Mark 4:30-32 (NIV): Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
This parable actually speaks about the kingdom on two levels. At the time of Jesus’ ascension, He had about 120 committed followers, some of whom only became committed after His resurrection. After more than three years of teaching and doing miracles, many would consider that a very small and insignificant number. But it was only a mustard-seed beginning. On the day of Pentecost, the minute that seed broke through the ground it sprang quickly into a majestic tree when 3000 were added to the kingdom in a single day. That clearly demonstrates the powerful growth that is inherent in the seed of the kingdom.
But this parable also applies on an individual level. When the gospel seed is planted in the receptive soil of a person’s heart and grows to the harvest, it completely changes that person’s life from the inside out, making them into a genuinely new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). That alone is spectacular. But that by itself is also only a small beginning, much like those 120 believers gathered in the upper room. Changing a single life is never all that God has planned for that seed! Remember the seed planted in the good soil that produced 30, 60, or even 100 times what was originally planted (Mark 4:8, 20).
When the seed of the gospel takes root in a believer’s heart and is empowered by the Holy Spirit, the number of people that can be transformed by that new life is virtually unlimited. The small seed that has begun to grow begins to naturally stretch out and produce branches and twigs that grow and divide, continuing to impact and transform the lives of those around them.
It is impressive to see the Billy Grahams and Luis Palaus of the world and believe that we could never lead so many people to the Lord. But it is the same mustard-seed small beginning that is planted in every believer’s life. The difference in the fruitfulness of that seed is simply how committed to God’s kingdom agenda each person is. Those who give themselves completely to be used by God, who become clear channels through whom the Holy Spirit can work unhindered, will produce the huge kingdom growth that His seed within them is designed to produce. Those who hold part of themselves back from God’s transforming power, who won’t leave behind their old habits and patterns of thought, or who won’t get involved in bringing more people to Jesus, will find the growth in themselves stymied. They won’t produce the astonishing kingdom growth of which they are capable in Jesus, and they will ultimately see even the small beginning that He has made in them shrivel up and die.
Father, how easy it is for us to look at ourselves and say, “I could never tell people about Jesus. I could never be used by God to grow His kingdom in spectacular ways.” It sounds humble and self-effacing, but in reality it shows a deep lack of faith in what Your power and Holy Spirit can accomplish, even in someone like me. Lord, help me today to grow Your kingdom – to produce even a small branch or two that will grow and multiply, until Your kingdom fills the earth. Amen.