In 1879, people watching William Beal would likely think he was loony. They’d see the professor of botany filling twenty bottles with various seeds, then burying them in deep soil. What they didn’t know was that Beal was conducting a seed viability experiment that would span centuries. Every twenty years a bottle would be dug up to plant its seeds and see which seeds would germinate.
Jesus talked a lot about seed planting, often likening the sowing of seed to the spreading of “the word” (Mark 4:15). He taught that some seeds are snatched by Satan, others have no foundation and don’t take root, and yet others are hampered by the life around them and are choked out (vv. 15–19). As we spread the good news, it’s not up to us which seeds will survive. Our job is simply to sow the gospel—to tell others about Jesus: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (16:15
In 2021, another of Beal’s bottles was dug up. The seeds were planted by researchers and some sprouted, having survived more than 142 years. As God works through us and we share our faith with others, we never know if the word we share will take root or when. But we’re to be encouraged that our sowing of the good news might, even after many years, be received by someone who will “accept it, and produce a crop” (4:20).