A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.
Monday, October 5, 2020
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
A pastor held out a closed fist to his congregation and asked them to guess what was inside. One person said a rock, another bread, and yet another money. Trying to think Biblically, a small child yelled out, “Is it Jesus?” The congregation laughed as the pastor said, “Not quite,” before opening his hand to reveal a small acorn. The boy quickly corrected himself by saying, “Oh, I get it, it’s a tree.” “Actually,” the pastor replied, “the correct answer is a forest.” Holding up the acorn for all to see, he added, “This little seed, that I have been carrying around in my pocket all morning, has all the potentiality to grow not just into a mighty oak tree, but to reproduce itself over and over and over again, just like every disciple of Jesus.”
Speaking to the multitudes, once again Jesus used the illustration of a seed. Compared to other garden seeds, like that of a pepper or tomato, the mustard seed is tiny. Weighing in as small as 1 millimeter, if a mustard seed fell on the ground it would quickly blend into the dirt and likely never be found. And yet, even though a mustard seed begins small, just like that oak acorn, its potentiality is great. When planted and tended and given time to mature, the mustard plant outgrows all the other garden plants and can even provide a sanctuary from the weather for birds.
Of course, Jesus didn’t spend time talking about seeds so that people could learn how to grow better gardens, rather He was explaining the nature of growth in His kingdom. Remember that just the mere mention of the “kingdom” would cause everyone to pause and pay careful attention to what came next. Although the Pharisees liked to think of themselves as autonomous (see John 8:33), Israel had actually been a part of the Roman Empire since being conquered by Julius Caesar in the sixth century BC. While a small minority, such as the family of the puppet-king Herod and the religious elite Pharisees, had been able to maintain some semblance of power and influence in the Roman occupation, most people were not so lucky. The common people suffered the most from excessive taxation and the constant presence of ruthless Roman soldiers. During this tumultuous period a clandestine political movement known as the Zealots emerged with the not-so-secret aim of expelling the Empire and returning Israel to its former glory. When the people heard “kingdom,” they nostalgically longed for the days of David and Solomon, when the nations would bow before the military prowess of mighty Israel. But when Jesus spoke of the kingdom, He wanted them to think small, not tall.
The kingdom of God begins almost imperceptibly when the seed of faith, like the minuscule mustard seed, is planted in our hearts. The seed does not sprout overnight nor produce a crop right away, and at times may even appear infertile. But when the time is right the seed begins to grow and mature and reaches the point that others come to find safety in its branches.
It can be easy to look at the lives of mature Christians and think that we will never attain their level of faith and maturity, to think that we are insignificant and have nothing to offer. But Jesus wants us to remember that all faith starts small. No one is born a “super-believer”, as if there even is such a thing. The greatest in the kingdom are actually the least, and the first in the kingdom are actually the last. The things that look insignificant to us, like sharing a kind word or caring for our neighbors, can have far reaching effects even into eternity.
At times Christians mistake the kingdom of heaven for the kingdom of this world. If we are not careful, we can become like the Zealot and the Pharisee, coveting power and influence to win the world for Jesus. But the truth is that Jesus doesn’t need our help winning the world, it is already His, He has already won it. Instead of accomplishing great things for the Kingdom, He desires us to do all things with great love for our great and mighty King.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your great love for us. You have taught us to seek first Your kingdom and not be overly anxious in regards to the cares of this world. How quickly we forget all that You have already done for us and promised to us. Help us to be obedient in the small things, to be faithful where You have called us, and to love You by loving others. For the sake Your name we pray, Amen.