The Parables of Jesus
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
Turn to Mark 4:26-29. This is a wonderful parable that has to do with Spring, at least it has to do with the seasons. This is Jesus speaking.
He also said, This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.
In 1970, Jean and I drove to Benton Harbor in Michigan to pick up an African pastor who was sent by his Union, the East African Union, to study at Andrews University for a further degree. This was in December and you know we have no winter in Kenya. As we were driving on the way to Andrews he looked out in horror and he said to us in amazement, What has happened? he said. Has America been hit by a pestilence?
We said, What do you mean? He said, Cant you see, all the trees are dead? We had to explain to him that in America we have four seasons. I had often wondered why the missionaries who came from this part of the world to Africa missed the seasons but now, having lived here for so many years, I realize that the seasons are wonderful. I realize that winter is the worst month, at least you may not agree with me but it is a time when everything is dead and cold. You young fellows who like skiing will disagree with me but, when you get my age, skiing is not a pleasure.
One of my churches took me out skiing. It was terrible. I must have fallen down at least fifty times. First of all, the shoes you have to put on are terrible because you cant bend. Then the next thing you do is put your ski on and the first ski I put on took off before I gave it permission. The most embarrassing part was after having fallen for about the fortieth time a girl she must have been at least four or five years old, couldnt be any older than that, one of those girls who come up here comes sliding down and came to a screeching halt and here I was flat on my back and she said, Can I help you?
I thank God for Spring when the snow melts and everything comes back to life. In Spring, the dogwood and all the other flowering trees really make any place worth living in just for the Spring. Its a wonderful time. It is a time when the farmers sow their seeds. Its the time when the home gardener plants his seedlings. Then the Summer comes with long daylight hours when everything grows and begins to bear fruit. Then of course, we have the Fall, which is harvest time.
In the Middle East they also have the four seasons, not as strong, not as drastic as here but they still have the four seasons. For a spiritual illustration, Jesus used the work of a farmer planting the seeds, the seeds germinating and producing grain, and the harvesting.
I want us to analyze this parable, so lets begin with Mark 4:26. There is a job the farmer has to do and there is a job that he cannot do. His job is sowing the seed or casting seed into the ground. Remember, when we witness the gospel we are sowing the seed, but the farmer could not germinate that seed. You can do whatever you like but you cannot germinate it.
Some of us who are not expert gardeners are impatient. One day I had a seed that I had planted; I brought it all the way from England because it is a vegetable that doesnt grow here and after five days I saw nothing so I pulled it out to see whether it had germinated. I must have done some damage because it never germinated after that.
So the farmer, as it says in the text, goes to sleep. If it was in America, he wouldnt go to sleep, he would go fishing. But in those days there was no fishing unless it was your trade. The farmer went to sleep and he rested night and day. In England and in this country you would say day and night but the Jews began the day with night. He would wait until the seed germinated, sprouted, came up, grew, and produced the seed.
I want to emphasize all this because very often we try to do what is not our work. Notice in Mark 4:28 it is the earth that brings forth fruit. It is not the farmer who produces the fruit. Our job is witnessing. I have looked and looked in the Bible for the word soul-winning and I cannot find it because soul-winning is the work of God. Our job is witnessing. When Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world He didnt say to go and win souls. He said to go and preach the gospel. Thats in Mark 16:15:
He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
In Acts 1:8 the disciples were told:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
They will be His witnesses. Our job is witnessing.
We do not pressure people to come into the church because that seed that you have sown has to germinate and it cannot germinate until something very important happens. I want to give you a couple of texts to show you what has to happen when a seed germinates. Because if it doesnt happen, if people come into this church with the seed not germinating, there is a problem and the pastor loses his hair. Last week we heard some very sad news. Two of our young pastors of this Conference gave up the ministry. It was too much to handle the pressures.
What is required for a seed to germinate? Well, let Jesus speak first. Turn to John 12:24 and notice that something has to take place for that seed that we may have sown to germinate. We cannot germinate the seed. The farmer could not do it; he really had to rest and wait.
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground [this is what the farmer does] and [besides falling into the ground] dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
When you travel through these parts and you see the wheat fields you will notice there are some patches of ground where there is no wheat growing. It isnt because the seed wasnt sown. It is because either the birds took it or the seeds did not germinate. In the previous parable in Mark 4:3, Christ gives us the parable of the sower and, remember, some seeds fell on hard ground, they could not germinate. Some seeds fell on the wayside and were taken by the birds. Some seeds fell on thorny bushes and others fell on good ground.
But the seed has to germinate. Thats the first step and, in order to germinate, it has to die. But, says Christ,
But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Notice this is the principle of the gospel. You do not produce fruit by hammering the members on the head. In my suggestion box, Ive had notes without any signatures which say, You need to tell the people what they must do. If the life of Christ is germinated in you, it will spontaneously produce fruit because the text says so.
I want to come back to John 12 later. Turn to 1 Corinthians where Paul is correcting an error that was created or raised up in the Corinthian church. Some of them were teaching that there is no resurrection. Paul makes this statement in 1 Corinthians 15:36:
How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.
Lets go back now to John 12; lets get the next verse, verse 25, where John applies this principle of nature, this example from nature, to the Christian life.
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
If you refuse to die, says Jesus, you will end up dying forever. But whoever surrenders his life to death, to the death of the cross in this world shall keep it for eternal life.
Two things happened at the cross. When we celebrate the greatest event in history, the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we realize that two things happened there. The life that Christ assumed, which is the corporate life of the human race that needs redeeming, died on the cross, not for just three days. It died the wages of sin and the death of the wages of sin is good-bye to life forever.
But God did not want us to be in the grave forever because He so loved the world that He gave [us] His one and only Son (John 3:16). Have you ever asked yourself what He did? We are told in 1 John 5:11b what He gave:
God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
He gave us the life of His Son, which is eternal life, in exchange for our death. Now that is the gospel. Not I, but Christ. When you accept the gospel, you are surrendering your life to the cross of Christ in exchange for the life of Christ. You surrender your life, which already stands condemned, which has to die I dont know why we cling to it in exchange for the life of Christ, which can never die.
In Christ we dont have conditional immortality, which is what Adam had at creation. We have eternal life but remember that seed, which is the gospel witnessed to you, has to first bring your life to an end. In other words, the gospel demands that you die in order that you may live. Now that sounds like a paradox, but let me give you the words of scripture then Im going to my favorite author. I know some of you dont like him. Thats because you dont understand him.
Lets go to 2 Timothy 2:11:
Here is a trusthworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him....
There are some who want to live with Christ without dying with Him. The power of salvation is not in the resurrection; it is in the cross. The cross saves you because it was at the cross that the exchange took place, where we died and, in exchange, God gave us His life. The resurrection was only the evidence of that gift.
But, remember, Paul is saying to Timothy that if you die with Christ, your life with Christ is guaranteed, but if you dont die with Christ, you shall not live with Him. Turn back to my favorite book. I gave you my favorite author now I will give you my favorite book, Romans. We covered this already but let me remind you. Romans 6:8. The context is baptism:
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Please dont try to germinate the seeds you have sown. Thats not your job. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who pricks the conscience of the individual and says, Look, unless you die, there is no life. My job, your job is simply to expound to the people we meet the truth as it is in Christ. Lift up Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Holy Sprit will do the rest.
It is not the farmer who does the germinating; it is not the farmer who does the sprouting; it is not the farmer who produces the fruit. So please stop trying to depend on your pastor to produce fruit out of you. He cannot do it. Turn to the book of Galatians. Galatians 6:12:
Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circimcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
We give out these little sheets of paper at Sabbath School and I have no problem with that but one of the papers came back with no name, just a text. Someone asked, What does this text mean? I didnt say anything. It was from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:1. The text was used out of context; it was not set correctly but I knew what the thought that the person had behind the text. The text says:
Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Give it secretly? It is not wrong to report. Paul reported when he came back. It is wrong to report so that you may have a star in your crown. It is wrong to report so that people may see what a wonderful Christian you are.
Paul is saying that those who insist on legalism thats what he is dealing with here will insist that you do this and that. In contrast, Paul says in Galatians 6:14 (listen to the contrast):
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
But let us witness, and witnessing does not mean giving Bible studies. Its simply telling people what Christ means to you. If Christ means nothing to you, then you will have nothing to witness. But let me pray that you will witness, every one of you. Let the Holy Spirit do the germinating because, without that germinating, there is no fruit.
Going back to this parable, the farmer does his job and he does a good job. He plants the seed but notice what happens. He sleeps and he waits and sometimes we may have to wait a long time. When we were in Ethiopia and I was teaching the Bible in our college there, some of the students there were three of them, it was just after the Marxist Revolution had become Marxists. They felt that the Christian church had failed. They felt that the solution to the worlds problems was not in the gospel of Jesus Christ, it was in Marxism.
They gave up Christ and they gave me a hard time. They tried to undermine the scripture. They tried to undermine Christ and they were downing everything that belonged to the church and lifted up Marxism. They were all bright students. They received scholarships to Leningrad University after they graduated. There they went to an atheistic country where they saw atheism in practice and their eyes were opened. Thank God for a Christian mother. One of the boys mother sneaked a Bible into his suitcase. It was not an English Bible. It was an Amharic Bible and they began to study the Bible now privately in their room in an atheistic country.
They tried to remember what that Pastor Sequeira taught them. One remembered this and one remembered that and they put their minds together. They discovered the truth through their own personal study and they all gave their hearts to Christ. This was in 1978. In 1985 I was at the General Conference in New Orleans and this gentleman comes running to me and hugs me. I looked at him and he looked very much like one of those three boys. He said, Dont you know who I am? And I said, Im not sure because who you resemble cannot be here because you were anti-capitalist and you were anti-Christian when I last saw you. He said, Yes, but the Lord opened our eyes. The seed was shown in 1978. It was germinated years later.
I read a text in Isaiah 55:11 which says that:
...So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
The seed is sown; we leave it to God to work out the germination. It germinates; it begins to produce fruit. I want now to go to a statement that you need to know. I have already mentioned the truth, now I want to give you scripture. You are very familiar with it. John 15:5:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
How much can you do without Christ? Nothing.
When that seed germinates what does it mean? It means that you have said good-bye to the old life and you have accepted that new life of Christ. You confess it in your baptism and Paul says in Romans 6 you rise out of the water in newness of life. That new life, believe it or not, can produce fruit in a sinful body. Dont ask me to explain that. It is a truth of the Bible.
There are some of our scholars who are saying today that it is impossible for Christians to overcome sin completely. Then you are undermining the life of Christ. In Christ, the law of sin and the law of the Spirit, two forces, met in one Person, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:2:
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Verse 3 says:
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man....
Jesus condemned sin in the flesh and that same life wants to live in you today. But Christ doesnt live in you to save you. He saved you on the cross but He lives in you because you have accepted that life in exchange for your life. You have accepted His life in exchange for your life.
Every Christian who has experienced germination will say with Paul (Galatians 2:20):
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I believe that if we have understood the true gospel, and if we have surrendered to the cross and have really experienced germination, we will not need promotional programs to produce fruit.
This is Ellen G. Whites commentary on Romans 6. It is found in Bible Commentary, Volume 6, page 1075:
The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world. This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches. So many [not some, so many] who assume the name of Christ are unsanctified and unholy. They have been baptized [they went through the act; they went through the water] but they were buried alive. Self [that is, the old life] did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ.
For a pastor, the hardest thing to do is to pastor a church full of seeds that have not germinated. You lose your hair or you give up in anguish.
You cannot produce fruits in a church by promotional programs. That is the fair showing of the flesh. Fruit is the by-product of a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is telling this parable to the Jews. The Jews were trying to produce fruit by promotional programs, by incentives, by hammering their people on the head so that the young man came to Jesus and said, What good thing must I do to go to heaven? Do you remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders of Judaism? He said, Nicodemus, you have failed to understand the very foundation of true religion. Dont you realize that which is born of the flesh will always remain flesh? You need to born again. You need to be born from above. [See John 3.]
There are too many Christians who belong to the family of Ishmael because Ishmael was a by-product of human effort. But it is not Ishmael who belongs to God. It is Isaac and Isaac was born from above. So it is my desire that we understand this.
Now I want to look at what happens. Going back to Mark 4, the farmer let the earth or God through nature (which was created by God) bring forth fruit of herself. Notice it is the earth that does it. Then, there is progress, there is a growth: first the blade appears, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. There is the blade first, then the ear, then the fruit. The grain ripens and (verse 29) when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he puts in the sickle because the harvest is come. Now how do we apply this?
I want to close by turning to a passage that is very relevant to us today, Revelation 14, and I want to show you the similarity of this parable with what Revelation 14:6-11 is saying:
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.
A second angel followed and said, Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of Gods fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.
Revelation 14:6-11 is sowing the seed. What is the seed? It is the everlasting gospel. How do we sow the seed? There are three steps:
...He said, Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?
Babylon represents the religion of self. It represents Judaism; it represents legalism; it represents paganism; and Babylon committing fornication represents Galatianism. Galatianism was a mixture of I plus Christ. Thats why I am glad we are studying the book.
...He, too, will drink of the wine of Gods fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.
If you deliberately, willfully, persistently, and ultimately refuse to die with Christ so that you may come alive with Him; if you deliberately reject the gospel, then you will face the wrath of God which is poured out without mixture. You will die forever.
Then in verse 12 and onwards he deals with those that have germinated, the believers:
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey Gods commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
They are witnessing the love of Christ shed abroad in their hearts through the Holy Spirit. Remember the ingredient that keeps the commandments is love and Christ gives this love through the Holy Spirit.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.
Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.
Remember the farmer sowed the seed and he rested. We sow the seed and we rest, so if you die in the process of witnessing, dont worry; you are only sleeping. And our works will grow up. Young people, we need new farmers. The old ones are retiring. And their deeds will follow them.
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
We can sum all this up by one text, Matthew 24:14:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
When the gospel has been preached to all the world, there are only two choices that will be left for the human race: either I die with Christ thats the one choice or I cry out against Him and say, Crucify Him.
I dont know which choice you will make, but Ill tell you one thing. If you will die with Christ, you will be raised up again and live with Him. If you refuse to die with Him, God will say to you (Matthew 25:41):
Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (not for you).
It is my prayer that the seed of the gospel that you have been hearing will germinate and that we will have fruit in the church. It is my prayer that every one of us will sow seeds and leave the Holy Spirit to germinate and produce fruit. When that happens, the earth will be lightened with the glory of God. May God bless us.