PASSAGE: “He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade” (Mark 4:30-31).
COMMENT: Jesus was a master at couching his spiritual teachings in images that would be clear to the simple, uneducated people who were following him and listening to his words. Fishing, farming, cooking, keeping house, buying and selling—all these life pursuits helped him express the heart of his radically new teaching, which was the intimate, immediate, undivided Oneness between God and man. As spiritual beings, we have come into human form for the purpose of creating a new consciousness that he describes as “the kingdom.”
What’s important to understand in approaching this particular comparison of the kingdom to a mustard seed is that to his listeners the mustard plant was a noxious weed. It grew everywhere, took nutrients from more important plants, and was impossible to eradicate. So they would have been shocked to hear Jesus compare a plant they despised to the kingdom of heaven. Which, of course, was precisely his point. The dimension of spiritual consciousness he describes as “the kingdom” is not like a delicate flower that has to be carefully tended and nurtured lest it fade away and die. It is the strongest, most life-filled energy within us. With even the slightest encouragement, the slightest willingness on our part, it will grow and flourish. To our mortal minds it may seem worthless; you can’t eat the kingdom or sell it for a profit. But if we allow it to grow by planting even the slightest seed of spiritual willingness, it will flourish, and it will provide a home within us for the infinite divine ideas (the birds of the air) that will indeed nourish us and delight us in many wonderful ways.