October 11, 2012

Giant Cedars and Tiny Mustard Seeds

Ezekiel 31:1-9; Mark 4:30-32

“The kingdom of God is like … the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants.”
—Mark 4:30-32


To receive the full impact of Jesus’ parables, it’s important to understand some things about the Old Testament. For example, Jesus uses an old image from Ezekiel to tell a familiar sounding story with surprising twists. In Ezekiel 31 the world-dominating power of Assyria was compared to a huge cedar tree with far-reaching branches. Its authority spread as far as the eye could see.

But Jesus alters the old story by telling a parable about the kingdom of God as a mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds in those days. Though some considered it an invasive species, it grew to become the largest of all garden plants.

Jesus was saying that although it might not look like much, the kingdom of God would grow to become like a sprawling tree under which all the nations would find refuge and blessing. The good news of the kingdom would spread wide from Jesus’ tiny group of followers, whom some despised. And today we can see that it has spread throughout the world.

Just as God explains in Isaiah 51:2, “When I called [Abraham] he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.” When God is in control, one tiny element can be a powerful influence. If you feel insignificant, take heart; God can use you to accomplish great things for his kingdom!

Almighty God, we are amazed that you can use us to grow your kingdom. Reform our thinking patterns so we can honor you and live out the truths of this parable. Amen.

About the author — Dean Deppe

Dean Deppe has been a pastor in inner-city, suburban, and rural ­churches. Currently he teaches New Testament theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. His courses include one on the parables of Jesus. He and his wife have four grown children.

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