Summary: 4 short truths about small things.
The Hidden Kingdom
Series: Markers Along the Narrow Way
December 2, 2012
Formerly: Mustard Field of Dreams, Series: Stories Hollywood Missed, December 11, 2005
READ Mark 4:21-34 with me… (READ) Last week Jesus told a parable about 4 types of soil…each of us is one of them…but you have to “dig deep” to understand them…(Get it? BAD PUN). Hard, Rocky, Thorny or Good. Parables are meant to reveal who God is and what He’s up to. Jesus says they’re like a lamp. You don’t hide it under the bed…you put it on a lampstand. With that, he launches into another couple of parables…using SEEDS to illustrate what what God’s Kingdom is all about and how it works.
Jesus used the mustard seed to illustrate what I call “The Miracle of Small Beginnings’. In Jesus’ day, the mustard seed was used to symbolize anything that was infinitesimally small. The point of this parable is pretty simple and clear…i.e. that given time, the smallest of seeds can grow into the largest of herbs. Mustard plants can grow to about 7 or 8 feet high, and it’s branches are more like a tree, than an herb. Now this is a great parable to look at when you’re discouraged about where you are in life…because it’s chocked full of hope. And hope is what the disciples needed when Jesus told this story. Early in Jesus’ ministry, it looked like He was the next ‘rising star’! John the Baptist was a big hit with the crowds, but he predicted that Jesus would be even bigger! He told them that he wasn’t even worthy to untie his sandals, that someone was greater than even he was, and that he would do even greater miracles. John predicted that he would decrease, the one after him would increase (READ John 3:30)
For a while at least, that prediction was coming true. Huge crowds followed Jesus wherever He went. Large numbers of people were getting healed. It was exciting! More and more people showed up every week. The disciples came to believe (and expect) that this ‘Jesus Movement’ would culminate in a overthrow of the Roman government. Jesus would be their new king, and they would be his top officials.
But then, bit by bit… the opposition increased. The crowds started to thin…and Jesus was the one doing the thinning! He was making these strong challenges, telling people to die to deny themselves of die in their sin! They were thinking… “Jesus, lay off a little buddy! You might offend somebody!” It was becoming increasingly clear that the movement (that started with such promise) was losing steam and heading for disaster. An attendance chart of Christ’s ministry would have shown a statistical DECLINE over time. On our district, every year there’s an awards ceremony where pastor’s receive “chocolate truffles” if increase in attendance… Jesus wouldn’t have gotten any truffles!
They’d hoped for so much, and now they saw it all slipping out of their reach. The disciples were beginning to wonder if they’d hooked their wagons to a falling star. Their high hopes were turning into discouraging disappointments. Do you think Jesus was discouraged? Possibly. We know his disciples were. Did he quit. Not until He died. Was He a failure? Absolutely not! But they thought he was. As a result, his disciples were confused, doubting, bewildered. So Jesus tells them this parable to help them understand that even though the beginnings might be small…that wasn’t the end of the story. How many of you would agree that…appearances aren’t always truth. Maybe you’re feeling the same way. Maybe you’ve had some set-backs recently...You started something, but now you don’t know if you can finish it.
• You invested money in a business, and it’s not panning out like you thought it would.
• Maybe you bought some furniture or a new car, and now the payments are coming due.
• You started a relationship with high hopes and excitement, but now the feelings are gone.
Regardless of the discouraging situation you find yourself in, I think Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed can help. So this morning I want to give you “4 Short Truths About Small Things”…from the parable of the mustard seed. And the 1st short truth is this…
1. Bigger isn’t necessarily BETTER
Again…the mustard seed was used to symbolize anything that was infinitesimally small. We live in an age that worships size and numbers. In America, it’s assumed that the bigger something is… the better it is. We want BIG Macs, bigger cars, bigger government. We think that the bigger the church, the better the church. But none of those statements are necessarily true. Smallness doesn’t equal insignificance… and bigness doesn’t necessarily mean importance.
About 20 years ago we planted a church in Scottsdale, AZ.. And I don’t know it you know anything about Scottsdale or not, but it’s a very affluent community, where ‘success’ was king. (SNOTS-dale). Everyone drove around in Beemers and Mercedes…we had an old Dodge Minivan. It was a total mismatch in more ways than you can count! It was all about “who you knew” and “how much you had”. Ironically, God called us to start a church there, and we didn’t have either one… (we didn’t have any people, and we didn’t have much money). As a result, over and over, people would come into our little church and ask, “Where is everybody?” Over and over I’d say, “Well, if you’d stay, we’d have a few more!” But that wasn’t what they were looking for… they were looking for a church that would match (maybe even enhance) their image of success! To them bigger WAS better! Vision meant nothing. Now obviously, BETTER can lead to bigger. But just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you’re superior to the little guy!