Can something big happen as a result of a small group of Christians like us? The Gospel reading appointed for this week is Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. Technically, this was not the smallest of all seeds since, for example, the seed of a cypress tree was still smaller, but here Jesus is using a well-known phrase in Jewish culture at the time to highlight the smallness of something. Jesus then goes on to explain how big the final plant grows. It was well known that mustard plants can grow as high as twelve feet and become like a small tree. It was also true that birds liked mustard plants because they liked eating the little black seeds produced. Moreover, in the Old Testament, one of the commonest pictures of an empire was that of a tree where birds (subject nations) find shelter. Jesus’ meaning is crystal clear – the Kingdom of God starts from the smallest of beginnings, but in the end many nations will be gathered in. A Christian hermit was called to go to Rome to oppose the gladiatorial games where people were dying. Telechamus made his way into the arena to stand between the gladiators, the crowd tried to stone him, and the Prefect ordered his death, the flash of a sword in the sunlight and Telechamus was dead. Silence then descended across the arena. The crowd realised they had killed a holy man. Something profound happened in Rome following that event, because there were never any more gladiatorial games from that point on. One man had changed the views at the centre of an empire.
In the Old Testament God used small beginnings to create a ‘chosen’ people. It was Jacob’s marriage to Rachel from which God would establish his covenant relationship with the nation of Israel. In Psalm 105, this is reiterated by the psalmist who points out: “O descendants of Jacob, God’s chosen one”. God’s ultimate plan for redemption of the whole of humanity started with one family. The point of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed is that his 12 disciples and his followers today should not be discouraged. Each one of us starts from a small beginning from which the Kingdom of God can grow. It will then grow and grow until the kingdoms of the earth find their home in it. The reason for our strength is God. It is God, through His Holy Spirit who makes the impossible, possible. And, in the words of the Apostle Paul: “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
Old Testament reading for this week: Genesis 29:15-28
Gospel reading for this week: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Epistle reading for this week: Romans 8:26-39
Psalm for this week: Psalm 105:1-11, 45b