“He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” (Mark 4:27)
This world can be a very dark place. At times, it may seem like the darkness is greater than the light. We hear of persecuted Christians in many of the world’s dark corners. In our own society we are witnessing a headlong plummet into immoral decay. And in our personal lives, we experience the ire of our unsaved loved ones, the grind of daily work, and the uncertainty of the future. We know the Bible promises that the light overcomes the darkness, but if we’re honest, sometimes that’s a tough sell.
Though our present situation is riddled with its own distinct issues, the disciples of Jesus in the first century often experienced the same doubts. They lived in a world filled with demonic manifestations and growing opposition to the ministry of their Rabbi. And they did not have a 2,000 year history to look back to for encouragement – no biographies, no revivals, no encouraging devotional booklets at the local Christian bookstore. But what they did have was invaluable – the very presence and words of Jesus Christ himself.
Jesus, the light of the world, spoke to his disciples often of the kingdom of light. He made it very clear that the light of his kingdom would rid the world of its darkness. In Mark 4, we’ve already seen that the seeds of the kingdom will not always be received by each human heart. We’ve seen that the light is sometimes hidden but is meant to shine as bright as possible. And in these last two parables, Jesus once again tells the truth to his disciples about the kingdom: while it may seem dim, the light will grow and will have victory. Just trust God.
To illustrate this point, Jesus tells the brief story of a farmer who sows his seed and goes to bed. He does this daily, because that’s his job. One day he rises, and the seed sprouts. Then the blade. Then the ear. Then the fruit. The farmer knows this will happen. He trusts it will happen. But, Jesus says, “he knows not how” it happens.
Does the farmer need to know? Does he need to have a textbook understanding of photosynthesis? No, he just needs to trust God. If he does his job faithfully, God will do the rest. The seed is made to grow, and it will grow. And so what is the farmer able to do that it seems our world so desperately longs to do? Sleep.
The farmer sleeps. This is not a lazy sleep. This is a sleep that comes from a peaceful confidence that the seed will bear fruit in its timing.
Jesus is telling his disciples, and us, that we can sleep easily knowing God is in control. The kingdom will grow as the seed is planted. While we are accountable to God to preach the gospel, we are not responsible for the eternities of all the souls in the world. How can any bear that weight? How can anyone sleep? But if we trust that God himself is the one who gives the increase, and that the seed of the gospel is indeed the power of salvation, then we can sleep. The light will grow, the darkness will fail.
Sow. Sleep. Repeat.