There are two parables today. The first is the “This is how it is” version, the second, “To what shall we compare.” Jesus spoke to them in parables. I think there are two reasons for this. First, Isaiah had prophesied eight hundred years before Jesus that the people had eyes but did not see and ears that did not hear. In other words, they were stubborn and did not want to see or hear. Jesus recognized how stubborn the people of His day were. Jesus also knew that to speak plainly would create situations where the religious leaders would retaliate and arrest Him before His hour would come. Jesus needed time to teach His followers and so would explain things to them in private.
Consider the first parable. This is how it is in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus taught the people and proclaimed the gospel message. At first, they did not understand. It would take time to open their eyes and ears to see and hear the gospel. With time and additional instruction, the kingdom begins to grow in their hearts. Just as a seed is planted in the ground, so the seed of faith is nourished, and it grows in our hearts. We do not understand how the seed grows, nor do we understand how the kingdom of God grows. Of its own accord, the kingdom continues to grow.
Consider the second parable. Jesus compares the kingdom of God to mustard seed. He calls the mustard seed the smallest of all seeds, but even in Jesus’ time there were smaller seeds, but mustard seed was a common reference for small. Then Jesus mentions that it grows into a large tree. Large is not exactly an accurate description as mustard trees are seldom over ten feet tall. What is Jesus trying to tell us in this parable.
We must think in the way a farmer would have thought in the first century. First, mustard plants are weeds. No farmer would ever plant a mustard seed in field of grain. The mustard plant is very invasive. It would spread and choke the good grain. You would have a field of twisted plants where even a small animal would not be able to walk through. Only birds would be able to land on its branches. I think Jesus is comparing the kingdom of God to the mustard plant because of its invasive property. As we share the gospel message with one another, others begin to share the message. Soon, it has spread much like an invasive plant. We cannot see it happening. We cannot hear it happening. But eventually the kingdom is present to all.
Both parables share how the kingdom of God grows quietly and in such a way we do not even notice. Then we are surprised to see how much it has grown. That is part of the parable for today too. We are not in charge. God is. Maybe we would want to see it grow faster. Or maybe we would develop a program to make it more efficient. We might be just stubborn enough to think we could spread the kingdom of God better than God can. To do that I guess we will have to close our eyes and our ears and harden our hearts. Is that really what you want?
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen