“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 shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32).
Just to be sure, I checked again: Is there a mustard plant that’s tall, tall enough for birds to roost in, a mustard plant with long, strong branches, a mustard plant that dwarves everyone else in the garden?
No, there’s not. Not anywhere.
Mustard is mustard—plain and plentiful—a weed in many quarters, although its greens are good in a salad and its seeds make the famous condiment. The mustard Jesus knew is the same mustard we know.
We can only conclude that the enormous mustard plant of this passage is the fantasy of an anxious scribe, who simply couldn’t believe that our Lord meant to compare the kingdom of God to a common weed and so decided to help out Jesus, to explain what he thought Jesus must surely have meant: The kingdom of God is really amazing! It’s huge! It’s just incredible! You’ve never seen anything like it in your entire life!
But Jesus meant exactly the opposite: You’ve seen it before. It’s right here—it’s everywhere. It’s the beauty of a plant people think amounts to little or nothing. The kingdom of God is a common carpet of loveliness, golden in the sun, and anyone can walk in it. The kingdom of God is you, you who think you’re of no account, and it is you, you who are esteemed as of no account by others. Your beauty fills the earth, in community with all the other beauties God has made.
© 2015 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers