Bob Keller: The Wonder of a Tiny Seed

17
Jun

A sermon preached by Bob Keller on June 17th, 2018 (Father’s Day) based
upon Mark 4:26-34 and entitled, “The Wonder of a Tiny Seed”

Was anyone here raised on a farm? Or maybe your parents or grandparents
were? Since we’re becoming an urban and suburban culture, many of us
have lost the appreciation for agriculture, aside from those flowers we
plant and maybe a few tomatoes or zucchini

But when Jesus was teaching people 2,000 years ago, almost every listener
was familiar with planting seeds and harvesting crops. They didn’t have a
Shoprite or Trader Joe’s to go to load up on groceries. They only ate what
they could produce.

That’s why so many of the parables of Jesus are about plants and seeds. In
the two parables that Edward read for us, Jesus is talking about wheat
seeds and mustard seeds.

“He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed
on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed
sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

“Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what
parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the
smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and
becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the
birds of the air can perch in its shade.’”

The only kind of mustard most of us are familiar with is the kind you put on
a hotdog. Or maybe your grandmother put a mustard plaster on your chest
when you had a cold. But Jesus talked about the mustard seed because
mustard plants were prolific around the Sea of Galilee.

I was going to bring in a couple mustard seeds to show you how small they
are, but unless you’re sitting in the front row and have exceptionally good
eyesight; you wouldn’t have been able to see them anyway. Not much
bigger than the head of a pin, you can place over 200 of them on the face of
a penny!

The mustard seed, like all seeds is a mystery. Jesus said a farmer plants a
seed but he doesn’t know how it grows. There was a professor at Auburn
University, a PhD in Agricultural studies, who ran an experimental farm. He
said, “Jesus said we don’t know how a seed grows. That’s no longer true.
We know exactly how it grows. Heat and moisture cause the seed to
germinate. It sends roots downward for moisture and shoots upward
toward the sun. We know HOW a seed grows, but we don’t know WHY a
seed grows. Only God knows that.” Three-thousand year old seeds, found
in pharaohs’ tombs, were planted – and they grew!

God’s Kingdom started small. Jesus said, “It is like a mustard seed, which is
the smallest seed you plant in the ground.”

The mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed in the world, but it was the
smallest seeds with which people in Israel were familiar.

Once there was a group of tourists visiting a city in Europe. One of the
tourists asked the guide, “Were there any famous men born in this city?”
The guide said, “Nope. Only babies.”

The Kingdom of God started with a baby placed in a manger in Bethlehem.
Even when Jesus died, a mere 33 years later, the Kingdom was still small.
God specializes in taking small, insignificant things and making them
mighty. After the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, the Jews
returned from the exile and started to rebuild the Temple. They had very
little money and few materials. There were many who doubted the Temple
could be rebuilt, but Zerubbabel, the governor, believed that it would
happen.

The prophet Zechariah wrote these words on the day that Zerubbabel laid
the first stone. “Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice
when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zechariah 4:10)
The Temple was ultimately rebuilt, although it wasn’t nearly as beautiful
and ornate as Solomon’s Temple. It started with the laying of one stone.
Never despise the day of small beginnings. Years ago on a snowy evening in
England, a young teenager was trying to find his church building. Due to the
blinding snow, he turned instead into a little Methodist Chapel. The
preacher didn’t make it that night due to the weather and there were only
a handful of people there. One of the men of the church stood up and
spoke on one verse from Isaiah. “Look unto me and be saved, all the ends
of the earth.” At that moment a mustard seed of faith was planted in the
heart of that teenager. His name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who
would later go on and preach the Gospel to thousands and build a 5,000
seat auditorium in London that was never big enough to accommodate the
crowds.

God’s Kingdom grows steadily. Jesus continued, “Yet when planted, it
grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants.” The mustard plant can
grow to a height of fifteen feet. Think of that – from a seed the size of the
head of a pin to a fifteen foot tall plant!

The same is true of the Kingdom of God. From the tiny beginning of the
Kingdom in a baby in Bethlehem, God’s Kingdom has grown remarkably.
The Church started with only a few people and has grown into a global
family.

Jesus called 12 disciples to make up His inner core of believers. Of course
one of them, Judas, disappeared. Jesus told them to change the world. On
the Day of Pentecost, these 11 disciples were joined by 109 other people
who were praying in the upper room. These 120 folks prayed for ten days,
and on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and filled the disciples.
Peter preached and those who accepted his message were baptized, and
about three thousand were added to their number that day…and the Lord
added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Almost
overnight, the church grew from 120 to 3,000—and then to 5,000 in a
matter of days. Today there are about 2 billion people who claim to be
Christians.

The growth of God’s Kingdom isn’t only true in terms of the numerical
growth of the Church. But God’s kingdom grows inside you as well.
Usually when you think of a kingdom you think of thrones, armies, and
conquering nations. But Jesus taught there are two aspects of the Kingdom
of God. There is the future kingdom when Jesus will rule and reign over the
whole earth when He returns. But for now, the Kingdom of God is within
us. And just as a seed grows, we grow toward Christian maturity.
What is the Kingdom of God? In the scripture we learn, “For the kingdom of
God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and
joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) Paul was addressing the fact that
some Christians in Rome were still hung up on what a Christian should eat
or drink, the “religious taboos” from the Law. He reminded them that God’s
Kingdom isn’t about religious observance. It is about the righteousness we
receive in Christ. It is about the inner peace we enjoy through Christ. It is
about the overflowing joy that we have in Jesus. Like a mustard seed, there
should be a growing awareness of righteousness, peace, and joy in our
lives. But there is one other way in which the mustard seed illustrates God’s
Kingdom.
There is shelter offered by God’s Kingdom. Jesus described the mustard
plant, “…with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its
shade.” It’s not unusual to see small birds landing on the branches of the
mustard plant; some even build nests in them. There’s a spiritual
application here. Just as the mustard seed provides shelter for the birds, we
find protection and shelter in a loving God. Psalm 91 says, “He who dwells
in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
How do we find shelter and protection in the branches of God’s Kingdom?
First, in God’s Kingdom you find rest from the weariness of life
Are you tired? Are you weary? Jesus has a personal invitation to you. He
says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you
rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and
humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Just as the birds find rest and shelter in the mustard plant, we can find rest
for our souls in Jesus. The yoke of Jesus isn’t a heavy wooden yoke like oxen
use. It’s light because Jesus is on the other side providing all the strength
and direction we need.

Can you imagine the life of a little bird? They fly around, but they can’t stay
in the air forever. They need a place to land and rest. Does that describe
your life? Are you so tired of going, going, going, and working, working,
working? Do you need a place to land and rest?
Jesus used God’s care of the birds to illustrate the fact that we shouldn’t
worry. He said, “Consider the birds of the air. They don’t work or worry. But
their heavenly Father takes care of them.”

Second, with God you can find eternal protection and peace
In Jesus, we find help for today, but also hope for tomorrow.
You know, heaven is for real. It was real before there was a book and movie
by that name. It’s beyond our wildest imagination. There are some things
we have to put up with here on earth that won’t be there. There will be no
more sickness, sorrow, or death. There will be no darkness or wickedness
there. There will be no more tears in heaven.
In 1991 Eric Clapton wrote and recorded a Grammy-winning song called,
“Tears in Heaven.” He wrote it with a broken heart after his five-year-old
son, Conor, fell from the balcony on their apartment in New York. In the
song he asked the question, “Would you know my name; If I saw you in
heaven? Would you feel the same; If I saw you in heaven? I must be strong
and carry on; ‘Cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven.”
I love C.S. Lewis’ famous quote on heaven. He wrote: “If I find in myself
desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation
is that I was made for another world.” You and I were made for another
world – the shelter in the Kingdom of God.

What’s the take-away truth of the parable of the mystery of the mustard
seed? God delights in bringing great things out of humble beginnings.
Consider Moses. God took a stuttering, washed-out 80-year-old mustard
seed and used him to deliver God’s people. Consider Gideon. Instead of an
army of 32,000 God used 300 mustard seeds to defeat an army of over
100,000. Consider David. He was the youngest son in a family of great
brothers, the runt of the litter. He took the job nobody else wanted. But he
was a man after God’s own heart and God took this mustard seed of a man
and turned him into a giant-killer. One day a little mustard seed of a boy
gave Jesus his lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish, and Jesus fed a
multitude with it.

Does any of this have anything, anything at all, to do with Father’s Day?
Consider that all of us have, or had, a mother and a father. The mystery of
birth requires an egg from a woman and that that egg must be fertilized by
the sperm from a man. From this there are no great men or women
produced – only babies.

Unlike the wheat in the parable, we don’t rise and sleep and wait for the
harvest. We nurture and care for the child. One of my favorite quotes on
parents is that you should not be an anchor to hold your child back. Nor
should you be a sail to send the child in the direction that you choose. But
you should always be a light to help guide the way.

Take that responsibility seriously. There will be a last time that you carry
your child on your shoulders. There will be a last time that you help your
child with his or her homework. There will be a last time that you walk
your child to school or the bus stop. There will be a last time your child
crawls into your lap and say read me a story. But you will never know when
that last time will be. You’ve done your job correctly. Your child has grown
and matured into his or her own person. You’ve spent time training him in
the way he should go. Cherish that time. Act for your child just as God
does for us. Shelter him, protect him and give him joy and peace – just as
God offers to you. Never despise the small things for raising a child is just
like the mystery of the mustard seed.