What do you think of when you hear the word “Mystery?” My immediate thought is of a book or movie that has something hidden until the very end of the book or movie. The mystery holds your attention, always wondering what the surprise ending will really be. The New Testament talks a great deal about mysteries. Most of the time it is from the pen of the Apostle Paul. His point normally is that the great mystery that God had revealed in the church was that God would bring Jew and Gentile together in one body by means of the cross of Jesus (Ephesians 2:11-16). He said in Ephesians 3:1-4 that God had revealed the mystery to him and that he had written it down in a few words so that when we read we can understand his knowledge of the mystery of Christ.
But I want to focus on a statement Jesus made with regard to the mystery of kingdom. In Luke 8:1-15 Jesus told the story of the sower who went out to sow his seed in the field. Some of the seed he was strewing fell on the road or path that surrounded the field and the soil was so packed with the tracks of people and animals that the send couldn’t penetrate the soil and the birds ate up the seed. Some seed fell on ground that was shallow in that it was a small layer of soil on top of a large rock and the seed would go down into the soil and quickly spring up again but when the sun burned bright the small plant would wither and die because it had no depth and couldn’t get to the moisture. The result was no seeds produced plants with fruit or maturity. Some of the seed fell in an area which also had the seeds germinating of weeds, briars, thorns, and such like. As the good seed began to germinate and sprout the weeds and briars came up with the good seed and had much greater strength so it chocked out the good plant so that it died and no fruit was produced. Some seed fell on good ground and produced a good harvest for people to enjoy.
There was a crowd there who heard the story and probably most of them felt sure they understood what was being taught and felt that they were represented by that good ground that produced a great harvest. When the crowd had left and Jesus was alone with the disciples they asked him about the meaning of his story. “He said, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand.” He went on to give a clear explanation of his story.
The seed is God’s word. The different kinds of soil represents the different kinds of hearts people have. Some people are like that road beside the field their heart is hard and the word can’t penetrate that crust. Even so the devil comes quickly to steal the word away for fear they will believe and be saved. Some people who hear God’s message are like that shallow ground, they hear the message quickly but lack depth and fall away at the first sign of difficulty. Some people have a heart like the thorny ground in that their lives are so mixed with the world’s pleasures, riches and worries that those things choke the word of God and it’s plant so that it dies and no fruit is produced. Praise the Lord there are some people who hear the word like the good soil. They receive it with joy and allow it to go down deep into their soul and produce fruit with perseverance.
Now drop back for a moment and think about that statement in the middle of this story and its explanation. “To you it is given to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” Others would just get the stories without the explanation. They would be like the people God warned Isaiah about when he sent him on his mission in Isaiah 6. They would listen but not understand and see without knowing what they saw.
What does he mean by the mysteries of the kingdom of God? The use of the word “Mystery” in the New Testament means something that has been hidden but is now being revealed. It could refer to many different aspects of the kingdom Jesus was about to build that went completely in a different way than the people had imagined. God’s kingdom would be a kingdom of peace not of war and conquering. It would be for all people of every ethnic group not just for the Jews. It would be a spiritual kingdom not a physical one. All of these are mysteries that are revealed to us in the New Testament that had been hidden from God’s people before that time.
But what about in this text? What is the mystery revealed here? It is that as God’s sower’s in the world our job is to simply scatter seed. We can’t know what kind of heart a person will have or how they will react to the gospel of the kingdom. We must preach and teach and witness for the Lord to all people. It is their reaction to the message of the Lord that determines the kind of heart a person has. Thank God the fact one has a hard heart the first time they hear God’s word doesn’t mean they will have that same hard heart the next or the tenth or twentieth time they hear. Sow the seed, water the seed but it isn’t our job to make the seed grow or decide what kind of heart another person has. Paul will later say, “I planted. Apollos watered but God causes it to grow.”
We never know how a person will react to the gospel until they have the opportunity to hear. I’ve always been amazed at how God works in people’s lives. Some times when I’m so certain that a person is a good and honest soul that will quickly turn to the Lord when they learn his will I’m shocked when they hear, learn and do nothing. Other times I’ve been equally shocked when someone I thought would never listen and never change will listen intently to the message of the Lord and quickly turn from their old ways to God.
It isn’t our job to be soil testers. Our job is to sow the seed leaving the response up to the ones who hear. Just as it is a mystery how the seed produces it is a mystery how the word works in a person’s life to turn it completely around and them now live for God. Jesus makes the point about the wheat seed that unless it dies it can’t produce fruit. What a strange point! God works through the seed to produce amazing harvest to feed the world. He works through the seed of his word to change the lives of people all over the world, even when we have no idea that it has happened.
Here is the wonderful conclusion. Parents sow the word of God into the hearts of your children and trust God to make it grow. Wives sow the seed of God’s word into the heart of your husband and allow God to make it grow. Husbands sow the seed of God’s word into the heart of your wife and allow God to make it grow. Friends sow the seed of God’s word into the hearts of those you love and enjoy in life and allow God to make it grow. Everyone, sow the seed of God’s word into the hearts of everyone you have the chance and allow God to make it grow. It can change despots into gentlemen, the worldly into godly people, the lost into the found, the hurting into the healing, the helpless into the powerful, and the godless into the godly. What a mystery! Thank you Lord for letting us in on it.