The act of sowing
In these parables [of Jesus] it is not the idea of development, but of the apparent absence of causation which occupies the foremost place. The description aims at suggesting the question, how, and by what power incomparably great and glorious results can be infallibly produced by an insignificant fact without human aid. A man sowed seed. Much of it was lost, but the little that fell into good ground brought forth a harvest—thirty, sixty, an hundredfold—which left no trace of the loss in the sowing. How did that come about?
A man sows seed and does not trouble any further about it—cannot indeed do anything to help it, but he knows that after a definite time the glorious harvest which arises out of the seed will stand before him. By what power is that effected?
An extremely minute grain of mustard seed is planted in the earth and there necessarily arises out of it a great bush, which cannot certainly have been contained in the grain of seed. How was that?
What the parables emphasize is, therefore, so to speak, the in itself negative, inadequate, character of the initial fact, upon which, as by a miracle, there follows in the appointed time, through the power of God, some great thing. They lay stress not upon the natural, but upon the miraculous character of such occurrences.
But what is the initial fact of the parables? It is the sowing.