30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.Mark 4:30-34 (NIV)
Have you seen one of those cartoons in which a character takes a small snowball and sends it down a snow-covered hill? As the snowball moves down the hill, it gathers snow and momentum, enlarging in size. Usually the enlarged snowball picks up other characters and items along the way. The scene often ends with the huge snowball smashing into something at the bottom of the hill which sends the accumulated characters and debris flying through the air. The increase in size, momentum, and accumulation is the image which I place before you today.
Our passage from the Gospel according to Mark presents a scene in which Jesus is teaching one of the crowds. Here Jesus is providing imagery in an attempt to help the people understand what the Kingdom of God is like. A mustard seed is the object Jesus brings to their minds. He points out that it is one of the smallest seeds in creation. Once the seed is planted and grows, it becomes a plant large enough for birds to rest in for shade from the heat.
When we consider this imagery in relation to God’s Kingdom, we can imagine the planting of a small seed in the lives of individuals. After planting, the seed grows and becomes stronger. Momentum builds in the growing process. The size increases as it gathers from around it. Eventually it becomes a haven and a place of rest for others.
This imagery places each of us in three distinct roles within God’s Kingdom. First, we are the ones who receive the starting Kingdom seed. The seed is planted in our lives where we nurture it and encourage it to grow. Second, we become the planters of the seed. We bring it into the lives of others and introduce them to our Lord’s Kingdom. Third, as the Kingdom expands and enlarges, we become like the birds and find shelter from the heat of life within the Kingdom. The momentum of God’s Kingdom increases in our world.