Summary: In the parable of the Mustard Seed, Jesus predicts the growth of the Church from small beginnings - from Israel to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the world

NR 24-07-05

Story: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. They set up their tent and fell asleep.

Some hours later, Holmes woke his faithful friend.

"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."

Watson replied, "I see millions of stars."

"What does that tell you?" asks Holmes

Watson pondered for a minute.

"Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.

Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.

Horologically, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three.

Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant.

Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. “

Then - after a pause, Watson says: “Well, Holmes, What does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for a moment and then he said.

"Watson, you imbecile, someone has stolen our tent."

Like Watson, it is easy for us to miss the obvious too when we look for the meaning in Jesus’ parables.

And today’s parable of the Mustard Seed is no exception.

In Jesus’ parable this morning he speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven being like a Mustard Seed.

And what he is saying, I believe is that the tremendous growth of the Church – which is kingdom of God on this earth will stem from the death of Jesus.

1. Some people think Jesus was a mythical character, but he wasn’t.

Jesus was a real person who lived 2000 years ago.

We don’t just have the evidence of the Bible, but we also have the evidence of four Roman historians:

Pliny the Younger who wrote in AD 111 to the Emperor Trajan. He said that Christians worshipped Jesus as if he were God and so were abandoning the worship of the Roman Emperor.

Tacitus who wrote about 114 AD and said that

Christ had been condemned to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator in Judea (AD 26-36).

And he went on to say that by the time of the Emperor Nero, Jesus had attracted enough followers in Rome for them to be blamed for the burning of Rome.

Suetonius who referred to Chrestus (a misprint for Christus) being the founder of a sect in Judaism.

(Alister McGrath “Explaining your faith” p 49-50)

And finally Josephus, a Jewish writer who was not a Christian records the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth in quite some detail.

2. Jesus preached a revolutionary message.

He not only called people to love God and their neighbours – but he said some strange things like

we should

Love our enemies and

Do good to those who are unkind to us!!

He spoke about justice and equality – and forgiveness.

The Good and the Great in Israel at the time not only did not flock to his message, they positively hated him and eventually had him crucified.

3. And Jesus’ death should have been the end of it - Yet it wasn’t

The final nail in the coffin of Christianity should have been - when the Christians made the ridiculous claim that Jesus rose from the dead

But it wasn’t.

Indeed it was after that claim that the church really took off.

Was that the reason that the Church of Jesus Christ, a carpenter from an insignificant town (Nazareth) in Israel, a backwoods of the Roman Empire, developed the world’s largest religion.

Consider this:

When the Founder of Islam, Mohammed died, he left a well oiled state machinery and army to boot – to propagated the message he brought

When the Buddha died, the nobility of Nepal had embraced Buddhism and propagated his teachings further.

None of Mohammed’s followers or the Buddha’s followers has ever claimed their founder rose from the dead.

Yet that is exactly what Christians claim about Jesus.

4. So why is the death and resurrection of Jesus so significant?

Well, the key can be found in the parable of the Mustard Seed.

The mustard seed, Brassica Nigra to which Jesus referred was not literally the smallest seed – though it was pretty close to it.

However, the term “like a mustard seed” had become a proverbial way of saying something is very small .

Jesus himself spoke of “faith like a mustard seed” to denote very small faith.

When the rabbis spoke of a minute amount of blood, they spoke of a drop like a mustard seed (The Parables of Jesus – David Wenham p,53-54) 17:20; m. Niddah 5:2; Toharot 8:8).

The small mustard seed had the amazing capacity to produce a large shrub. Indeed, some plants reached a height of eight to ten foot.

Yet it was only when the mustard seed died, that the potential of the huge plant is released.

Just as the life of the plant grew out of the death of the seed and rose to life again as a mustard plant,

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Ronald Harbaugh

commented on Jul 25, 2008

I greatly appreciated your historical research on the other commentaries to the life of Christ. Your opening illustration has given me inspiration.

Revd. Martin Dale

commented on Jan 2, 2014

Ronald Thanks for your encouragement Blessings Martin

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