‘He put before them another parable: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all 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 it’s branches.’ Matt 13: 31-32
No wonder the Pharisees hated Jesus! The Jews just loved order; Jewish law (m.Kil’ayim 3:2) forbade the planting of mustard in gardens as it was notorious for invading well kept gardens and ferociously taking over the entire plot..oh yes and your neighbours’! Not a popular choice of plant Jesus! Ah yes..and weren’t the Jews waiting for the Kingdom of God coming triumphantly like the great ‘cedars of Lebanon’, the greatest of all trees, the tallest and most majestic? But Jesus..a mustard bush is a stumpy, short, rampant bush that doesn’t grow much higher than four feet..are you sure the Kingdom of God is like that? And the smell! Mustard bushes stink..in fact the aroma is so fiery and pungent that in the Roman Empire it was a sign of power! Jesus, are you saying that the Kingdom of God’s power comes with an aroma? And wait..hang on..what are birds of the air? I thought that nations were going to perch in the branches of the cedars..but you are saying that ‘fowls’, detestable birds that live on animal carcasses, birds that nobody wants, birds that are unclean and hated are welcome to sit in the branches of the Kingdom! That’s disgusting Jesus!
So lets get this right..The Kingdom of Heaven is like a small, unkempt and rampant bush that overtakes and spreads uncontrollably and that nobody wants in their garden as it ruins the neat order of life, coming with a powerful aroma and providing a perch for the outcasts of society. Are we sure?
Minucius was a Roman lawyer that persecuted Christians in 200AD. He described them thus ” they despise temples as if they are tombs. They despise titles of honour and the purple robe of high government office though hardly able themselves to cover their nakedness. They love one another before being aquainted. They practice a cult of lust, calling one another brother and sister indiscriminately; it is a profane conspiracy!”
And then after his conversion..”Why do they not have any altars, temples or images? What temple shall I build Him when the whole world, the work of His hands cannot contain Him? Should we not rather make a sanctuary for Him in our souls? The whole heaven and the whole earth and all things beyond the confines of the world are filled with God….I would almost say; we live with Him. How beautiful a sight for God it is when a Christian mocks the clatter of tools of death and the horror of the executioner; when he defends and upholds his liberty in the face of kings and princes, obeying God alone to whom he belongs. (Eberhard Arnold, ed., The Early Christians: In Their own Words, (Plough: Farmington, PA, 1998.)
Lord, let my faith become as rampant as a mustard seed. Let it penetrate, spread, invade and overwhelm me and my neighbour. May it become a place where the foul of this world may take rest. Amen.