Mark 4:30-32 (CEB)
More parables about God’s kingdom
Jesus continued, “What’s a good image for God’s kingdom? What parable can I use to explain it?
Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants.
It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade.”
OK – just a small think to get out of the way first. We have all grown mustard seeds (usually with cress) – and, yes it is a small seed – but it is far from the smallest. Poppy seeds are smaller for starters! Also – what grows can hardly be described as having large branches!
Yes – you got it – we are not talking about the same plant at all. Even the Bible one is not that impressive, though – certainly not cedar-of-Lebanon territory, more of a scrubby bush to be honest. We may come back to that, but what I wanted to say today is really quite simple.
Jesus is trying to find language to describe the Kingdom of God… Did he say that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed?
NO. People like to abbreviate things and in this case it is really unhelpful. The message is not that – the message is not that the Kindom of God is really, really tiny.
Did Jesus say that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a big tree?
NO. Again – an unhelpful abbreviation. How many of us have heard preachers tying themselves in knots trying to squeeze some kind of Gospel message out of the idea that something small grows into something big. Stop it!
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a big tree AND THE BIRDS COME AND FIND REFUGE THERE.
You need the whole thing. The whole thing is the point. When we put our tiny (mustard seedlike) efforts into Kingdom Work – then God can make us really effective at doing Kingdom things – being a refuge for all who are oppressed and downtrodden and need safe space. God won’t make our efforts into huge cedars – just scabby bushes will be fine – not grown to impress or amaze but to be the places in community where people come for refuge.