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.