daily biblical sermons

The gospel dispensation grows of its own dynamic power, transforming those that accept it with faith
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, 11th Sunday of the Year, June 13, 2021
Ezekiel 17:22-24, Psalm 91, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, Mark 4:26-34

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“And he [Jesus] said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the year. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’ And he said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade’” (Mark 4:26-32).



Jesus is constantly talking about the kingdom of God and using parables to explain what it is like. He is the one who brings the kingdom of God to the earth, the kingdom which was prepared for in the Old Testament. What is this kingdom of God? It is an inner dynamic power like a seed that contains divine life that when implanted in a person, over time, can produce a great result like a seed producing a great tree. This seed is implanted in people’s hearts. This is the seed of the gospel, the preached word of salvation in Jesus Christ through faith in him, because of his atoning death on the cross for our sins.



Many will hear this gospel preached to them, but it will not bear fruit in their lives, because they do not receive it with faith. But those who do receive this preached word with faith will find that they themselves are transformed by this word that they put their faith in. It is a word of salvation by God through his Son Jesus Christ, by his death on the cross, whereby he suffered our death sentence for our sins for us so that all that put their faith in him will have God consider his Son’s death on the cross as full payment of the suffering and death that they owe God in punishment for their sins.



God will therefore declare them righteous and thereby make them righteous by his declaration. This is justification. When this happens, a living seed is implanted in that person’s mind and heart and begins to grow and transform him. Without this seed of the gospel, people will not produce good fruit for God.



The human race has fallen in the sin of Adam, and God prepared the way of salvation in the Old Testament and then fulfilled his promises of salvation in his Son who saves all that put their faith in the good news about salvation in him. Those who do so will be transformed and produce a good harvest for God. This is true of a single individual as well as of many individuals. When the gospel is preached in a given area and a number of people believe in it and join together in expressing their faith and celebrating the sacraments that Jesus left us, the kingdom grows in that place.



Without the gospel being preached, that place would be like a field full of weeds producing nothing useful, no wheat that can be made into bread to eat. Our work of preaching the gospel is a somewhat external activity, because the gospel itself is the living seed that transforms people who accept it with faith. We can preach all we want, but if people do not accept our preaching with faith, there will be no harvest for God among them.



These two parables show that the Church had very small beginnings, like a seed that is planted and is growing until harvest time. There is a great contrast between the original seed, especially a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds known in Palestine at that time by the ordinary people, and the final shrub that it becomes within a short period of time.



We who try to sow the seed by preaching the gospel should realize the limits of our activity. We preach it with faith as a true message from God about salvation in his Son through faith in him, because of his atoning death for our sins on the cross. But the transforming work that this gospel message does in the hearts of believers is something beyond our knowledge. We are only like a farmer who sows the seed and then goes to sleep and wakes up again, while the seed meanwhile sprouts on its own, and he has no idea what makes it sprout and how it works.



This is what the job of a preacher of the gospel is like. He comes and preaches and then leaves and goes elsewhere to preach, while the seed of the gospel that he preached is received with faith by the people he preached to and sprouts and grows silently in the hearts of those that believe in it, even though their preacher is now in another place and knows nothing of the process inside those people’s conscience, mind, and heart that transforms them into new creatures.



So, we see the importance of the sower of the seed, for without the seed being sewn, nothing will happen in the hearts of the people in that place that will bring forth good fruit for God and make them new creatures. But we also see the limitations of the sower’s work, for the real work of the gospel message is done in the secret of another person’s heart, while the preacher is often completely unaware of what is going on in that person that he originally preached to. 



Look at the Church and see its small beginnings compared to its present state. When we see its small beginnings, we realize that there is an inner divine dynamism in the Church that has produced this vast movement of salvation in the world.



“Who were the men that the Head of the Church gathered round Himself, and appointed His apostles? They were poor and unlearned people – fishermen, publicans, and men of like occupations, to all appearance the most unlikely people to shake the world. What was the last public act of the earthly ministry of the great Head of the Church? He was crucified, like a malefactor, between two thieves, after having been forsaken by nearly all His disciples, betrayed by one, and denied by another” (JC Ryle, 1816-1900).



But look what happened with such inauspicious beginnings. The Church “grew wonderfully when three thousand souls were converted at once, and five thousand more in a few days afterwards … In spite of fierce persecution and opposition, [the Church] supplanted heathen idolatry, and became the professed creed of the whole Roman empire” (JC Ryle).



What kind of transformation has this preached gospel made in our life? It can turn us into people totally dedicated to God, who try to spend all our time and work to advance his kingdom in the world by preaching the good news of salvation in God’s Son, through faith in him, because of his saving, atoning death on the cross in reparation for our sins. We can be transformed to the point that we seek to spend all our time and effort proclaiming this message and living according to it, experiencing God’s transforming declaration that justifies us and fills us with his own righteousness, the righteousness of God himself.

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