Signposts: Daily Devotions

Jesus put before them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
—Matthew 13:31

“A parable,” writes Frederick Buechner, “is a small story with a large point.”  Jesus told stories and parables all the time. In fact, if someone asked him a direct question, nine times out of ten, Jesus told a parable. It is a very effective way of making a point without insulting someone or being condescending. Parables engage our imagination. Parables do not give easy clear answers, though, and they often startle us.

Take this parable for example. Whoever thought of comparing a Kingdom to the tiniest seed in existence? People in Jesus’ time used to refer to a mustard seed when they spoke of the tiniest possible thing, like we’d talk about a tiny cell in the human body, or an infinitesimal speck of light.

What on earth was Jesus saying? Since it’s a parable, we don’t know for sure but it invites our speculation. Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like:

  • a spark of an idea that comes when you least expect it. You stop what you are doing and realize, That’s it! That’s the answer. You act on it, shocked that anyone pays attention to you, and you watch, amazed, as your idea becomes a reality. 
  • a conviction that comes to you as you read a newspaper article. You don’t know how, but you are going to change that condition even if you just make one phone call. You make the call; others are interested, too, and pretty soon you see changes in your community you never dreamed possible. 

You can make your own list now. The mustard seed parable tells us that small beginnings can have large consequences, surprising endings. It tells us to appreciate small rather than large; it tells us that "small" things matter, small acts, small words of kindness or conviction.

What mustard seed is growing in you?

Thank you, O God, for the joy and wonder of new beginnings of new hope, or new life. Amen.

Copyright © 2005 Margaret Jones.