I don’t really like mustard. But that’s beside the point. In today’s passage we have an oft quoted parable. I think people like it because, like its subject, it’s short. In any case people love this parable, but I think maybe for a misguided reason. As I read this parable the familiar phrase in my mind was “faith like a mustard seed”. Every heard that before? Often we think of the “Parable of the Mustard Seed” being about what a tiny amount of faith can do. But Jesus isn’t talking about faith here. He’s comparing the mustard seed to the Kingdom of God, not faith. It’s not about a tiny amount of faith. It’s actually about a huge amount of faith. It’s about having a faith that says yes to the idea that the smallest of seeds can (and will) have a massive impact. This parable appears in all three synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke), and in none of them does the word “faith” appear. They all compare the seed to the kingdom.
He says, “with what can we compare the kingdom of God?”. The Kingdom of God is like the mustard seed: First of all, it’s small and unassuming. That is, it is like a little baby “nobody”, born of a poor “nobody” unwed teenage girl who happens to be favored by God, and is engaged to a hard working “nobody” carpenter, and for whom there is no room. It’s unassuming, small, and unimportant, yet will still be seen, even in its smallness, as a serious threat to the religious and governmental powers of the time.
This kingdom starts small and humble, and it finds its power in being small and humble as it lays itself down to be buried by the earth; and when it does, it breaks wide open into an untamable weed (for that’s what a mustard plant is) that takes over and in whom shelter, safety, protection and a home is found by others. God’s kingdom starts small, and then is for the world a weed that the world would like to prune, but in whom many find a home. Let’s just let that in.
Make no mistake: This is not a parable about small faith. This is a parable about huge faith. the kind of faith that believes that the tiny mustard seed can grow to become the greatest of all shrubs. The kind of faith that believes a common little baby from the carpenter trade, will break open and birth new life to the world. Thy kingdom come…