Summary: Never despise the day of small beginnings. Three ways in which God’s Kingdom is like a mysterious mighty mustard seed.
How many of you were raised on a farm? Raise your hand. How many of you have parents or grandparents that were raised on a farm? Since we’re becoming an urban and suburban culture, many of us have lost the appreciation for agriculture.
But when Jesus was teaching people 2,000 years ago, every listener was familiar with planting seeds and harvesting crops. They couldn’t just run down to Brookshire’s or Fresh and pick up food. They only ate what they could produce.
That’s why so many of the parables of Jesus are about plants and seeds. When my daughter, Jenni was a young girl, we were eating a watermelon and really enjoying it. I held up one of the little black seeds and told her it was amazing that a big watermelon could grow from such a tiny seed. We decided that night to plant some of those seeds. There was a vacant lot next door that had already been cleared for future construction. So we went out there and dug up the dirt and planted twenty or thirty seeds. It was Jenni’s job to water the plants every day. Although it wasn’t very fertile ground, in a few days we had some vines that started to grow. Then I remember the day Jenni came running in all excited because there was a tiny watermelon growing. We ran out and checked it. It was about the size of a lemon. Soon other melons started growing. Jenni checked the patch every day and was getting impatient because the watermelons weren’t growing very fast. She kept saying, “Daddy, daddy, when will those watermelons grow?”
It was soon obvious the dirt was so poor that the melons probably weren’t ever going to grow to eating size, but one had grown to about the size of a softball. So one afternoon on my way home from the office I stopped by a curb market and bought a forty-pound watermelon. When I got home I carried it out and placed it in the middle of the vines and even wrapped one of the vines around the stem. I went inside and asked Jenni if she had checked her watermelons today. Because of the slow growth, she had lost her excitement about our watermelon patch. So, she slowly walked outside to check. About thirty seconds later she came running back yelling, “Daddy, daddy, you won’t believe what has happened!”
Jesus is going to teach us about planting seeds, but He’s not talking about watermelons. He’s talking about wheat seeds and mustard seeds.
Mark 4:26-32. “He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’”
“Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.’”
The only kind of mustard most of us are familiar with is the kind you put on a hotdog. Or if you grew up liking turnip greens, you might have sprinkled a few mustard green seeds in there with them. But the reason Jesus talked about the mustard seed was because mustard plants were prolific around the Sea of Galilee.
A seed is a mystery. Jesus said a farmer plants a seed but he doesn’t know how it grows. When I was serving my first church out of seminary, we were only about 30 minutes away from Auburn University. There was a man in my church who had a Ph.D. in agricultural science. He ran an experimental farm for Auburn near our town. I recall him talking about this verse once. He said, “Jesus said we don’t know how a seed grows. That’s no longer true. We know exactly how it grows. Heat and moisture cause the seed to germinate. It sends roots downward for moisture and shoots upward toward the sun. We know HOW a seed grows, but we don’t know WHY a seed grows. Only God knows that.” Seeds are mysterious and mighty. Seeds have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs. These 3,000-year-old seeds were planted and they began to grow.
Jesus said that the Kingdome of God is like a mustard seed that is planted. Let’s notice three ways in which God’s Kingdom is like a mysterious mighty mustard seed.