Unimpressive but important
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'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his field. 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 v31-33
A contrast is being made between what we start with and what we end up with. What we begin with is far from impressive – the proverbial mustard seed. It is so tiny – about a millimetre in diameter. When the rabbis spoke about a minute drop of blood, they spoke of a drop like ‘a mustard seed’. In other words, it is something so small that you would hardly notice it. Then Jesus goes on to say it becomes the largest plant in the vegetable garden – nothing unusual there. That is what mustards seeds do, grow into big plants But then Jesus injects something into the parable which, to be quite frank, is bizarre and which would have made his original hearers go, 'Say what!!!!?? It makes great branches so that the birds of heaven can make nests in its shade’. That is no mustard plant known to this world. Jesus is saying that the plant breaks out of its kind and becomes something else – a different genus altogether, because the tree which has great branches and gives home to the birds of heaven – eagles and the like – are the Cedars of Lebanon according to Daniel’s vision in chapter 4 of his prophecy. So what starts off as normal – a seed and a bush, becomes transmuted into something entirely different like the result of some Frankensteinian genetic experiment – a giant tree!
Do you ever look at a church congregation while at the back of your mind being aware of the power of big business, the sweep of world politics and think, 'This doesn't look very much in the grand scheme of things. It is all pretty ordinary really’? But this is the way it has always been, looking like a mustard seed. Take the founder of this movement, Jesus. Born of a teenage peasant girl in a remote backwater of the Roman Empire. Cradled in a manger, he lived in obscurity for 30 years in Nazareth, having a broad Galilean accent, with all the crude habits of that culture. Then to die on a wooden cross and be buried in a borrowed tomb. Not impressive by any standards. His followers weren't that much better either.
What began in the tiny confines of Judaism breaks out into the non-Jewish world, embracing people from every tribe and nation, rich and poor, educated and non-educated, all finding shelter and peace in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus. That is where the Church is heading. Already hundreds of millions around the world own the name of Christ – and it all began right here as we see it in Matthew 13 some 2,000 years ago. Who would have thought it? But that is the power of this message. The wonderful thing is it is still doing the same today – changing lives by bringing people in touch with the true and living God.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that what is unimpressive is unimportant. The Gospel is the most important news in the universe.
Dear Lord, forgive me for thinking that only what looks impressive is important. If that were so, where would it leave me? Rather, give me the faith to see things as you see them, that what seems to be small is in fact big – your kingdom; what is despised – your people, is precious. May I never boast of anything but the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen