As this year’s spring showers nourished our newly reseeded and fertilized front yard I have really enjoyed the dark, thick, green grass. This hasn’t always been the case. For years I tried to keep up with the nearly eight-month process of caring for our lawn. While I had some success the elements would eventually win out and I would be frustrated at the less than ideal results. A few years back we decided to hire a lawn care specialist. Brian had a very detailed plan for attacking the challenges of our specific situation. Now we are seeing that plan come to fruition. I have been able to sit back and enjoy because someone else is “taking care” of our grass.
This is how I found myself relating to this weekend’s Gospel and the parables that Jesus uses:
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private. Mark 4:26-34
I know, it is a bit of a stretch for me to suggest that my front yard is like the “Kingdom of God” but please hear me out. We know that Jesus frequently used parables when he spoke to the crowds. The true meaning of His message was often lost on His audience. Even Jesus’ disciples needed Him to clarify for them. The fact that the disciples knew Jesus intimately only gave them access to Him and not necessarily the immediate understanding of His message.
That is why we need to wrestle with the meaning of these parables because we need to apply them to our lives and pursue our role in… the kingdom of God. My grass is, for me, a visual parable in my life. As I reflect on my lawn care experiences I can relate to the bigger picture that Jesus is presenting.
I have created several visuals to support what I believe is at the core of Jesus’ teaching in this passage:
In the first parable Jesus references the crops that were scattered around Israel. His audience knew very well how important the life cycle of these crops were. A bad harvest could have catastrophic implications. (See the Genesis stories of Israel’s journey into Egyptian slavery because of the famine.) A good harvest meant that food would be plentiful. This parable ends with the coming harvest.
The second parable has a similar but different message. It is important to understand just how small a mustard seed really is. Check it out:
From this tiniest of seeds comes the majestic mustard tree:
While the second parable also speaks to the Kingdom of God, the emphasis is different. From the tiniest of beginnings grows a huge tree. That tree then provides shelter for the birds. The point? Even our smallest efforts for God can have a big impact! When we sow seeds for Christ we need to keep the big picture in mind. At the same time we need to understand our limitations. My grass is so much healthier now than it was for years because I rely on someone who knew more than me. I still work on my lawn but I leave the true growth to a higher power. I play my role in the process and let God do the rest.
If you and I are going to be Jesus’ disciples here is a question we need to be asking ourselves in light of His words:
When we sincerely seek the answer to this question we find that in the Kingdom of God, when we do our part with Jesus, the grass truly is greener!