Summary: Why did the farmer in this parable plant the mustard seed? Jesus doesn’t stress the harvest from this tree... only the fact that birds come and settle in its branches. Why?
OPEN: There’s a story about a student from MIT who spent an entire summer going to the Harvard football field every day wearing a black and white striped shirt walking up and down the field for ten or fifteen minutes throwing birdseed and blowing a whistle. Then he would walk off the field.
At the end of the summer, it came time for the first Harvard home football game. As the game was about ot begin, the referee walked onto the field and blew the whistle... (pause).
The game had to be delayed for a half hour to wait for the birds to get off of the field. The student from MIT wrote his thesis on this, and graduated.
APPLY: Now, had you been watching this student throughout the summer - walking up and down Harvard’s football field - you probably wouldn’t have understood his objective. But once football season began, his purpose would been very, very clear.
This young man did all that he did that summer in order to accomplish two goals:
1st He wanted to write a powerful thesis on “conditioned response” to graduate from MIT.
AND 2nd he wanted to irritate the students at Harvard University.
And he did both with the power of a little seed.
Here in this parable we’ve read this morning, Jesus is telling us that God has a purpose in mind for the seed that He plants in the field.
In the previous 2 parables, Jesus talks about a farmer who sows seed in his field.
In the 1st parable, the seed is the Word of God (the Scriptures) and when the pure word of God is sown in the hearts of the people who are prepared to hear it – it produces a wonderful and bountiful harvest.
In the 2nd parable, the seeds represent the “sons of Righteousness”
In other words, God sows US into the world to change the world. And to make people know what He can do in their lives - as He has in ours
Now, in this 3rd parable, the seed in the story seems to represent the church. And the focus of the parable seems to be the effect the church will have on the world.
As I was studying this passage I asked myself a question that shaped the rest of what I’m going to tell you today: What was the farmer’s goal in planting this mustard seed?
As in the previous parables, the farmer was God.
In this parable, God plants a seed, and then we’re told the results of the farmer’s actions. But Jesus doesn’t focus on the harvest that a NORMAL farmer would get from that tree.
Jesus doesn’t dwell on the value of the mustard seed.
For the purposes of His parable, it doesn’t matter that mustard is one of the oldest condiments in history. It doesn’t matter that mustard had been found in Egyptian tombs, or that Romans of His day enjoyed it’s flavor on their foods.
No… the FRUIT of the mustard TREE doesn’t seem to concern Him at all.
Instead, Jesus focuses on 2 things:
1st He tells us that this small mustard seed produces a big tree.
And 2ndly - the branches of that tree becomes a shelter for the birds of the air.
Now, just like the actions of the student from MIT… that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Why would a farmer plant a seed and not be concerned with the crop?
Unless the purpose of planting the tree was to provide shelter for those birds.
Normally farmers don’t want birds near their garden.
Why? (They eat the seeds and pick at the crop)
So what do farmers usually put in their gardens to deal with that? (Scare Crows)
But the farmer in Jesus’ parable seems to plant the tree to get the birds to come. That’s not a normal goal for a farmer… but then, God’s not your normal run of the mill farmer anyway. His goals aren’t going to be like those of a mortal farmer.
You see, I believe the birds in this parable represent the lost...
… the people in this world that are without shelter and hope.
… the people who are seeking protection from despair and frustration.
And that’s why God created the church.
The church was not created for good people.
It was created for sinners.
Jesus said: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17
Isaiah said it this way:
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.