Summary: Jesus used the tiny mustard seed as a comparison to the Kingdom of God. Although it was small, it had potential to become great. The church would start very small, but soon make a significant and eternal impact on humanity.
Little is Much
Mark 4: 30-34
As we continue in Mark, we come to the fourth and final parable Jesus revealed to His disciples during this moment of teaching. Due to the resistance and unbelief of many, Jesus chose to teach primarily in parables. Those who genuinely sought truth would receive it, and those who had no desire for truth would not understand, Vv.11-12. Mark emphasized this truth for the benefit of the reader in Vv.33-34. When Jesus was alone with His disciples, He would reveal the truths the parables conveyed.
We must remember that these events happened during the year of Jesus’ popularity. Although the cross isn’t too far in His future, there is much the disciples still need to learn. He is teaching them concerning the Kingdom. He is dealing with events that are yet to come concerning the church and the spread of the Gospel, as well as the eternal implications associated with these. While the disciples would not fully understand, Jesus sought to prepare them for the future.
Imagine their interest when Jesus questioned – what shall we liken the Kingdom of God? What shall we compare it to, V.30? They likely envisioned something grand and spectacular, but Jesus revealed it would be likened to a tiny mustard seed. With this parable Jesus would reveal profound and eternal truth. Let’s consider the truths Jesus conveyed as we think on the thought: Little is Much.
I. The Sowing of the Mustard (31) – It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth. Again Jesus reveals the significance of sowing, with the potential for a vast harvest in mind. The mustard seed was sown in the field in anticipation of an eventual harvest.
Bear in mind, Jesus is teaching these parables prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. These words were spoken prior to the birth of the church at Pentecost. However, Jesus knew the church would come according to the plan and will of God. When she was born, the disciples and others would have valuable instruction regarding the church age from the wisdom of Christ.
If the church is to prosper in our day, those within the body of Christ must be faithful to sow precious seed. We must sow the Word of God, the good news of the Gospel, to a world that desperately needs to hear. We must strive to reach those who are unsaved, and disciple them in the faith following their conversion. New believers are vital to continued growth among the church.
The major principle in sowing seeds for harvest is reproduction. The church is no different. There must be reproduction if the church is to remain strong. Now, the church at large will never perish, but individual congregations must continue to reproduce if they are to survive. This involves sensing the need for other local congregations in areas where the Gospel is not being proclaimed and supporting efforts to plant churches in those areas. We must be faithful to sow if the church is to continue to prosper.
II. The Size of the Mustard (31) – It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth. Jesus reveals the very small nature of the mustard seed. It was the least of seeds known and planted among that region. The phrase, “smaller than a mustard seed” was often used to describe things considered very small. Jesus will reveal that a small seed possesses great potential.
So, what is the significance in revealing the small size of the seed? I am convinced Jesus was preparing them to accept humble beginnings. The majority at that time, and even following the resurrection, did not embrace Jesus as the Christ. Most denied His deity and refused to accept Him as the sole means of salvation. The church would begin very small. We know this is true. Acts records there were only 120 gathered in the upper room when the church was born. She would have a small, humble birth, but her impact would soon reach the world.
This truth needs to be understood in our day as well. The Lord knows the desires and ambitions of humanity. He knew many would focus solely on numbers for peace and contentment in Him. Jesus taught, prior to the birth of the church, that even a small seed, a small congregation of believers, could have an eternal and substantial impact on those around them. Numbers are important because they represent souls. However, the Lord doesn’t require large numbers to accomplish great things. We should strive for growth numerically, but a lack of numbers is no excuse to avoid our responsibilities or fail to expect great things in Christ.