According to Hans F. Bayer “Although the author is anonymous, The Gospel of Mark is widely believed to be written by John Mark, described by the early church fathers Papias and Eusebius as a companion and scribe for the Apostle Peter.”  In verses 24-26 of the Gospel, the author quotes a parable Jesus used to teach about the kingdom of God using seeds. In the parable to the Parable of the Sower that appears earlier in the Gospel, Jesus elaborates on his teaching of how a receptive heart, which is described in the text as “good soil” receives the Word of God, which is descried as a “seed.”
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 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 on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything (Mark 26-34). 
When Jesus describes a man scattering seed onto the ground, sleeping, then rising while the seed sprouts, grows, and matures until it is ready for the harvest, he is explaining that the process is fully in the hands of God the gardener and not the man who we are to see as an evangelist. While who is ultimately in control is made clear, readers are offered no explanation of the mystery of the life giving or sustaining mechanisms involved. Just as humans cannot force nature’s hand, we also cannot change hearts or force spiritual growth on our fellow man as this work belongs to God alone.
Historical and Literary Context
In A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, David E. Garland explains that, “The gospel was not intended by its author to be a vessel of theological truths waiting to be quarried but a story in which Jesus is the central figure. Mark’s theology is unfurled through narrative development.”  In that sense, Jesus taught using parables rather than plain explanatory language that could be easily understood by everyone who heard it. Jesus understood that the audience at the time was heavily dependent on agriculture so using a seed as a simile for God’s kingdom resonated with audiences. That being understood, Jesus also taught in parables because true knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven were not meant for all to fully understand (Matthew 13:11). In other words, the parables were understood generally to all but, to those who were meant to understand them, they held deep theological truths.
As explained above, the Gospel of Mark is widely believed to have been written by John Mark who was an apprentice and scribe for the Apostle Peter.
“The Gospel of Mark is placed in the canon of Scripture following the Gospel of Matthew as the second book of the New Testament. Mark provides us with the first written account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and it is believed to be a source, or at least a comparison text, for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to some degree.”
The style of the selected verses is a parable in which Jesus uses a simile that compares two generally unlike things to each other to teach a lesson. This passage of Mark’s Gospel corresponds to the latter half of Jesus’ Galilean ministry is believed to have taken place around AD 28-30.  The parable in Mark 4:26-29 only appears in the Gospel of Mark, while the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-34) appears in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. When examining the Seed Parable in Mark 4:26-29, it is important to note the similarities between it and the Parable of the Mustard seed where Jesus explains that seed can only grow if it happens to land on the right type of soil. The evangelistic efforts of believers are to be for His kingdom which means we are to sow the Word while the growth is fully dependent on the unseen and not fully understood work that God does in the soil or heart where it sown. Readers can also understand from the parable that the work God does in the hearts of men may not look like they imagine it should and may not happen in what they feel is due time, they can be sure that the work will be done and a harvest will be produced. Further, readers can be assured from Scripture that God’s will is always accomplished but, as parable of the “seed growing secretly”  explains, the process is not always meant to be fully understood.
The ultimate meaning of the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly is, somewhat ironically one might argue, that no farmer, no scientist, and no theologian has the capacity to explain how a dry and lifeless seed can produce life when it is sowed into soil. Yet, within a short time, the outer husk begins to draw in moisture and swell. A short time later, the chemical makeup of the seed begins to change. And a short time after that the seed sends a tiny root downward while what will eventually mature to a stalk that bears fruit shoots upward. It is a scientific fact yet a perplexing mystery at the same time.
The result and the process are just as assured and mysterious when evangelists sow the Gospel. When it is sown into a heart that has been prepared by God, the seed begins to germinate without our complete understanding. Sometimes, as when Peter preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41), the germination can begin right away while other times it takes months or years. Without question, though, there is life within the seeds that will spring forth within dying hearts in God’s time. It is an intriguing mystery as to how words that cut into a human heart can bring about so profound a change yet all who have firsthand knowledge of the mystery understand the profound power of the Gospel when it falls to rest in the good soil of the heart.
Christians may be dismayed when they repeatedly cast seeds into the hearts of those around them yet see no signs of an eventual harvest. But when the seed falls into the soil of a heart that has been prepared by God His miraculous work begins to take place. This conviction in the heart of the hearer is described multiple times in Scripture. When Jesus talked to the woman of Samaria, she became convicted of her sins (John 4:7-26) and was saved. When Saul heard Stephen preach the Word of God and later watched him die a martyr’s death he was convicted (Acts 7:54-60; 9:1-6) and sought redemption. And when Jesus had a conversation with a rich young man about the condition of his soul the man was convicted but remained dead in sin (Matt. 19:16-22). This is a secret process (John 3:8) that we are not equipped to understand.
The Secret Process in my Life
As a minister and evangelist, I am often asked if I ever get discouraged when I do not see immediate results from my evangelistic effort. Truth is, and even though I understand the promise given to those who faithfully sow the Gospel seed (Gal. 6:9-10; Psa. 126:5-6), I admit that I do but only when I lose track of the idea that there is power in the seed that we were never meant to understand.
“Some time ago, archeologists dug into a pyramid tomb in Egypt. In that tomb they found several jars of seeds. These seeds had been buried with the deceased person 3,000 years earlier. Those scientists took the seeds they found and planted them in good soil. They watered the soil and waited patiently. After a time, those ancient seeds germinated, and tiny plants pushed their way through the surface of the soil. Those tender plants matured and produced fruit.” 
To reinforce the known scientific mystery of seeds as well as what Scripture says, I have to look no further than how the seed grew, matured, and brought forth fruit in my own life. I did not grow up in a Christian home and cannot, at any point in my life until the age of 30, remember ever having the Gospel presented to me. My family and I were believers in a God of sorts, but he was more an unknowable force than anything else. The creator most probably, I thought, but certainly not savior because I didn’t even understand that concept. In fact, someone in my office years ago said I should have gone to her church the previous night because someone we both new got saved. And, at 30 years old, I wasn’t sure what that meant. Yet, a seed was planted that day by a faithful savant, acting as God ordained, where it sat dormant for nearly a year, watered by others daily, until the mysterious work of the Lord began in me. As it is explained in 1 Corinthians 3:6, it was the glory of Jesus’ work in me using something as seemingly inconsequential as a statement from a Christian coworker, burying it in the soil of my heart, and growing it up to something glorious at the appointed time.
What Only God Can Accomplish
“When the farmer should scatter seed on the ground, and it grows by night, and he sees the seed sprouted in the morning, he has just worked as a partner with God. Man has done what he could do – plant the seed; and God has done what only He can do: grow the seed.”  Many have spent significant amounts of their evangelistic careers mistakenly believing that they have a larger stake in the Kingdom growing process than Scripture teaches. From the time God scooped up a handful of dirt, breathed life into it, and created man, it has been made clear in his Word that it is he, not man, who is the mysterious agent of growth and the only creator of life. Although Christians are unable to see the growth as it happens or fully understand its miraculous beginning, they can see the plants as they become ready for his harvest. Even though the work may get discouraging at times, Christians have an obligation to sow seeds and trust that our faithful Gog will do his part.
Even if they are exceptionally good at talking to others about saving faith in Christ and sharing the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15) evangelists can get discouraged when they never, or not as often as they had hoped, see a harvest. To alleviate this frustration, Christians should look no further than Mark: 4:26-29 and the mystery it describes. I remember hearing of a pastor and his wife who sowed seeds into the heart of her father for 30 years before they even saw a tiny shoot sprouting from the soil. With the understanding of the sovereignty of God in the process of salvation Jesus spoke of in this parable, all can find encouragement and anchor their hope in the promise that the harvest will indeed come, in God’s due time. Christians are merely sowers while a God that the human mind cannot even fully comprehend is the gardener. It is not the sower who tills the ground and prepares the soil but the gardener. It is not the sower who feeds, waters, and cares for the plant until it reaches maturity but the gardener. Evangelists are not called to prepare hearts and ready them for the seed of God’s Word. Evangelicals are not called to ensure seeds sprout and plants grow and eventually bear fruit because that is the work of the gardener. All believers are called to do is obediently sow seeds and patiently and prayerfully wait for growth to happen by and through the power of the great gardener.
This understanding should provide believers with hope. All our friends, family members, coworker, and neighbors who are not ready for harvest and do not have hearts of prepared soil will eventually be taken care of by the one who guides mysterious process and holds all things together. Once an individual comes to faith, God is faithful, and his work will be done in them until it is complete. Although humans cannot see growth every day, they can, as Jesus taught, sleep, rise, and see that the great gardener is faithfully bringing forth a harvest. While the workers do not always see what the Father is doing, they will always be able to see the bountiful harvest. So let us sow seed faithfully and trust that God is faithful, and the harvest will come.
What is revealed in the parable is that there is much we cannot know about how God works in the soil of the hearts of men to bring them to salvation. We can be sure, though, that “It sets before us the history of the work of grace in an individual soul.”In the end of verse 27, Jesus says, “he knows not how” the seed “sprouts and grows” making the point that people were only meant to have limited knowledge about how the Kingdom of God grows. More specifically, the Kingdom of God grows even though no one knows exactly how. This truth should be encouraging to those of us who have been tasked to sow seeds because it means that nothing can ever prevent the Kingdom of God from growing. The limited knowledge of mankind makes us not only unable to understand the process but also incapable of doing anything that could possibly be a real threat against it.
John Barton, and John Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Hans F. Bayer. “Introduction to The Gospel According to Mark.” In ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 1891.
Brown, Tommy Alan II, “Seeds of the Kingdom: A Study on Mark 4:26-34.” apologeticsandappendectomies.com/home/seeds-of-the-kingdom-a-study-on-mark-4-26-34. Retrieved June 9, 2019
Car, Alan, The Parable of the Growing Seed, Sermon Notebook,https://www.sermonnotebook.org/mark/Mark%2020%20-%20Mark%204_26-29.htm. Retrieved June 12, 2-19
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark. The Pillar New Testament Commentary,
Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan, 2015.
Guzic, David, Study Guide for Mark 4, Kingdom Parables and Kingdom Power: The parable of the soils and the purpose of parables. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/archives/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Mar/Mar_4.cfm. Retrieved June 10, 2-19
Henry, Matthew. Matthew to John, vol. 5 in A Commentary of the Whole Bible. Old Tappan, NJ:
Pettit, Paul. Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like
Christ. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008.
Ryle, J.C. The Gospel of Mark. Editora Oxigenio, 2015.
Sproul, R.C. “The Mustard Seed,” Table Talk, no. 57 (2013): 5, accessed June 11, 2019, https://ligioneir.org/learn/devotionals/parable-mustard-seed/
Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New Living Translation (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers 2004).
Hans F. Bayer, “Study notes on Mark.” In ESV Study Bible, 1900–1901. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 1889.
Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New Living Translation (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers 2004).
David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel (Zondervan, 2015), 42.
 Brown, Tommy Alan II, “Seeds of the Kingdom: A Study on Mark 4:26-34.” apologeticsandappendectomies.com/home/seeds-of-the-kingdom-a-study-on-mark-4-26-34. Retrieved June 9, 2019
Hans F. Bayer. “Introduction to the Gospel According to Mark.” In ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 1891.
 John Barton, and John Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 896.
 Car, Alan, The Parable of the Growing Seed, Sermon Notebook
Sproul, R.C., “The Mustard Seed,” Table Talk, no. 57 (2013): 5, accessed June 11, 2019, https://ligioneir.org/learn/devotionals/parable-mustard-seed/
 Guzic, David, Study Guide for Mark 4, Kingdom Parables and Kingdom Power: The parable of the soils and the purpose of parables.
 J.C. Ryle, The Gospel of Mark (Editora Oxigenio, 2015), 85.