If I bracket out [the kingdom of the father is like] from this Thomas saying, it feels more like Aesop than Jesus. It feels folk-tale-ish on the order of “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”
Reintroduce the “kingdom of God” simile and place it on Jesus’ lips and it takes on an eschatological referent.
I must say it would not have occurred to me to link Thomas 97 and Mark 4:26-29 together. I read Thomas as linked more clearly with the Philippians passage:
Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.
Creation and then Incarnation was an act of kenosis. A self-emptying of the divine prerogatives. Consequently, using Christ as our model, if we would be godly (god-like) disciples, we too must empty ourselves of self-will.
At a political and economic level this links to the so-called preferential option for the poor of Liberation Theology. And so also to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount/Plain. Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted. Emptied of their own resources they are now in a position to receive comfort and new resources through the grace of God.
If I were then to link all this to Mark 4:26-29 — then I must go back to me earlier comment. We are called to be faithful not to produce growth. And as Marshall points out we are called to be faithful in circumstances where we have incomplete understanding of what it may mean to be faithful. The growth belongs to God. And so — bringing Thomas into the picture — loss also belongs to the grace of God. When our plans wither then too we must say with Job — the Lords gives the Lord takes away — blessed be the name of the Lord. Then discern — does faithfulness in this situation call for change of direction or renewed effort? And again — discernment will be partial not complete — we see as in a glass darkly.
Marshall’s comment on incomplete knowing as sparked much though in me. In principle I knew this and this has been my main complaint against that kind of biblical literalist who places scripture at the foundation of all Christian faith and practice. Literalism at that level is about eliminating all ambiguity — when sometimes the whole point is the ambiguity and our responsibility to be faithful in the face of it.
At the same time I also know this is my own failing as well. I have missed many an opportunity to do both good and to do well by seeking certainty before action. There are too many times I could have been faithful but was afraid to risk being wrong.