It is easy to see why Jesus chose the mustard plant for His parable on God’s Kingdom, but before we go there, let’s look at His first parable of the farmer and the seed.
As far as plants go, I fall into the category of “accidental gardener”. My house plants grow and flower (occasionally) despite my interference. I provide water on an irregular basis, dust them off sporadically and, when I remember, open the shades to let in sunlight. How my plants survive, let alone thrive, is a mystery to me. It is only through God’s grace that they grow.
Being a farmer in the time of Jesus was difficult. Without modern farming methods, fertilizers, pesticides and mechanical equipment: raising a crop bordered on the miraculous. It is no wonder we have so many prayers for the success of farmers and their harvests.
Farmer’s and others very lives depended on the success of their crops. But despite all their hard work and worry, all that farmers could do was: furrow the ground, spread the seed, hand pull weeds, chase away birds and rabbits, while praying for God’s merciful help to make crops grow. Although this may seem like a lot to do, it was really up to God to do what man could not – the impossible: give life to the seed; making it grow.
Today, we, who are commissioned by Christ to ‘make disciples of all nations’ can be likened to those farmers.
In living Christian lives we furrow the ground through good example of Christian living.
We spread the seed of God’s Word in sharing the Good News of the Gospel message.
In community, we encourage and support; giving hope to one another: keeping strong and alive our faith.
We weed out secular intrusions through our study of scripture; giving instruction and correcting errors that form the evil-one’s designs.
But most importantly, we pray: keeping faith in God; trusting in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to bring forth the abundant harvest of faithful disciples.
Through our prayer, practice and participation, we do the will of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but it is He who does the impossible – He brings us life everlasting and the means of salvation through His love and mercy.
God works in mysterious ways and according to His timetable. We are not to worry or fret, but trust in Him by doing His will. It is He who makes the seeds of faith sprout and hope rise, not we. His grace brings forth the grain and fruit of His mercy and love. He provides nourishment and shelter for all his children: as he cares for the birds of the sky, - the creatures in the sea - and all the beasts of the forest. It is His love that gives life and makes manifest His kingdom.
In the parable of the mustard seed we hear the phrase, “birds of the sky” which was an old Jewish phrase used to describe the Gentiles. Those who were not descendants of the tribes of Israel were known as “birds of the sky.” I’m not sure, but it may have been because they were not tied to the Promised Land. But Jesus using this phrase puts a different spin on His parable of the mustard plant.
Jesus tells us that the love of God is so great that if only a small part of it was used, a part the size of a mustard seed, it would grow into this enormous bush, “so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
By this Jesus announces that God’s love is for all people, not just for the tribes Israel. Jesus tells us that all God’s beloved children can find a home – a place of rest and refuge - in the Father’s Kingdom. God’s love excludes no one, but invites all to come into the shelter if His loving embrace.
While we work doing the will of God here in this world– it is He who provides the fruit of our labors – life - abundantly and everlasting. In remaining ever faithful: through prayer, practice and participation, we spread the seeds of faith: sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is God’s love and mercy – that brings forth from the seeds we scatter, “large branches, so that the ‘birds of the sky’ – (all God’s beloved) - can dwell in its shade,” in His heavenly Kingdom forever and ever. ~Amen