Even years ago as a child, I was terribly competitive about anything that involved keeping score and accumulating points. That hasn’t always served me well, but in one venue of my youth it was to my great benefit. I went to multiple VBS programs every year, and they always had Scripture memory competitions with points given for all sorts of participation. So I would memorize like crazy, just to win … which I would do, because losing was worse than death!
I don’t remember any prizes I ever received, except for one. It was a tie clasp that had a rectangular glass element that contained a single mustard seed. (When I was a kid and teenager, all the boys wore suits and ties to church every Sunday.) I wore that thing for many years, and somewhere along the way of life and multiple moves, it got lost.
The clasp with the mustard seed was very cool. The seed was only about one millimeter in diameter, not even as big as a sesame seed. This was often thought of and considered as the smallest of seeds, hence also becoming an illustration of something very small – like the amount of faith that, if placed in God, could move mountains.
But another feature of a mustard seed is the tree that would come of it. Hey, we’re back to talking about dendrology again, but apparently mustard trees (there are varied species) grow extraordinarily fast. What I’ve read about this gives numbers that are so astonishing that I hesitate to repeat them.
But you get the picture. The idea is to present something that is very small … that grows to something very large … doing it in an amazingly short time … and producing something beautiful and productive.
Jesus says that this is what the Kingdom is like. It begins small (like a mustard seed) and grows quite large rather quickly (into a mature tree). The birds that perch in the tree may be (picking up on some Old Testament allusions) a picture of the varieties of nations.
And upon the heels of this parable comes another of similar nature – that of the yeast in bread. The picture here is the same, one of something small and practically unseen, that grows into something very large. It penetrates.
These are good pictures of the Kingdom of God. When Christ was born, it was a small gathering. The only large crowd involved a host of angels. The people element was limited to a few shepherds. And though thousands would follow Jesus at certain points of his teaching ministry, at the time of his death, few true followers could be found – hidden away in a room or watching from a distance.
But after the resurrection, it began to grow. The church started with 5,000 at Pentecost, and before long there were church communities growing throughout the Roman world. Over time and with the western expanse of civilization, the redemptive message of Jesus would spread all over the world. It continues to happen, even as we ourselves support missionaries in places where the gospel has barely penetrated.
There are times when as Christians in a secular world we may feel that we are a part of something very small. And it will always be true that those who follow the broad road to destruction will outnumber those on the narrow path to eternal life in Christ.
Yet we have prophetic pictures of what it is like at the very end. Around the throne of God are multitudes of those who have been saved from every nation and people group. We are, truly, a part of something huge.
So as you go out on this Monday morning to take on the broader world, there is no reason for insecurity. You’re on the winning team. And you’re also on mission to grow the Kingdom. Be confident today.
Luke 13:18 – Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”