Jesus 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 the 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 its branches.”
Jesus often spoke in parables to teach the crowds that gathered around when he spoke. This parable tells us that a very small seed, if it is tended well, can grow into a healthy shrub even providing a home for birds. It is important to note the context of this parable, following immediately
after the Parable of the Sower where Jesus has explained that seeds that fall on rocky ground or amongst thorns do not grow as well as the seed that falls on rich soil. And likewise, Jesus tells the people, the person who receives the Word of God and understands it, is like the seed that falls on rich soil. It puts down roots and yields a large harvest. The implication is that this tiny mustard seed has fallen on rich soil and has been tended and grown to its full potential, so robust that it can be a home for birds.
Plants need to be nurtured, especially when they are tiny and fragile, and surely this is true for each one of us. A gardener has faith that the care of a small seed with water, sunlight and fertiliser will result in its growth. It does not happen overnight. And is it not true for each one of us? In a nurturing environment, people can blossom and grow.
But what is ‘fertile soil’? The writer of Matthew’s gospel explains earlier in the chapter that we need to hear the Word of God and understand it! This directive could be overwhelming but I like to turn to the prophet Micah, who simply answered ‘this is what God asks of you, only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.”
One of the beautiful things about the parable of the mustard seed is its ending. The seed becomes a tree and the birds of the air come and shelter. Is not our task to co-create a world in love and justice that we might, figuratively speaking, provide shelter for others in our community?
Perhaps one of the most profound things in our lives is our connections with one another, founded in the one God of Love. The love and concern of people for others is surely the foundation of a just society for which we all long.