Holy Land Dispatch - Day Thirteen: Mustard Seed
18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches." - Luke 13:18-21
Several years ago, during a trip to the Holy Land, we were walking on the trail that leads to the summit of Mt. Arbel, which overlooks the Sea of Galilee, and our guide pointed out mustard plants. He took a dried pod from one of the plants, crushed it and let us look at the tiny seeds inside. They looked like specks in his hand, insignificant, too small to be a seed--more like a bit of dust.
One of the many things I've learned from my trips to the Holy Land is that Jesus' teachings were often object lessons drawn from the world around him. He would point to things (consider the lilies of the field) that were near him as he taught and often use popular sayings (a city on a hill) to help illuminate his teachings.
I can imagine Jesus doing as our guide did that day on Mt. Arbel, pulling dried pods off a mustard plant, and showing the seeds to his hearers. He might have been surrounded at that moment by the towering plants, some of them bright yellow with the bloom of their flowers and perhaps even filled with birds.
Jesus lesson that day was a powerful one. In the kingdom of God, all it takes is as much faith as you've got--even if it isn't very much--to accomplish incredible things.
The lectionary passage from today is a famous saying of Jesus that we find elsewhere in the Gospels as well. "If you have faith like a mustard seed," Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew, "you will say to this mountain move from here to there and it will move." Then he adds, "Nothing will be impossible for you."
Some days all I have is a mustard seed's worth of faith. I have had seasons of stress and strife when it's all I can do to hold on to that little seed of faith. During those times of my life, I've sometimes struggled to understand what God is up to, or (I have to admit) I've wondered if God even cares at all.
I take such comfort from Jesus' words here. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. In God's economy, if all I've got is a tiny seed of faith, that's all God needs to grow something huge. It's like God takes a look at that little bit of faith that I'm barely hanging on to, and says, "All right! NOW we've got something to work with! Let's move these mountains of doubt and fear and make space for something to grow!"
While I am sure that God would rather we be filled with confidence and strong faith in Him, I think that God relishes the challenge to show off a bit when all we can do is hold up our tiny seeds. Because in those moments we've got no where else to turn. In those moments we have to let go of our pride and self-centeredness and rely fully on him to take that seed and grow it.
May you find enough faith today (even if it's only a little) to hand over to God and trust that God will do something amazing with it. May you be filled with the confidence that even during times of trial, God is still working, still growing your seeds of faith into great trees filled with hope.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.