Church Chatter

Reflection on the parable of the mustard seed.

Mark 4:30-34
30 He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. 32 But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. 34 Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Jesus uses hyperbole in describing the mustard seed as the smallest of seeds and its plant in full growth as the largest of plants (a mustard plant could only grow as high as 8-12 feet). This is another “kingdom parable.”

What is the contrast that Jesus is making between the mustard seed and His Kingdom?

Answer: The contrast here is between the small beginnings of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and its future expansion to encompass the whole earth, sheltering all who come to dwell in the household of Jesus that is the Church.

The allusion to the kingdom becoming so large that birds of the sky come and dwell in the shade of its branches is probably a reference to the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in which he saw a huge tree that sheltered “birds of the sky” and other animals (Dan 4:7). Daniel interpreted the tree and the animals to represent Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom and the many different peoples over whom he ruled. The comparison is that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will be even greater than the Kingdom of the Babylonians (also see Dan 9:17-19).

What is the symbolism in the Parable of the Mustard Seed?

Mark 4:30-34 – The Parable of the Mustard Seed.
The tiny mustard seed is the small beginnings of the Kingdom or Church of Jesus Christ.
The mustard seed that is planted in the earth, is Jesus who plants the seed of the Gospel in the hearts of all who accept His message.
The great growth of the mustard plant is the tremendous growth of the Church that is nurtured by the Holy Spirit.
The large branches and the creatures that dwell in its shade, is the spread of the Church across the face of the earth, calling all men and women of every ethnicity to salvation in Christ Jesus.

How can this parable be interpreted today, in our modern and contemporary world?

Let us first go back to Christ’s ministry. Jesus chose disciples, to teach them about the Kingdom of God, and to equip them to teach others about the Kingdom of God, to plant the seed of faith. And here we are, continuing the original disciples ministry, Jesus’ ministry.

We may not physically go to all the corners of the earth, on away missions, but we are certainly reaching more people than ever before. In our modern age, we can reach people from all across the globe from our laptops and cellphones. There is no limit to what can be done, to spread the Word.

Planting the seed, includes online ministry, a phone call or a Whatsapp. We can do this in the power of the Holy Spirit, we already have the mustard seed growing within us. What we can do today, is fertilize other peoples hearts, and plant the seed. So that God, the Holy Spirit, can come and germinate the seed, so that they can grow in faith.

It is difficult at the moment, with the Covid 19 lockdown, when people expect ministry to happen only when the physical building is open. No!

Our Whatsapp services, reaches people from all across South Africa, that would not normally have been at the Church service. The Zoom services, reaches people from all over the world. We now run morning and evening prayers daily on Zoom, where that never happened before. The blog posts on the website, reaches people from all across the world, and is being read by all of them. They may have found the blog post by accident, but the seed has been planted. We all have a way that we can help plant a seed, it is different for each one of us.

Sometimes, that door needs to close behind you to open news ways of planting a seed. Have you thought about how you could be planting seeds of faith in people’s hearts? Instead of lamenting that the Church door is closed.

Good people, let the Holy Spirit guide you, in realizing your potential as a disciple and as a seed planter. Do not let doubt cloud and obscure your potential to reach people. There is no obstacle to great, to be able to walk this path with God.

May God show you the way.

Vanda Chittenden