Summary: out of something small can come great things
Have you ever seen a mustard seed? I have one in my hand, but unless you are very, very close to me, you will not be able to see it. This little seed is one of the most mysterious seeds in nature.
It is hard to believe that from this tiny little seed, a plant that grows . . . and grows. . . and grows until it is 8-10 feet tall. It is a woody shrub, not even a tree, and if allowed, it will take over anything in its way. It is nearly impossible to cut down unless you use a machete or chain saw; its stems grow to be about as thick as a grown man’s arm. And if you do cut it down, it regrows from its roots. The mustard plant is one of the hardiest plants on earth. It is useful for flavoring food (think about yellow mustard), it’s leaves are edible (have you ever had any mustard greens), and parts of the plant have medicinal properties (you might have had a mustard plaster on your chest for a cold), BUT, despite its strength, it is considered a weed instead of a shrub, and not a very pretty one at that. You didn’t dare plant it in your garden; it will crowd out all the other plants and literally and take over – anywhere it is planted it spreads like wildfire.
You cannot get rid of it!
I bet you are wondering why I am giving you all this ‘useless’ information about the mustard seed. Let’s look at a little piece of the scripture about the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 4:30-32:
Jesus said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."
Notice that the scripture says that the mustard plant is a shrub. . . not a tree. It is not like the mighty sequoia in California or two-hundred year old oak trees you might see in a park. . . is it just a shrub. . . a lowly shrub.
Some of us are passing around to the tables, cups with mustard seeds in it. Pick one up . . . be careful, they are really small and can roll around easily. See how really small they are. . . can you even imagine how this little tiny seed could become a shrub twice as tall as a man, and whose stems are larger than a weightlifter’s arm?
So what is the lesson here?
Parables were stories Jesus told using common items that people often saw everyday (such as birds, flowers, water) to describe things they had never seen or would never see. No one had ever seen this “Kingdom of God” Jesus was describing, SO, He told parables to help people visualize what it was going to be like.
But, why use an item like a mustard seed. It was a small, insignificant, relatively unimportant seed. It wasn’t highly prized. Jesus chose the mustard seed for His parable because of its size. He used it because even something as small as a mustard seed can have miraculous power within it. Think about it. A seed – not much bigger than a pinhead - has within it the power to become a towering plant. Just as a small idea, a single thought, a tangible act can start you on your path to becoming a vibrant disciple of Jesus.
An example of a powerful thing starting from something small is In The Garden, which started with sack lunches and about six people. Look where we are now!
So the kingdom of God begins like a small seed inside the heart of each one of us. And once that seed takes root and begins to grow, our lives become filled with the love of God. It is watered every time we love our neighbor, or care of those in need, or visit the sick, just as Jesus commanded us in Matthew 25:36:
Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and in prison
Each time we do this, that little kernel of faith grows in us. . . until we know the love of God and are members of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus started growing the kingdom of God with a handful of disciples. Every follower of Jesus is a part of the kingdom and that means that you and I are a part of God's kingdom. Jesus teaches us that the Kingdom of God is the work of grace and mercy and compassion and peace with justice in the world. We are called to do the work to the best of our ability. Jesus says to us that we are to plant the seed and let God worry about the growth; our job, our responsibility, our calling, is to plant the seed and reap the harvest. God is responsible for the growth. And that little kernel of faith, which started out as small as a mustard seed, continues to grow in us. . .