“It is like a grain of mustard seed… the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:31-32)
Although Mark is prominently a book of Jesus’ mighty works, recording nineteen miracles and only four parables, it is still clear that the wonderful Worker Is also a trustworthy Teacher: John the Baptist is a preacher, and Jesus also is introduced as a preacher, taking up and enlarging the message of John. Striking references are made to His originality, methods, popularity and matchlessness as a teacher (Mark 1:22). A miracle is definitely declared to be for the purpose of instruction (Mar 2:10), and the implication is frequent that His miracles were not only the dictates of His compassion, but also purposed self-revelations. Not only is He Himself a teacher, but He is concerned to prepare others to be teachers (Mar 3:13-14).
In his teaching about the main subject – the Kingdom of God – the Lord uses the illustration of seeds that are planted and result in edible fruit or large trees in ways far beyond the understanding of farmer (Mark 4:26-32). This must have made little sense to those who listened to the Lord when he was sowing this gospel seed; many Jews were not buying it, especially the leaders. How would it become a great tree? How would it survive the persecution of the Jewish authorities, let alone the Roman imperialists? Indeed the gospel has been met with adverse conditions and numerous attempts to wipe it off the surface of the earth, but it still thrives, and thrives really big today. Symbolically, the birds that come to perch nests on the large tree have even much less understanding of how the little seed grew into such a structure. Remember the ignorance expressed in parts of this hymn:
I know not how this saving faith to me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His word wrought peace within my heart.
I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in Him.
What we don’t know does not stop the reality from continuing. The seed of the gospel is potent and alive; when buried, it won’t just stay in the ground. It will sprout at some point, and beat the odds of weather and winds and grow, taking to the skies and standing firm and tall. The tree serves the farmer, the strangers who rest in the shade under it, the birds of the air, and the animals that eat the fruits falling down. Similarly, the benefits of the good news are for a wide variety of people. Our role is to spread this gospel; what we sow may look tiny and in danger, but God will bring up somehow.
But, “I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able
to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”