I’m not a big fan of mustard and never have been. I know it’s an important ingredient in things like potato salad and egg salad, but I don’t like the strong taste of mustard on hamburgers, hot dogs, or sandwiches. But even though I don’t like prepared mustard, I know that there is much we can learn from the mustard seed.
I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a bottle of mustard seed. I have a lot of spices in my spice cupboard, but I don’t have ground or whole mustard seed. So when I’ve read passages in scripture where Jesus talks about the mustard seed, I’ve had to really think about it to completely understand the relevance of this particular seed as an illustration. I do know that the mustard seed is very small. I also read somewhere recently, I think on another blog, that the mustard seed is solid all the way through. It doesn’t have a hallow place in the middle.
Jesus uses the mustard seed to illustrate how small our faith can be and still be effective. Perhaps it is the solid nature of the seed of faith that makes it so strong though it is small.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.”
The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you! Luke 17:5-6.
He also used the mustard seed and how it grows into a large tree in spite of its small size to illustrate the Kingdom of God.
Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32.
As I thought about these two illustrations I was reminded of another verse where Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, and realized the two illustrations are related.
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21.
If we have faith, even a tiny amount of faith the size of a mustard seed, then the Kingdom of God is in our hearts. The potential for becoming a huge tree is within each mustard seed. Just like the mustard seed, faith may start small, but if it is cultivated and watered it will grow to be quite large. Just as the branches of the mustard tree provide shade and a nesting place for birds, our faith when grown can provide encouragement and a place for others of the Kingdom of God to grow.
As we begin 2011, I am looking forward to seeing my own faith grow and hope that I can help others grow in their trust and faith in God as well. I hope that my faith and yours will be like the small but solid mustard seed, and that the potential for the Kingdom of God contained within us, within our faith, be a blessing to others so that the Kingdom of God might be found within them also.