The Lord Jesus used a mustard seed to communicate truths to His disciples. He did this to illustrate both the Kingdom of God and what faith can do.
That's pretty amazing for such a small thing.
What can we learn from a mustard seed, that the Lord Jesus would use it to explain two of the most important things in our faith?
Let's talk about that.
A mustard seed
Mustard seeds are very, very small seeds, usually measuring 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter. They come in different colors, from yellowish white to black, depending on the variety of mustard plant they come from.
These seeds germinate normally within ten days if placed in the right conditions. Commentaries say mature mustard plants grow into shrubs as tall as a horse and its rider. Some stories say that mustard trees can grow very tall that a man can ride his horse and still pass under it.
Now what does this teach us? When considered alongside the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, it teaches us important things:
1) The growth of God's Kingdom
In Luke 13:18-19 we read Jesus describing God's Kingdom as like a mustard seed:
"Then He said, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.""
This gives us several ideas about God's Kingdom:
- We can think of it as the spread of the Gospel into the world, starting from a ragtag group of disciples;
- We can think of it as the growth of the church, where it starts with only a few people who spread the Gospel and end up with many people being saved;
- We can even think of it as the growth of a Christian, beginning from the time he receives the seed of the Gospel at salvation, to growing in Christ-likeness.
No one starts his Christian life by being made perfect right from salvation. All of us need to go through the process of sanctification, which will continue until Christ comes (see Philippians 1:6).
2) Faith that moves mountains
In Luke 17:5-6 we also read of Jesus using a mustard seed to teach us about faith:
"And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." So the Lord said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."
Many Christians around the world do not understand faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It is best illustrated by a man named Abraham:
- "So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him..." (see Genesis 12:4)
- "And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." (see Genesis 15:6)
- "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." (see Romans 4:20-21)
Faith is simply believing God, no matter what He says, even if we can't see anything yet.
Just a little amount of faith, Jesus said, is enough to cause trees and mountains to move at our word (see also Matthew 17:20).
3) A faith that starts small but reaches out to many
Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like a mustard tree that starts small but when it grows, birds come to nest in its branches.
The same goes for our faith, I believe.
Christians who grow in the Lord Jesus Christ shine for God's glory. They shine like lights in the night sky, guiding others to what is right according to God's word. He Himself said:
"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)