Jesus tells a parable in Mark 4:26-29 about the Kingdom of God. In the parable Jesus describes a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. While the farmer goes about his daily business the seed sprouts and grows. The text makes a point of suggesting that the farmer does not know how it grows. It is the earth that produces the harvest and it is at harvest that the farmer reaps the grain.
This parable is unique to the Gospel of Mark and it follows on the heels of the well-known Parable of the Sower. Christ is teaching his disciples (and us) about what the Kingdom of God is like.
In this lesson, Jesus the Christ teaches that the Kingdom of God will grow even though it may seem that the Kingdom is not growing. Despite an appearance of inaction the Kingdom of God is growing and a harvest will come.
However, the Kingdom will not be delayed or encouraged with human intervention. Scholar R. T. France states, “…it will come in God’s time and in God’s way, not by human effort in accordance with human logic” (France, The Gospel of Mark, p. 215).
The parable makes special note of this in verse 28 with the phrase all by itself (NIV). The growth took place regardless of what the farmer did or did not do. In the same way the Kingdom of God will grow and reap a harvest regardless.
The Greek word for this phrase is automata and it literally means “self-acting.” In fact this is the word that our English word automatic is derived from. It is used one other time in the New Testament in Acts 12:10. This is when the gates opened by themselves for Peter when he escaped from prison. I guess you could say that these gates were the first “automatic doors.”
Although we might be placing too much emphasis on the modern use of the word, we might deduce that according to the parable the Kingdom of God will grow automatically.
This should be helpful and comforting to us. Although we as the church are to continue the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God, we can rest assured that regardless of failed attempts to be affective in this preaching, the Kingdom of God will grow. Despite our failures, the Kingdom of God will reap a harvest.
Thanks be to God that our Christian hope does not rely solely on our work.
However, this does not mean we can rest and fail to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God. We are commanded elsewhere to minister (i.e. Matthew 28:19-20). But we can take comfort in knowing that Christ will complete the work that he began.