It’s been a couple of Sundays since we heard Jesus’s parable of the mustard seed, but I’m sharing a take on it I heard that I think might get your brain rolling. Recently a post on Twitter shed a little more reflection onto this parable than what we normally hear. Perhaps you’ve heard, but mustard plants in the Middle East are considered a weed. What does this even mean?
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13: 31-32)
It’s short and sweet. What can we glean from such a short reading? At first glance, it tells s a little about how Jesus views the Kingdom of God: small to great. To get more out of the reading, we need context to help us.
Why Mustard Seeds?
It so happens that I have a collection of mustard seeds from the Holy Land. Strange thing to have, but this is what happens sometimes. The most comparable seed we have that is accessible in North America would be peppermint seeds — which are about the same size; they just smell different. They are about as small as a speck of dust. When Jesus was referring to small, He wasn’t kidding! Being so small, these seeds were extremely lightweight and were carried everywhere.
I ask you to consider what that means in terms of a plant — small and light seeds that are easily carried by the wind … I mean, they’re no dandelion, but the dandelion would be considered a close call in weediness to the mustard plant!
Jesus tells us that a man goes and plants mustard seeds. THIS is what He is telling us the Kingdom is like — a man going and planting seeds considered weed-like. The Kingdom of God as a weed? Curious!
God’s Kingdom Is Like a Weed
Isn’t it just like Jesus to take a normal story of sowing in a field and turn it upside down? Yes, a crop of weeds. And not ONLY that, but the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.
I imagine the farmers in the crowd saying something like:
Those pesky birds that eat my grain and eat the fruits, they’re the ones invited to nest in the branches of a crop of weeds? So the scarecrow — it’s a thing of the past now?
This parable is a bit topsy-turvy, isn’t it? It doesn’t AT ALL negate the meaning of smallest to largest, but it adds in a layer of understanding that is lost on us when we gloss over Scripture (big culprit here, too).
So: What IS This Kingdom Then?
Great question. God’s Kingdom is here to upset the order of how things have been. It is not going to look like how we expected it to. This subersive little weed of a seed is a threat. It was a regulated crop in that it had to be carefully limited so that it wold not turn the other crop fields into mustard fields. It was a useful plant, but had to be monitored. We are called to be as threatening as that mustard seed is to other crops. This is the Kingdom of God. And the birds of the air will come and nest in this kingdom’s branches.
Crazy to look at it this way, isn’t it?
How is God’s kingdom growing in you? Are you spreading and inviting as a mustard seed does?
Copyright 2018 Jane Korvemaker