The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.
This is a parable that I’m sure you are all familiar with. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man plants, and although it was a really small seed, grew into a tree that birds could rest in.
I was thinking about this and did a bit of research which I think gives us a bit more insight into what Jesus might have been saying to us.
It seems that there are at least four different contenders for which type of mustard seed that Jesus might have been referring to. Sinapsis nigra, the black mustard seed appears to be the most likely candidate. It grows in the right area, with the right climate and produces the right size of seeds. (others that may also fit the bill are Sinapsis arvense or Sinapsis alba)
The black mustard seed is known for its rapid germination. It seems that it begins to grow the day after it is planted, and grows rapidly in one season. Although not actually the smallest seed in Palestine at the time of Jesus, it would have certainly been the smallest that was planted and cultivated. (between 1 and 3mm in diameter)
In order to grow, a seed needs to die, germinate, take root and breakthrough the soil.
When Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven was like a mustard seed, what was He saying? If we understand the Kingdom of heaven to be a place where the rule and reign of the King is realised, and we apply that rule and reign to our lives we notice the following.
Without Christ, we begin as something small and insignificant. We have no real structure, and can easily be blown away on the wind.
When we surrender at the foot of the cross, the outer shell is broken away, and there is a new germination of our inner being. This takes root quickly and we begin to grow. The ideal of heaven is that our growth is rapid. There is no waiting around for the right conditions. Everything we need is supplied, and we flourish, demonstrating the power and majesty of the Creator.
As we grow, we reproduce, more seeds that will yield still more potential. There are two purposes to our growth. We are positioned ideally to allow other to rest, to take refuge and shelter from all the world throws at them, and we reproduce, more seeds. The seeds can be used for flavour – we are to flavour those around us with testimony of the King. New trees can be grown, to increase capacity for allowing still others to rest and take shelter.
One of the errors the church in the West makes far too often is that when we see a small mustard seed planted, we try to control its growth. We water it and feed it with small nurture groups and special ‘new Christian’ classes. We prune it ever so carefully, to make sure the growth is shaped into what we believe a new follower should look like, taking off the leaves and branches that don’t quite fit or look right, and we find ourselves with powerless Christians that come to church out of obligation or habit, and never actually fulfil their potential to grow new trees and shelter those who need it.
Jesus said that if we were His friends, we would do what He did (and greater things than that too). Let’s not put too many restrictions on the new growth, the growth that is supposed to be rapid, that is supposed to surprise given the small beginnings. Teach them, yes. Encourage them, yes.
Tell them they can’t, simply because we haven’t. Absolutely not.