The Parable Of The Mustard Seed
In this parable, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. The key characteristic of these seeds that the Lord is concerned with is their small size relative to the mature plant. Just looking at a mustard seed in no way previews what it can become when it sprouts and grows.
Matthew 13:31-32 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
God seems to love small beginnings! The whole human race started with one man paired with one woman. The chosen people of God, the nation Israel, started with just one man, Abraham; but God’s plan was that in that one man “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). God purposed to save the world through one Man, born in an obscure provincial village no one in the wider Roman world had ever heard of. He brought this Savior into the world through a single young woman of zero prominence, whose only distinguishing characteristic was her faithfulness to Him.
It seems to me that almost never in Scripture does God start a movement as some vast, formidable and powerful enterprise. He always seems to start small, with a person who at the beginning shows no particular marks of greatness to come, except in their unyielding commitment to Him.
But that commitment is enough, isn’t it?
God doesn’t need big people to accomplish big things. His kingdom enterprises have always started from small and obscure beginnings, so that when they do reach a size and influence that makes the world take notice, only He gets the glory.
I look at this parable as picturing God sowing the smallest of seeds into this world in order to grow a great kingdom – and we are the seeds! We are sown very deliberately, by a knowledgeable and diligent farmer who has a plan for every seed. He then waters and nourishes and cultivates His seeds so that each has the opportunity to grow to full maturity in the field in which it is planted.
It’s not by any particular effort of the seeds that they grow into trees – they only cooperate with the farmer as He tends them. It is His responsibility that each seed be planted in exactly the place needed to fit His plan. It’s up to Him how big and wide each plant that sprouts will become, and which birds will come to nest in it.
The great thing is that every seed has its place, and every seed is important.
I don’t think mustard seeds ever look at all the grown-up plants around them and get discouraged by their own smallness. I don’t think they ever wonder what they can do to make themselves grow into a massive shrub in which many birds will come and nest. And I don’t think they ever complain to the farmer that He’s not causing them to grow as quickly or as large as they think they ought to.
I think we mustard seeds can be content with simply being faithful to grow where we are planted. We need not be concerned with how many branches we might eventually have, or how many birds will call our branches home. In fact, many times we ourselves won’t be able to see how large the network of branches growing through us may become. We may have no clue as to the number of birds that find a home in God’s kingdom because of the influence that sprouts from our faithfulness. That’s the Farmer’s business, not ours.
After all, we’re only seeds.