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The Parable of the Mustard Seed and its application for Today’s Christians (Mark 4:30-32)


The Parable of the Mustard Seed and its application for Today’s Christians (Mark 4:30-32)

Mark 4:30-32

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. (ESV)

I.                    The Insignificant Beginning of the Kingdom (V. 31)

Mark 4: 31- It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 
The mustard seed was proverbial in Judaism for its smallness.[1] On one occasion, Jesus told the disciples that with faith the size of a mustard seed could move the mountain (Mathew 17:20). I came across one blog called www.diogenesii.wordpress.com/ the writer wrote against the Mustard seed as the smallest seed in the world. In his article, what is the smallest seed in the world? He says-

The world’s smallest seeds, which have no endosperm and contain underdeveloped embryos, are produced by certain epiphytic orchids (family Orchidaceae) in the tropical rainforest. Some seeds are only 1/300th of an inch (85 micrometres) long, which is below the resolving power of the unaided human eye. One seed weighs only 1/35,000,000th of an ounce (0.81 micrograms). Orchid seeds are dispersed into the air like minute dust particles and come to rest in the upper canopy of rainforest trees, where they eventually germinate... Keeping in mind that fact that the Bible has been copied and translated so many times that it is likely we will never know for sure what he actually said, I think we can agree that Jesus spoke allegorically and not literally when he said that the mustard plant has the smallest seed on earth and that it is the largest shrub on earth.[2]

The writer of this article should understand that Jesus is not trying to give a lecture on Botany but he is teaching proverbially. As I have mentioned above that the mustard seed was proverbial for its smallness in 1st century Judaism. For those Jews (1st century Judaism), the mustard seed is the smallest in the world. And according to the Mishnah, it is cultivated for both its grain and its leaves, was grown in a field rather than in a garden.[3]  And also the writer of this article does not believe in the reliability of the New Testament. It is true, the Bible has been copied so many times (copies of Biblical manuscripts) but it is still reliable. FF Bruce says, “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”

II.                 The Kingdom that encompasses the whole at the end (V. 32)

Mark 4:32- Yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.
And this smallest seed (Mustard seed), when it is sown on the ground it grows up and become larger than all the garden plants. The mustard plant grows to a height of up to three and a half meters.[4] Therefore, it is very much possible that this garden plant put out branches which the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. And the phrase “the birds of the air” represents the Gentiles who will find a place in the kingdom of God. According to Ancient Near East worldview, empires are depicted as great trees (Ezekiel 17:1–24; 31:1–14). It is even more vividly stated in Daniel 4. In the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, he saw a tree which symbolized the Assyrian and Babylonian empires and under which birds and animals find protection.[5]

Application:

The ministry of Jesus Christ starts small and insignificant but, in the end, it will encompass all the kingdoms of the earth when He returns. We should not forget that Mark is writing to those suffering Christians who are affected by the persecution. Those Christians, having seen the power and glory of the Romans empire, they belittled the growth of Christianity. Mark is encouraging them that even though the kingdom starts with insignificancy, the result be will be glamorous like the mustard seed.

Therefore, let us be faithful in our conducts as well as let us be faithful in spreading the word of God in every nook and corner. Sometimes, seeing the prosperity of the worldly kingdom, perhaps we may be discouraged. But those worldly glory and our hardships should not overrule the coming glorious kingdom. For the worldly people, we might be so insignificant since the gospel of Christ is a mockery to them who do not believe. But the coming Kingdom is certainly glamorous like that of mustard plants. As the bible says in Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV)

Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Yes, on that day, every nation from both Jews and Gentiles shall bow before Him and confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord. Amen.


[1] Strauss, M. L. (2014). Mark. (C. E. Arnold, Ed.) (p. 199). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[3] Guelich, R. A. (1989). Mark 1–8:26 (Vol. 34A, p. 249). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[4] UBS Study Notes. (2001). (Mk 4:32). New York: United Bible Societies.
[5] Strauss, M. L. (2014). Mark. (C. E. Arnold, Ed.) (p. 200). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.