Christ gives us a series of parables which give us insight into the effects of the preached word on those who hear it. He also calms a storm, prompting his disciples to seriously consider who he is.
The primary Parable of the Sower (as Jesus calls it in Matthew 13:18) is recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke. This other one, also called the Parable of the Growing Seed, is only in Mark. I like to think of it as a further elaboration on the sower’s seed sown on good ground, which “yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:8).
26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The job of sowing and harvesting, of spreading the word of God and eventually seeing the fruit of it, is a wiggly business. We have to “preach the word,” as Paul says (2 Tim 4:2). But in doing so, we cannot look for immediate results. In fact, it is hard to see the relationship between our work and its results at all. We “sleep by night and rise by day” and in the meantime something happens. We don’t know how, but growth comes naturally. As Jesus says, “the earth yields crops ‘by itself.'”
That last expression “by itself” is interesting. The dictionary form of the original word is automatos, which is kind of like automatic. It reminds me of an automat, the old vending machine, restaurant-like thingy, where the food just sat there waiting for someone to buy it. (Yes, I was a fan, but do not know of one anywhere in Indianapolis where I live. Not sure if they even exist at all in the USA anymore. Alas.)
Christ’s point, however, is important. Proclaiming the word of God, whether it is evangelism, teaching, a weekly Sunday service, or a private conversation, will yield results. Somehow, at some point. This happens without our looking at it constantly and trying to measure the growth.
Let this be an encouragement for all of us “sowers.” I want to see immediate results as much as the next guy, I suppose. Normally I don’t see any. You may not see quick returns on your word-sharing investment either. But don’t quit. Don’t give up. Quick returns are not what we signed up for. We signed up for continuous, consistent sowing and eventual reaping, when the time is right. That might not be when or where we we are looking for it, but it comes.