Monday Reflection – July 08, 2019
The Mustard Seed Effect
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. Matthew 13:31-32
Today’s New Testament text records the third of five parables which Jesus shared about the Kingdom of heaven. These were all given in one message delivered on a single occasion as he sat in a boat on the Sea of Galilee teaching the people gathered on the shore. He interprets the first two for us as a guide to our own interpretation of the rest. It is clear from the first two that every element in the story has significance.
In this parable five symbols are used. There is the sower again, and the field in which he sowed, and the seed that is sown which in this case is mustard seed, the tree which grows from it, and the birds that make their nests in its branches. It is easy to interpret the first two symbols. The sower obviously is Jesus himself. In each of these parables he has been sowing, and in the second parable he told us, “The sower is the Son of man.” The field is the world. In this case a mustard seed is sown. The use of these various seeds is Jesus’ way of revealing the various aspects of the gospel which he turned loose in the world. He sowed a fantastic, revolutionary, radical word in human society.
Mustard is a peculiar kind of seed with an unusual quality. It was known to be an irritant, something fiery and biting. Jesus uses this symbol to indicate that the message of the kingdom of God is intended to be arousing, yet irritating among people. Turn it loose, and it will get a whole community excited, stirred up, either negatively or positively. The gospel makes us uncomfortable at times. We sometimes experience the mustard working in and on us as we begin to squirm and itch, or experience transformation and healing.
Jesus points out that this mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. A mustard seed is small, but obviously not the smallest of all seeds. I believe that Jesus was using a proverb of the day, “small as a mustard seed”. Here he is clearly stressing the apparent insignificance of the gospel. It does not look like much; it does not sound like much. We say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” That does not sound very impressive to many people. It is so simple that you can teach it to children and they understand. So the world is not very excited about it; the world does not regard it as a tremendous, earth-shaking philosophy. The gospel is simple. But, let someone actually believe it, and see what happens. When we really trust Christ and invite him into our lives, it is the most transforming, the most revolutionary thing that could ever happen. It is the beginning of a radical change.
This is the seed our Lord is talking about. This message of the kingdom is like a seed of mustard planted in the midst of society, with fantastic power. Look at the tree that grows out of it! Yet mustard is not a tree; it does not grow into a tree. What in the world is Jesus saying then? I believe he intends to teach that growth in the kingdom is an unnatural growth. When Jesus is our Lord, he takes away pride, destroys egotism and self-centeredness and renders a person humble and gentle toward others, ready to serve. Real growth is in surrender and service and not in domination, pomposity and power. It is the inward working of the Holy Spirit that reflects itself in humble service on the outside.
Till next week, may we be enabled to experience the mustard effect!