30 Then Jesus said, “How can I show you what the kingdom of God is like? What story can I use to explain it? 31 The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 But when planted, this seed grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants. It produces large branches, and the wild birds can make nests in its shade.” 33 Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand. 34 He always used stories to teach them. But when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them. ~ Mark 4:30-34
Today, we return to Mark 4 where the Lord Jesus is teaching the disciples about the Kingdom of God. The term "Kingdom of God" occurs some sixty times in the first three Gospels. If we have a kingdom, there has to be a king. And, this King is our Heavenly Father.
Broadly speaking, the Kingdom of God is God's operating system for the universe. It reveals how things really are supposed to be. And, more narrowly, the kingdom of God is the spiritual rule of God over the hearts and the lives of all who willingly submit to His authority.
In Matthew 6:32-33, the Lord Jesus said, "Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."
Seeking the kingdom of God is seeking to be defined by God. It is taking to heart what God has said on a given subject. And, as always, God has our best in mind for us. If He says, "Wait to have sex until you get married," then we wait to have sex until we get married. If He says, "Do not drink alcohol to the point of getting drunk," then we do not drink alcohol to the point of getting drunk. The "kingdom of God" is merely the definitions of God applied to our daily lives.
In v.30-32 of today's passage we read, "30 Then Jesus said, 'How can I show you what the kingdom of God is like? What story can I use to explain it? 31 The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 But when planted, this seed grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants. It produces large branches, and the wild birds can make nests in its shade.'"
In His teaching, the Lord Jesus frequently used the mustard seed as a symbol of faith. In fact, in Matthew 17:20, He said, "... if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
The mustard seed is a great symbol of faith because it has certain qualities: First of all, it has an inherent capacity for growth. A seed is able to grow, and so can faith. In fact, faith that is not used will not grow; but if it is used, it grows. When we trust Him in little things, we learn to trust Him in the bigger things. But, the issue really isn't the trust. The issue is knowing Him, and, we do not know Him without placing our trust in Him. And, the more we get to know Him, the more we will love Him.
The mustard seed bush is no more than eight to ten feet in height. It is a rather insignificant and unimpressive bush. Here, the Lord Jesus illustrates the absurdness of faith that grows. For us humans, in our fallen state, faith in the God of the Bible, is not normal. But, it is possible for humans to have faith in the God of the Bible which grows with use. So, the Lord Jesus uses this parable of the lowly mustard seed to illustrate His point. He is using the absurd to illustrate the absurd.
In doing so, the Lord Jesus is communicating a secret of His kingdom. This mustard seed is supposed to be lowly and unimpressive, yet it becomes something that has a great effect on others. And, the purpose of the seed is it grows up to be a bush which provides shelter for the birds. And, the mustard bush provides more than just shade for birds, it also provides a spice that makes food taste good. In addition to that, it also has medicinal purposes.
In v.33-34 of today's passage we read, "33 Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand. 34 He always used stories to teach them. But when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them."
By using parables, the Lord Jesus was able to share truths that immediately connected with His listeners. When these truths corresponded with things from their daily lives-like bread baking, farming, and traveling, His hearers largely understood. As a result, the people became more engaged so that in their minds they experienced the story for themselves. When the Lord Jesus taught in parables, He engaged the people’s imaginations, allowing them to arrive at the most important truths in life.
If we are willing to let Him, God will build His kingdom wherever we are today. When we trust in Him, deeply, concluding He is truly with us and He is actively guiding every one of our steps, we can let go of the anxious worry that we tend to hold onto. We can be fully where we are, in each moment, and enjoy our incredible Creator and His work in and through our lives.
George Mueller was a German Christian whose most impressive work was done among and for orphans. On one occasion, the orphans were dressed and ready for school, but there was no food for them to eat. Mueller ordered the three hundred children into the dining room and had them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. Mueller knew God would provide food for the children. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. So, I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.” Just a moment later there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. So, the milkman asked Mr. Mueller if he could use some free milk. Mr. Mueller smiled as the milkman brought in ten large containers of milk. It was just enough milk for the 300 thirsty children. Such is the nature of faith in God and His kingdom which makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.