And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of seeds on the earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts our large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Mark 4: 30-32


This is a really familiar statement that Jesus made to His followers as they went about the business of sharing the truths of living as people of God in their world. There is deliberate obscurity and vagueness at work in this parable. We are supposed to think about what it means, and we are also to rely upon spiritual insights in order to gain that understanding. Jesus knew that only a limited number of people would actually grasp what He was saying and also be willing to allow Him to change their lives in a manner that would lead to living as He said. The people who heard Jesus speak on this day were with Him and we are not, but we have the great advantage of the presence of Christ’s Spirit with and within us. This makes a very important difference for us in gaining understanding and deriving wisdom from God’s Word.


First off, it is apparent that Jesus is not talking about gardening here and that this account is not even about plants and their care or growth. Jesus is telling about a kingdom that is formed up by spiritual walls and that encompasses all of the earth within its borders. He is describing a place where all of His followers are citizens and a relationship that transcends all other affiliations and allegiances that we may have. The laws of this kingdom are superior to those of all nations as these laws actually form the foundation for all good and just ones that people have devised to bring order to our society. Yet, as wide spread and foundational as this kingdom may be and as mighty as is its King, the kingdom of God still relies upon people such as you and I to spread its message of love, hope, and righteousness in our world.


This task often seems to be overwhelming or even impossible. On many days it is hard to find a place where the Gospel of Christ is desired or even acceptable. It is easy to feel as if whatever I may have to offer to this world by way of bringing my beliefs and faith into the conversation of life will be insignificant and that doing this may actually diminish my credibility with the people around me. It seems that Jesus is telling us something else. He is saying that very small efforts and impacts as viewed from our perspective can have a monumental effect in the world around us as God’s creative and redemptive work is carried out through them. Christ asks us to take the small risk of going out into our world and being His disciple in it. His Spirit will go with us to reveal truth, provide us with encouragement and strength, and lead our way. As we each follow the leading of the Spirit and implant our faith in Christ alone into our world, a magnificent harvest of redemption will sprout up around us.