] Here picture Jesus at the cross as The Tree under which we birds find shade from the heat of sin, shelter from the stormy blast of our enemies. Jesus is the Tree planted at Golgotha outside the walls of Jerusalem on Good Friday on the lofty mountain height of Israel: The Tree higher than all other trees of the field, the Tree that points to the LORD. In Ezekiel the LORD says, “I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” In His crucifixion hung on that tree Sin, Death, the Devil and the World had plotted to bring Jesus low but the LORD made Him high and lifted up.[9] And what does Jesus prophesy about this? Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” By His cross and passion Jesus says the World will be judged and the Devil will be cast out.[10]

Therefore, no matter how big the tree of your sin has become, Jesus is bigger: Jesus by His blood which He shed for you and for your forgiveness brings that tree of sin low. No matter how dry and withered you think you have become because of your enemies in your life, because of Sin, Death, the Devil, the World and even your Old Adam hard set against you, in Jesus He will make you to flourish as He sees fit, in His wisdom and in His time He makes you into a green tree that bears His fruit. But you say … “I am not flourishing, today I am falling apart! I can’t see any fruit on the breaches of my life.” Let’s switch gears here and think on our Epistle Reading from St. Paul for today from 2 Corinthians,[11] remember, when your body and mind are wearing out like a tent that has seen too many adventures, too many hard camping trips in the harsh wilderness of life, when your soul has become weary of the World remember you have a house not built with hands and while we are still groaning, while we are still burdened, while we still face destruction we trust that in Christ we have an eternal dwelling. As we heard last week in the Epistle lesson “Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”[12] This is why Saint Paul continues to say in our Epistle for today that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” The LORD is the one who sees your fruit judging it through the eyes of Christ Jesus, and He is the one who passes judgment. By way of Scripture and with dim eyes we trust His judgment provided in His Word, we trust it by faith and we do not trust our hearts to judge because apart from God’s Word the heart corrupted by sin cannot be trusted to judge rightly. Therefore take heart and trust in the LORD and wait for Him,[13] He is greater than your heart and He knows everything.[14]

When we fail to “fear, love and trust in God above all things”[15] it becomes hard for us to see that future glory; the promised resurrection of our own body. The reality of it becomes swathed in the darkness of this World. Just as it sometimes, depending on how things are going in our life, becomes hard to see how we Christians are even now being sheltered under the mighty Tree of Christ Jesus, under His outstretched arms.

In your troubles, in your sufferings remember we Christians are all called to look to Christ Crucified, in the full knowledge that as low as things look there on the Mountain top of Golgotha on Good Friday with Jesus there bloodied, beaten and dead upon the tree of the cross, God the Father has lifted Jesus high both there in His crucifixion and after His resurrection in Jesus’ ascension where He now reigns at the right hand of His Father. And we His children have the promise of the same, not because we deserve it but because in love God has done, is doing, and will do this for us. We too are high and lifted up, tucked away in Christ and on the Last Day it will be revealed to the eyes of all, and everyone will see you high and lifted up in Christ Jesus.[16] So when it comes to faith we do not measure how high we have grown by earthly standards of growth, we look at the one who was, is and ever shall be faithful without fault, who bore perfectly the fruit of His Father and we find our rest in Him, under Jesus' mighty branches, in His shade of mercy and forgiveness. Amen.    

Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] James 1:12–15
[2] “O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace.” Lutheran Service Book, (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), O Come, O Come, Emmanuel verse 7 #357.
[3] Isaiah 25:6–8
[4] 1 Corinthians 15:54–55
[5] John 14:6
[6] Ezekiel 17:22–24, “Thus says the Lord GOD: “I Myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I Myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.””
[7] Matthew 17:20
[8] Acts 5:30, Galatians 3:13
[9] John 3:14, John 8:28
[10] John 12:31-32
[11] 2 Corinthians 5:1–10, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what He has done in the body, whether good or evil.
[12] 2 Corinthians 4:16–18
[13] Psalm 37
[14] 1 John 3:20
[15] First Commandment, Luther’s Small Catechism (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House 2017) pg 13.
[16] Colossians 3:3–4, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

Photo credits: Main Photo Sprig of Cedar from pxhere; Pregnancy Kit from pexels; ultrasound pregnancy image from pexel; Bird on branch from pexel; Jesus on cross from pexel; Tents from pexel; Stone Church from pexel and Jesus high and lifted up gold and blue sky from pxhere.