Matthew 13:31–33 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
(Mk 4:30–32; Lk 13:18–19)
31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 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.”
The Parable of the Yeast
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
Matthew 13:44–52 (NRSV)
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Treasures New and Old
51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
There is much that can be pulled out of these short parables. The words that Jesus taught us are filled with amazing power when we allow the words to saturate our very souls. This is the point of Jesus teachings. When the word takes root in the core of our being it begins to transform us. At times, it may take a season to grow or it may raise within us seemingly overnight.
Grains of divine wisdom.
A mustard seed. Within a simple seed is contained the mysteries of the universe. To most it is just a seed. It grows, it produces a seed, and it dies. A simple seed tells the story of your life. For some that story is just what I said a seed grows, produces a seed, and dies. Many live their lives thinking that that is the only story. Consider the emptiness of that life. So many live only gazing upon that. Their only hope is found in the impending end. But is there more? Is there more to life than growth, reproduction, and death.
“The kingdom is like a mustard seed,” Jesus says. Within a seed is contained all the life and the kingdom. What is a mustard seed? For a wheat farmer mustard is a weed. It contaminates the crop, it robs what we find as being of value of the very nutrients and moisture necessary for it to flourish. Yet the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Can you imagine what it is like for me a man who spend years of his life living my life trying to control the mustard weed, only to be told that the kingdom is like the very source of all my trouble?
The kingdom of Heaven, Jesus says, may not be what you think. The Kingdom is like a mustard seed. Though it is often a weed, a plant that brings such distress to the fields there is more. This seed may grow, it may take root but it is much more than just a plant. It can provide shelter to a bird, shade from the harsh rays of the sun but there is much more. This seed also brings flavor to life. Can we imagine a hot dog at the Royals game without a paste made from the seeds of this weed?
The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. This same seed can offer some health benefits. Before modern medicines were invented the inhabitants of the frontiers would use mustard to treat respiratory infections. And if you speak to an essential oil tradesperson they could probably tell you several other ailments the oil of this weed could treat.
This plant has many impressive properties, the oil that it produces can be used for cooking oils, biofuels, and because of the toxicity (yes toxic) qualities of the acid within the mustard seed it can be used as an organic pesticide. The kingdom of Heaven is like this mustard seed. A small seed packed with the mysteries of the universe. A seed filled with flavor, healing, protection, and power.
The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, but it is also like yeast. Yeast is an amazing little fungus. The discovery of this single celled fungus is often credited with the rise of civilization. It was the discovery of fermentation that inspired the ancients to domesticate grains, and the domestication of grains encourage the ancients to leave the hunting and gathering lifestyle to become agrarian. This agrarian lifestyle then prompted the rise of cities and empires.
The rise of the agrarian life also found new uses for this little fungus. As grains were ground into flour they found that when mixed with water and yeast the resulting dough would expand and rise. We know that this mixture is then used to bake bread, a staple of our diet, unless you ascribe follow Dr. Atkins.
The kingdom of heaven brings flavor, healing, protection, power, entertainment, and substance. Yet the very thing Jesus uses to explain the kingdom are so often seen as a weed and a poison to society. Think about this for a moment. How can something so good, be seen in such a poor light. How can something filled with such potential also be filled with detrimental characteristics?
Jesus then tells those around him that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure, a treasure hidden in a field. A treasure that was found and rehidden and the one that found it. This person who found this great treasure did whatever they could to obtain that field. They sold all they had, everything to gain this one thing. A treasure buried in a field. A treasure greater than the finest pearl.
Great gain. Unimaginable gain. A treasure that is worth everything that we could possibly ever have to offer and more. That is the kingdom. It is a treasure beyond our wildest dream. It is something that brings flavor, healing, protection, entertainment, power, and sustenance. The Kingdom of heaven is like a seed, a treasure in a field, a pearl.
A pearl. Something that started as a single grain of sand causing an irritation within a clam. Layer upon layer is added to this single grain of sand as the clam attempts to protect itself from this irritation. The clam suffers and from that suffering a jewel of value is produced. The treasure in the field requires the giving of everything in an attempt to obtain the unimaginable. What could inspire such sacrifice?
The pearl, the treasure, the seed, the yeast all point to one thing. Flavor, healing, protection, power, entertainment, sustenance, and everything of value requires work. And that work is found in the little things. The entire mystery of life is found in a seed, a single celled fungus, a treasure buried in a field, a pearl of value that began as a small insignificant grain of sand. Everything of value is found in the little things.
Little things, the irritations, the pains and discomforts, do you understand what Jesus is saying? The disciples of old said, “Yes, sure we understand.” The truth is that they did not know. How could they possibly understand the mystery of the universe being embodied in a tiny seed? How can we possibly understand the vastness of God being embodied in a human body, that was formed inside the womb of a teenage girl?
Everything mentioned in these parables revolves around relationships and lifestyles within those relationships. It is our relationships between God, humanity and nature that brings flavor to our lives. It is our relationships with God, humanity and nature that offers healing, and protection. It is also those relationships that can bring pain and toxicity. It is those relationships that can give power and strength, it is those relationships that can bring joy, it is those relationships that bring irritation. It is those relationships allow us to survive and those relationships that can sap energy right out of us.
Are our relationships building pearls or are they causing infection? Are they adding flavor or leaving us sick? Are they bringing joy or driving those around us into addiction and despair? Are we a healing balm to those around us or are we a repellent? Are we a weed or are we living a disciplined life under the care of a divine gardener? Do we understand what Jesus is telling us?
The mysteries of the universe are written in the genes of a single seemingly insignificant seed. The mysteries are transcribed in a single celled fugus, and are incorporated in the very fibers of who we are. We are humans, created in the image of God, stewards of all creation empowered to love as He has loved us. We were made to grow, reproduce, and give all we have for His glory.
The mystery, the story of the seed is the same for everyone who has ever lived. The perspective is the difference. Those that hear the voice of God and respond become the life givers and those that reject the call become death. We grow, we reproduce, and we die. But what do we do along that journey? We can add flavor, healing, protection, energy, joy and sustenance or we can bring bitterness, irritation, toxicity, destruction, and famine. The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, gathering every type of fish. And that net is pulled to shore and the angels will put the good ones in a basket and the bad will be thrown into the fire. So it will be Jesus says. The scribes of old the ones that were trained in the kingdom wrote about it and that same message continues to this day. We were created to love as God loves. To love him and to love his creation. As we enter this time of holy expectancy and communion as Friends let us return and embrace that love which is written in the pages of scripture and in the very cells of our being.