The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Kingdom Principle: Seeds; Part XII
Locate in Scripture: Matthew 13:1-23; 31-35; Mark 4:1-25; 30-34; Luke 8:4-19
In our bi-monthly staff meetings, we watched a short video of a recent conference in which Jim Collins, who wrote the book Great by Choice spoke. He is explaining the five core mindsets of leaders who have demonstrated great resolve in running their businesses over long periods of time. We have been watching short segments of this presentation in order to discuss them. In our most recent meeting we watched a segment on Productive Paranoia. While the name is interesting, what stuck out to me was a statement he made which summarizes the Biblical principle of the mustard seed. He said something to the effect of what you do before the difficult times come, will help you to be strong when people most need you. His premise is that being prepared, planning and making reserves has to be done in the good times so when times of uncertainty hit, you are prepared, able to survive and succeed when others fail.
The Smallest Seed
“Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32).
The parable of the mustard seed is well known. I remember many Sunday School classes where we were shown how small this seed is. Jesus points out that this seed when planted grows and becomes very large. The way it gets large is that it is planted, given time and the necessary nourishment and conditions while it grows. No one wakes up with a surprise mustard tree in the yard. If you plant it you’ll watch it grow over time.
This is an illustration of how the Kingdom works. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a seed (Matthew 13:31; Mark 4:30-31). We receive this seed (or Kingdom) when we are born again. Paul said, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). The King James Bible says that we were translated into the Kingdom. We once belonged to the kingdom of the world and now we belong in the Kingdom of God, where His rule and reign is manifested.
The Kingdom is so huge, so vast and so powerful that nothing can withstand it once planted and producing, however before this happens we must receive it in seed form. Peter said, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (I Peter 1:23). We might live our lives unaware of this Kingdom until we come face to face with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we receive this Word and this translation happens. The gospel is the seed that we need to plant. It might start off small with no one else aware that it’s been planted, but when it takes root and starts to grow then nothing can withstand it, not even the gates of hell (Matthew 16:13-20).
The Birds of the Air Come and Perch in Its Branches
“Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:32).
As in the example cited from the book Good to Great on productive paranoia, it is what you do during good times that ensure success during difficult times. In our example of the mustard seed, we see that when full grown, the birds of the air can come and perch in the branches. This is a different end result than what happens to the seed in the first type of soil. In that instance the seed falls on the path and the birds of the air devour it making it unfruitful. However, once the seed is planted and becomes the largest garden plant, then the birds only find shade, they don’t find lunch. The birds are symbolic of Satan, trials and hard times.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Trouble happens in this world. The good news is that Jesus overcame and gave us His kingdom so we too can overcome.
Take Paul as an example, Paul had such a revelation of Christ Jesus that he was buffeted by Satan and persecuted everywhere he went. Paul refers to this persecution as a thorn in his flesh because everywhere he went Satan stirred up opposition to the gospel message. "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardshps, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (II Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul pleaded with the Lord to do something about it; however God’s response was “My grace is sufficient for you” (vs. 9a). It took Paul three times of asking for help before he listened. God’s grace is enough to deal with Satan and his kingdom. Understanding God’s grace gives you the power to overcome certain things. James said, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Why will he flee from you? Because he is a defeated foe and cannot tell the difference between the believer and Jesus (Colossians 2:15). Isaiah prophesied what the Messiah would look like when he came to redeem mankind, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head” (Isaiah 59:17). This is pretty much the description that Paul gives of the believer in Ephesians 6, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:14-17). When Paul finally understood what God was saying, he took care of the situation himself as demonstrated in the very last words in the book of Acts, "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:30-31).
Paul learned the secret, which is being strong in the Lord, using His grace, His power, operating out of His Kingdom and the authority given to the believer to withstand difficult times. This is the message he gives to the church, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11). He learned this by understanding the full extent of God’s grace and how it works, “But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!” (II Corinthians 12:9 AMP). Paul learned that He wasn’t alone, God’s power, God’s kingdom and God’s strength was available in these situations.
This is the power of the Kingdom. It is like a seed, you take it, you plant it, it grows and flourishes. When the understanding of how it works comes, we learn that not even the gates of hell can withstand it. We can rest assured that difficult times will come, however what starts out small will become large and powerful so that these things will not shake us. These are the spiritual truths that Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of God. It is a seed, it is the Word of God and it has the ability to grow to such a degree that the birds of the air can perch and find shade, in other words they can do nothing against it once it is rooted in your life.