Mark 4. 30-32: “He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.””
As usual I like to see the scriptures from a historical view. Too often we, as 21st century American’s try to interpret what Jesus said in light of our times, and do a disservice to them. Thus the washing of feet becomes a foot massage, etc. Comfort in antiquity was very different than today, and poverty was severe, not merely less than most. They were an agronomist society, their well being depended on their crops, the health of their animals, the weather, and the effort put into the maintenance of these things. In addition to this, Israel was a separated, segregated nation, they were the children of Israel, separated unto Jehovah. They were steeped in the words of Moses, the psalmists, and the prophets. They were to reject all other nations gods, and culture. They had plaques with the words of the Torah written on them hanging on their walls by way of reminder, they had passages and psalms memorized, and learned from their priests and scribes. In a limited literate society they remember every word spoken by their teachers.
Jesus teachings and parables were all aimed at this society, this down to earth, everyday level, understood language. He used crops, planting, animals, nature, and common interactions to explain the spiritual. Knowing that they knew the scriptures as well, He often referred to them to add spiritual depth to the examples. For He was introducing to them the New Covenant as promised in the prophets writings.
Todays parable is such a teaching. In Ezekiel 17.23 the prophet is speaking about how the nation Israel has turned from Jehovah, and gone after other nations gods. Adding another level of abomination to their long list of neglect. Rather than exulting in the blessings of Jehovah and reaching out to the poor amongst them, they have stored their wealth, bought idols from the gentiles, and rejected the One whom they owed their prosperity to. Ezekiel calls out their sin, and warns of impending judgement. In his condemnations of their sin, he reminds them that Jehovah will pluck a branch from the top of a great Cedar, plant it, care for it, and as it grows into a mighty tree, all the birds of the air, (nations,) will come to it for shade and comfort.
Jesus draws upon this prophecy when He describes the mustard seed in Mark 4.30. The kingdom of Jehovah is just like this tiny mustard seed, when planted, watered, and cared for, it will become larger than all the other plants in the garden and birds from everywhere will come to rest in its’ shade.
This is a picture of the New Covenant, which is grace. John 1.14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The one major thing that separates Christianity from all other religion is Grace. Which includes forgiveness of wrong doings, restoration to the fold, and everlasting life. Jesus brought grace with Him, and we who believe have received it, John 1.16. Like the lost sheep in Luke 15, the shepherd does all the work, the sheep is merely lost, the sheep is entangled, all he does is let himself be rescued. The good shepherd seeks, finds, and restores the animal to the fold, that’s grace!
My friends I pray that you find comfort and rest in these word’s from our master, Jesus the Messiah, full of grace and truth.