The following is a sample chapter from my upcoming new book, “The Red Letter Parables,” due this fall. The book is a chronological look at forty of the most beloved parables of Jesus. In each chapter, we will be “zooming in” on the individual parable, of course, but we will also be “zooming out” to see how they all connect together to tell an even greater story, much like the pixels in a digital photograph are just tiny pieces of information until they are knit together to create a beautiful and memorable picture. Plus, the book as a whole will also be looking at Jesus, Himself, as the Master Storyteller. OK, I’ll give you a hint. The “how, when and to whom” these stories were told does play a role in how the underlying story fits together. But you’ll just have to read the book, I guess, to find out how.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” [Matthew 13:31-32]
So what do you think? Should the size of a seed matter, if we apply some of the other lessons we learned throughout the Scriptures? King David was the smallest and youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. He should have been disqualified immediately. He was also much, much smaller than Goliath, the Philistine champion, and we know how that turned out. But, OK, David had two equalizers. First of all, he was really good with a slingshot and a smooth stone. And secondly (and most importantly), God was on his side. Need I say more?
The poor widow, in Luke 21, only gave two small, copper coins (a mere pittance compared to what many of the richer folks gave), but it was considered to be a more worthy gift because “it was all she had.” The richer folks may have given more, in terms of the amount of money donated, but it was only a small percentage of their riches. So it was not thought to be as worthy of a gift as the poor widow, because the Lord does not weigh amounts as to how our gifts are measured. Rather, He is looking to the attitude of our hearts, again, just as we learned in the last chapter. He would prefer us to be among those who only gave a little, if it was all we had, to those who gave a lot, but it cost them little compared to what they possessed.
And maybe the clearest example of all is found in Luke 9, where Jesus, Himself, teaches that it is “the least among you..” that shall be considered the greatest. So often, we learn that the physical world is sort of like an upside down cake (ooh.. I love those!!) when compared to the spiritual world, which the Lord would rather have us walking around in on a daily basis. Yes, even right now. We do not have to wait until we get to Heaven to start applying these kingdom principles. The Kingdom of God has come down to us through Jesus Christ and we are empowered to walk in it by His Holy Spirit. If you are born again, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, you can see the Kingdom of God, right here and right now. Jesus told him, “..that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” He did not say “..will become Spirit.” He said “..is Spirit.” He was speaking in the present tense, not future tense.
And when we look at creation, it is plain to see that many of these “kingdom principles” are already at work in this world. I think the mustard seed is one of the best and clearest examples of that. Don’t you? Here we have this tiny little seed, that when it is placed in good soil and the weeds are kept away, can grow to be larger than the other plants in the garden. It says it even is considered to be a tree, one in which the birds can nest. There are those birds again. This time they are not eating the seed, they are being more patient and waiting until the seed grows into a future home. Ok, well, no one said they weren’t smart. If they ate up all the seeds, they would never have a home, right?
Couldn’t we also apply these “kingdom principles” to the very stories that the Master Storyteller was telling? Many of these, as we have already seen and discussed, were only one or two verses long. They were not long-winded or filled with flowery speech meant to entertain or captivate an audience for a considerably amount of time. You know how some people are, once they get in front of an audience, they like to hold onto it as long as they can. I think it is an ego thing, to some extent. It is more pleasing to themselves, than to the audience sometimes.
Jesus was not like that at all. Short, sweet and boy, was He ever “to the point.” No doubt, our Lord and Savior was wiser than wise. He steered clear of that trap of talking too much. He stayed laser-focused on the truth, the precise message His Father sent Him to convey. He was certainly not one who spoke just because He liked to hear Himself talk. I have known quite of few people in my life who did. How about you? Have you bumped into one or two of those in your life? And don’t say me. Hey, I’m writing a book here. I’m supposed to elaborate, right?
It seems that the way in which this “little story,” with potentially a big impact for “those who have the ears to hear,” fits into the larger story being told by the Master Storyteller has more to do with the end or the story than the beginning. The “Kingdom Answer” that is revealed here is more about the resulting tree than the seed from which it sprouted. And isn’t that often the case, when we talk about spiritual things.
It matters not where we started or where we came from. No, it’s where we end up that counts, meaning Heaven of course. We are all seeds, to start with (physically and spiritually). We all need to be planted in good soil, be protected from the weeds and be properly fed and watered, if we are ever to bring forth good fruit. And of course, the more fruit we each produce, the more seeds there are to scatter about. There is a gigantic “domino effect” at work here, even though most of us do not always see that potential.
How many times have we heard the slogan, “Just bring one.” In essence, it implies that if each of us during our lifetime (and there are roughly 1.8 billion people who profess to be Christians in the world today), just managed to bring one person to Christ, that would mean another 1.8 billion souls who would escape the consequences of sin and death and receive eternal life. And that is just counting those of us who are alive today. What an amazing harvest that would be, to say the least.
But that is not how this all works, according to God’s grace and mercy. If one of us saves just one, that person may save one or more and those may go forth and save one or more…and on and on it goes. There is this chance for exponential growth in all of this, where the one person you lead to Christ could result in dozens, maybe even hundreds or more, all eventually calling upon the name of Jesus and entering into His eternal Kingdom, all because of one act of faith, one attempt at sharing the Gospel.
The results could amaze you, but you’ll never know unless you try. It all starts with one seed. One little seed that grows into an entire tree, one big enough for the birds to nest in. A tree big enough to produce a whole lot of mustard (who is not thankful for that?) and a tree big enough to produce thousands of more seeds that all have the potential to start the ball rolling all over again.
The moral of this little story, I think is…REALIZE YOUR POTENTIAL, in Christ.
Our Lord is not big on the whole “one and done” philosophy.
He is much more about “being fruitful and multiplying.”
Amen to that!!!