Seeds are amazing. Henry David Thoreau, not usually known as a friend to orthodox belief, spoke truth about seeds: “Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.” A single tomato seed can grow into a single plant that will put on up to 200 fruit–tomatoes are fruit, by the way–each of which contains 150 or more seeds. A typical tomato plant might yield 40 pounds of edibles and 30,000 potential new plants. Plus the vines of the plant will grow huge, requiring some sort of support for the best production and health.
And that’s really nothing compared to the mustard seed. Jesus famously compares the kingdom of God to that seed:
He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”–Matthew 13:31-32
I have to admit that, as one of the enlightened people who prefers mustard on his hot dogs, I was disappointed to learn that the mustard plant Jesus refers to here is not the one that French’s and others use to make that delightful yellow condiment. Instead, the plant referred to here is most likely the salvadora persica, the so-called toothbrush bush. These plants can grow as tall as 20 feet, which would certainly qualify it as “taller than the garden plants.” Its seed looks like dust.
Some proud academics, it seems, have discovered seeds that are actually smaller than Jesus’ mustard seed. Obviously this passage should said, “It’s the smallest of all the seeds, except for an orchid on a continent that you haven’t yet discovered and the size of which you won’t have the tools to measure for a couple thousand years.” Might it be that those who gleefully point out that the mustard seed is not actually the smallest of all the world’s seeds have missed the point? If so, then what is the point?
- The kingdom of God starts out as a small thing, but it can grow into something really large.
- The kingdom of God doesn’t look like much at the outset, but it can become something remarkable. (That’s really another way of saying the first item.)
- The kingdom of God, when fully grown, will bless others–as in the birds of the sky who nest there.
But I am left with a question. Who who is the man who sowed this seed in his field? Does the man represent the person who has sought the kingdom of God, as in Matthew 6:33, or is it God Himself doing the planting? In the previous parable, the wheat and tares, the farmer was God. I’m not sure here, though, if we are being called to plant it in ourselves or if God is doing the planting.
What do you think?