Jesus Feeding the 5,000

A daily devotion for May 18th

The Mustard Seed

He told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.

Matthew 13:31-32

Our Lord employed here a symbol which he expected these people to understand. Mustard is a peculiar kind of seed, with a pungency. It is biting, irritating, disturbing. So our Lord is using a very apt symbol by which he indicates that the message of the kingdom of God is intended to be arousing, irritating, disturbing, among men. Turned loose, it will excite and stir up a whole community, either negatively or positively.

Our Lord calls particular attention to another property of mustard. It is the smallest of all seeds. If you have seen a mustard seed you know that it is small, but not the smallest of seeds. Many have been disturbed by this, as though our Lord was mistaken. But a common proverb used the mustard seed as a symbol of smallness or insignificance — small as a mustard seed, it said. Our Lord employs the mustard seed in this way, proverbially. He is stressing the apparent insignificance of the gospel. It does not look or sound like much. You proclaim, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. That does not sound very impressive to many people. It is so simple that you can teach it to children. So the world is not very impressed with it. But let someone actually believe it, and see what happens. Let them really trust Christ and invite him into their life and it is revolutionary.

Notice also that this tree has many great branches, in which birds make their nests. Here in the parables in Matthew 13 our Lord tells us what the birds mean. In the first parable he said that when the seed of the word falls on a hardened heart, the birds, representing the evil one, come and snatch it away. If the Lord had not said that, we might not have read this in that way. This parable is sometimes seen as a picture of the gospel going out to all the world, growing into an impressive church, filled with song birds. But that is opposite to how our Lord uses them. These are not song birds; they are vultures and buzzards, apt symbols of evil persons and evil ideas which make their home in God's church. This is demonstrated in our day by leaders of the church who bring a flood of evil concepts which have ruined the hearts and minds of people.

Father, Thank you for the pungent, fiery nature of the Gospel and the Kingdom. Help me trust your powerful, transforming gospel to work in this dark and broken world.

Life Application

Is my faith like a mustard seed, growing in power and impact until it stirs and arouses a community?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages

The Case of the Ambitious Seed

Listen to Ray