He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
What could the Gospel do with my financial problems? What could the Gospel do in my marriage? What could the Gospel do for my depression? What could the Gospel do for the guilt and shame I feel? Our problems seem big; our mistakes and failures seem overwhelming; our stresses in life seem too much. Given the size of our problems, we can like the sound of the Gospel, but in our heart of hearts we see the Gospel as a little seed, and we tend to overlook it because of its size.
Jesus is calling us to not overlook this little seed, to not underestimate its potential. Later in Matthew 17, when applying this parable to the disciples’ inability to heal a young sick boy, who is demon possessed, Jesus says that if they used that mustard-sized seed faith, they would be able to move mountains and that nothing would be impossible for them. It wasn’t that the disciples didn’t have faith, but rather it seems that they weren’t using the little faith they had in the right way. They were still relying on their own efforts to solve the problem rather than relying on a little faith in an all powerful God.
We can have faith, but when we are faced with problems that seem larger than mountains, we can easily dismiss this mustard seed. To the Jewish people, the “moving of a mountain” was a common metaphor for the impossible. Jesus uses this common metaphor so that all the disciples would understand that the impossible is not the problem, but rather it’s the use of the seed that is the problem.
We are all facing mountains or impossible situations in our life. For the disciples, it was another person’s problem. They are moved to help, but they end up bringing no real help because their faith was not applied to the situation. Their faith somehow was still in themselves, in their ability to heal and not in the ability of Jesus. The seed planted into our impossible situation is the sign that we trust in God’s ability, not our own. But this is easy to preach, yet hard to live out. When we are faced with people’s problems—as the disciples were—or our own mountain-sized problems, the last thing our minds might go to is a mustard seed.
Who stands before a mountain that needs to move and thinks of a seed? We think of large machinery and diggers and trucks and underground drills and dynamite, and we think the only way to move this mountain is by our own human efforts. We don’t think of the seed.
Some of us don’t even think of the seed anymore. By not thinking of the seed, we are not thinking about Jesus. But others of us think of the seed but we think with doubt, and never step out and use this little mustard-sized seed of faith.
May our thoughts move to action. May we understand the power of this little seed God has given us.
// Pastor Josh Kelsey