The commentary for this week is an adapted excerpt from a Sermon about the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Ir clearly defines and describes the Kingdom of God, to me. I pray it will do the same for you.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."
Among this crowd that came to listen to Jesus were some scribes and Pharisees who had, unfortunately, perverted the whole purpose and mission of the Messiah. They had taken the ideas, the philosophies, the system of the world and applied it to the kingdom of God. Then Jesus came. He was poor, uneducated, and, in their eyes, insignificant. How could He be the One to fulfill that great mission of the Messiah, who was supposed to come as a conquering ruler and get rid of the Romans and establish the kingdom of God? In response to this false theology, Jesus spoke this parable of the mustard seed.
Three of the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — record the parable of the mustard seed. We are going to study this parable from Mark. Notice that Jesus began this parable by asking two questions. Mark 4:30:
Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?"
The Pharisees were trying to compare the kingdom of God to a typical kingdom of this world, except it would be stronger, it would be greater, it would be richer. Jesus was simply saying by these questions, "There is nothing in secular history, there is no earthly kingdom with which I can compare the kingdom of God because the kingdom of God is in complete opposition to anything that is human."
Ellen White touched on this in Christ Object Lessons page 77,
"Earthly governments prevail by physical force; they maintain their dominion by war; but the founder of the new kingdom [the kingdom of God] is the Prince of Peace. The Holy Spirit represents worldly kingdoms under the symbols of fierce beasts of prey [you will find this in the books of Daniel and Revelation]; but Christ is 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.' John 1:29. In His plan of government there is no employment of brute force to compel the conscience. The Jews looked for the kingdom of God to be established in the same way as the kingdoms of the world. [This is the part I want you to listen to.] To promote righteousness they resorted to external measures. They devised methods and plans. But Christ implants a principal. By implanting truth and righteousness He counteracts error and sin."
To Implant means to set in firmly, as into the ground; to insert or embed (such as an object or a device) (it could be surgically, implant a pacemaker); to graft or insert (a tissue a tissue) within the body. One of the uses of the word to sow is similar to implant. I think it is important for me to tell you this because we are talking about seeds. So we have here a contrast: the Jews, and most of us, modify behavior, God changes what motivates the behavior, by implanting a principle. To modify behavior the Jews imposed
rules and regulations. Of course, they never worked. So, they found loopholes for failing. And eventually, created more rules to accommodate failing.
Many today still want to follow the same methods as the Jews did: they want to impose upon you rules and regulations and tell you, "either shape up, or ship out." That is a worldly method. A Russian Marxist once told a Pastor, "We don't believe in five day non-smoking programs. That doesn't work. We believe in authority. When we pass a law, 'No smoking,' nobody smokes, because, if they do, they will have to swallow lead." God doesn't use that method. There was nothing in the worldly kingdom Christ could use for comparison.
So what did He do? He took a little seed from among the different spices they used in the Middle East, He took the smallest of the spices, a little round seed approximately one-thirty-second of an inch in diameter, (What this means is that if I took 32 mustard seeds and lined up side by side the line would an inch long.) So, Christ uses the seed to compare the Kingdom of God. Why? It is because the kingdom of God works in a completely different system. It does not work on the basis of rules and regulations. He implants in the life of the believer a new life, a new principal. When that life is released by germination and is allowed to develop, it produces a bush that is bigger than any other tree. (Germination is the process in which a plant or fungus emerges from a seed or spore, , and it begins to grow.) The mustard seed, the smallest of small seeds, Jesus says, produces a bush that is so big compared to the other herbs that the birds can come to rest on it and find shade.
I don't know how many of you have seen a mustard seed. Has anyone here seen a mustard seed? It looks like a grain of sand. Jesus used this seed as an example because there were bushes of mustard all over the area. It was a very common plant. They could see this mustard bush towering above all other herbs because, even though the seed was small, it produced a huge bush, as Jesus says in this parable. Jesus is comparing the kingdom of God with this mustard seed. Christ is saying that the kingdom of God does not begin by force. God doesn't take the kingdom of the world by force. He implants in the life of individuals, in the life of the church, a new life, a new principle. It starts very small then it grows. It starts as a belief and gradually grows into action. As long as that mustard seed sits in a bottle or jar it is useless as far as reproducing. But the moment you sow it, it starts to grow large. … and that's what the parable is talking about —Let turn to verses 3l-32:
It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.
When you sow the mustard seed into the ground something happens, because in that mustard seed is a life principle. There's a germ in it which has life in it. (Germ as in germination - ). That life is dormant until the seed is sown. When does that seed spring to life? That's one of the questions we are going to answer. Because when it does, it begins to grow and it grows it grows so large, Jesus says, that it covers the whole earth. Now Jesus, of course, was primarily referring to the establishment of the kingdom of God as part of the Christian church.
The Christian church began with a very small, insignificant group — twelve disciples. They were fishermen; they were peasants; they had no PhDs; they had no technology behind them; they had no budget; they were poor; they were insignificant; they counted for nothing in the eyes of the Pharisees and the scribes. But when we turn to Acts 17:6, which was only a few years later, that seed had germinated and grown so mightily that the enemies of the gospel accused the Christian church and the disciples of turning the world upside down:
Acts 17:6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
It was a small beginning, but what a great growth.