First Baptist Church of Rockville

What can we compare to the Kingdom of God?

* The only kind of mustard most of us are familiar with is the kind you put on a hotdog. Or if you grew up liking turnip greens, you might have sprinkled a few mustard green seeds in there with them.

* But the reason Jesus talked about the mustard seed was because mustard plants were prolific around the Sea of Galilee.

* This morning, I would like to share with you the following lessons.

  1. God’s kingdom starts small but ends big.

Mark 4:30-32, “And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God,or what parable shall we use for it?31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth,32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

* Mark and Luke repeat the same parable with similar wording, though Luke leaves off the size of the seed.

* “What shall we say that the kingdom of God is like?” (v.30)

Isaiah 40:18, 28-31, “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?28 The Lordis the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lordshall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

 * To the people listening to Jesus they would recognize the connection to the prophet Isaiah. This passage had been planted in the minds of many of Jesus’ hearers from childhood. It could have been the favorite passage of Scripture for many of them.

* You want a vision of God? We have a vision of God. This is it, here in the words of Isaiah. The kingdom of God begins like a small seed inside the heart of each one of us. And once that seed takes root and begins to grow, our lives become filled with the love of God.

* It is watered every time we love our neighbor, or care of those in need.

* Jesus teaches us that the Kingdom of God is the work of grace and mercy and compassion and peace with justice in the world. We are called to do the work to the best of our ability.

* God specializes in taking small, insignificant things and making them mighty.

* The prophet Zechariah wrote these words on the day that Zerubbabel laid the first stone. “Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zechariah 4:10)

  1. God’s kingdom is all about life and rest.

Mark 4:32, “yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

* The mustard seed that Jesus is referring to is the Mediterranean Black mustard seed. It’s not the smallest of seeds but it’s, never the less, the one most often used in the Old and New Testament when referring to something starting out small but growing to great heights. Since the word small has many meanings, the physical size of the seed is not Jesus’ only intent in this story.

* Now this seed really grows into a bush that reaches heights of 9 to 15 feet tall.

* Non-believers, like to twist the phrase “the least of all seeds.” They  attempt to seize on Jesus’ words and twist them to mean something Jesus didn’t intend, thus discrediting the authority of the Bible.

* The seed of the Black Mustard plant (Brassica nigra), the species found in present-day Israel, is approximately 1.0 mm in length. There are many plants, such as begonias, petunias, and wormwoods, that, today, have smaller seeds. The smallest known seed, which belongs to a species of jewel orchid (Anoectochilus imitans), measures a microscopic 0.05mmin length.

* Doubters, assuming that the seed sizes we observe in the present were the same in the past. It is quite possible that some or all of the plants with smaller seeds had yet to develop into the species we observe today. The jewel orchids, for example, might not have branched from the originally created orchid kind at the point Jesus made his statement. Even supposing these smaller seeds had branched from the orchid kind, the Jews would not have been familiar with them, so there would have been no point in Jesus citing them as an example.

* This is especially true since the context of the parable appears to point to seeds sown in the field, not every seed in existence and most farmers do not sow orchids in the field even today.

* Jesus described the mustard plant, “…with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

Matthew 13:31-32, “He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

* Christ is speaking about the effectual growth of his kingdom.

  1. God’s kingdom is all about meeting privately with us.

Mark 4:33-34, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privatelyto his own disciples he explained everything.

* Beloved, most people only focus on the subject which is parables.  But I believe the precious treasure is the phrase; “…but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”

* Spending private time with Jesus is still happening today!

John 14:25-26, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

* Christ said that the only way a person could enter the kingdom of God was by a new birth: John 3:3b, “You must be born again,” he said, “except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

* Years ago on a snowy evening in England, a young teenager was trying to find his church building. Due to the blinding snow, he turned instead into a little Methodist Chapel. The preacher didn’t make it that night due to the weather and there were only a handful of people there. One of the men of the church stood up and spoke on one verse from Isaiah. “Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.” At that moment a mustard seed of faith was planted in the heart of that teenager for the first time…His name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who would later go on and preach the Gospel to thousands and build a 5,000 seat auditorium in London that was never big enough to accommodate the crowds.

* In God’s Kingdom you find rest from the weariness of life. Are you tired? Are you weary? Jesus has a personal invitation to you.

Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

* Just as the birds find rest and shelter in the mustard plant, we can find rest for our souls in Jesus. Can you imagine the life of a little bird? They fly around, but they can’t stay in the air forever. They need a place to land and rest. Does that describe your life? Are you so tired of going, going, going, and working, working, working? Do you need a place to land and rest?

* Jesus used God’s care of the birds to illustrate the fact that we shouldn’t worry.  One of my favorite poems is an imaginary conversation between two birds. “Said the Robin to the Sparrow; I’d really like to know; Why these anxious human creatures rush about and worry so. Said the Sparrow to the Robin; I think that it must be; That they have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.”

Blossoms; by Barbara Baumgardner

I thought it was a Christmas cactus.  The tag read “Zygocactus,” and I didn’t know what it meant.  But it was as Thanksgiving time that first year after my husband died when it bloomed so profusely—huge, gentle, pink blossoms. I tried to smile. This year, though, my heart was heavy with the prospect of my first Christmas as a widow. One day, I showed a friend that display of warm, pink blossoms hanging like ornaments on the cactus by the window.  She suggested my plant might be a Thanksgiving cactus and then wondered aloud if it might have been touched by the Master Gardener to help bring some color and cheer into my life.  That thought comforted me. Shortly after Christmas, I picked off the spent, dry blossoms.  I was feeling like those leaves; dry, worn. But added to those feelings this year was a tremendous void, the kind left by a husband who had died.  Watering can in hand; I approached the sunny window one day in January and gasped. The cactus was again a mass of pink blossoms.  “What in the world are you doing?” I asked loudly. As I stared in awe at the wondrous pink and green display, I felt the warmth coming through the window onto my hands and arms. In the friendship of that light, I sensed another Presence. The room filled with the brilliance of that moment. That must be why my cactus was thriving so beautifully.  It lived in the daily sunshine.

Now, when I think about that day, I am reminded that I too, can let my life blossom. I must allow God’s Son to be the light of my day.









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