Frank Retief was pastor at St James Church Cape Town for 31 years, having planted the church in 1968 with his wife Beulah. He became the Presiding Bishop of the Church of England in South Africa until he retired in 2010. Frank remains active in ministry through preaching, teaching, pastoral work & writing, and has authored a number of books.
Mark 4:30,31,33: Again He said: “What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed which is the smallest plant in the ground. Yet when it is planted it becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches, that the birds of the air can perch in its shade”.
Sometimes small words and actions can have very large consequences. We are all familiar with this rule of life. And it is exactly this principle of unexpected consequences that Jesus uses in this parable. The parable Jesus told would probably have sounded ridiculous to the ears of his listeners. In fact I suspect we often miss the shocking impact of the things Jesus said because we are unfamiliar with the background and customs of His day.
Everybody knew that a mustard seed grew only to a medium sized garden shrub and the idea of the birds of the air perching in its shade would have been laughable. But then Jesus deliberately intended to exaggerate the power of the shrub to make an important point. God can take the tiniest beginning and no matter how unsuited it may be God can use everything and everyone to do more work for His Kingdom that its size warrants.
That’s the way it is with the Kingdom of God. A little seed dropped here or there and the next thing you know there is a Sunday School where there was none before; or somebody is helped who had no hope, or some lost soul finds the Saviour and a life is changed.
The idea of the birds of the air all crowding to sit on the shrub’s branches may have occasioned laughter by those who heard Jesus because it seemed so unlikely. But think of how many people you know who have been helped by someone you least expected. Possibly even in your own life, what you thought was your very weak faith in Jesus and great ignorance of the bible was nevertheless overruled so that many people have been helped and encouraged by you.
We should never despise the day of small things. Always be ready to speak a word for the Lord or to do somebody a kindness. You never know what kind of consequence that may lead to, or what blessings may flow into someone else’s life.
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, thank you for your great grace that overrules all our sins and mistakes. Take me today, even though I am just a “mustard seed” and use me for your glory in the lives of others. Amen”