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Mark’s first-century biography – page 14

And he (Jesus of Nazareth, around AD 30, near the sea of Galilee) said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter the seed upon the earth. 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 fruit is ripe, at once he sends out the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 
 
Jesus had, a short while earlier, explained to his close followers a parable – a seemingly ordinary story with a parallel. That parallel was also about a sower but concentrated on the responses to him from five different types of people.

Then he continued to speak to his followers in this additional parallel – and a further parallel below. In it he described – via this parallel – what God’s kingdom was like.  He left it to his hearers to make up their own minds about its meaning. 

It seems to be about the “kingdom of God” - but on “earth”, not in heaven. 

It seems to say that “God’s kingdom on earth” will sprout up, grow, and produce fruit without any additional input – only the seed and the “earth”. Nothing else. When you think about it, that’s how harvest comes every year – the interaction between seed and earth alone produces fruit.


 
It seems that, in the kingdom of God on earth, the fruit (of seed and ground alone) is harvested when ripe. Harvested when ripe by a sickle sent out by the man who scattered the seed.

‘“A seed refuses to die when you bury it, that is why it becomes a tree.’ (Matshona Dhliwayo) 
Very simple. Very clear. But how do you interpret it? The way in which you interpret it will decide whether you are part of that fruit-bearing kingdom of God or not. You must decide who the “man” represents; who or what is meant by “the seed” spread over the earth; what is meant by “the fruit” and when, in the reality which the parallel described) “the sickle” (and the harvest) comes.

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.” 

This third parallel was presumably important not only for the disciples to hear on its own but also to complete the picture of the “kingdom of God” on earth.

The parallel occurs millions of times on earth. A single seed drops to the earth; a huge plant grows, bigger than all others with many branches; birds-of-the-air nest in it.

 
Christianity has become huge in the earth. Is that it? For sure, Christianity does have “many branches”.

But what was the “small seed” in this third parallel? Was it Jesus Christ himself? Has he brought about the kingdom of God on earth? 

‘A tree can be no greater than the seed it sprouts from.’ (Matshona Dhliwayo) 
In the first parallel was he the seed sown on various kinds of ground? In the second parable was he the one seed, sown all over the earth, which springs up, and bears fruit in individuals – just him and the individual alone? No other outside agency contributing to its gestation, growth and fruitfulness. 

But what about these “birds of the air” which are able to (have the power to) make “nests in its shade”? In the first parallel, it was the “birds of the air” which came and devoured the seed scattered on the path, so much so that those represented by the path never received the word spoken to them. See pages 12 and 13.

Are these “birds of the air”, in this third parallel therefore, people who “devour” the seed that is Jesus himself - take him away from others - whilst appearing to be part and parcel of Christianity? The words translated “can make nests” are, in the literal original Greek, “able to rest” under its shade. Who are these people – in reality and not in the parallel?

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.

Wouldn’t it have been great to have been among these disciples…..

 

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