In Mark, as well as Matthew, we see Jesus use the mustard seed in his parables. I’ve never seen a mustard seed and never saw its importance other than for making the condiment mustard. So today I wish to pursue this question: what is the significance of the mustard seed?
I suppose the best place to start is to figure out just what exactly a mustard seed is and how does it grow? As it turns out, mustard seeds are incredibly tiny. ‘Mustard seeds are globular in shape and are only about 1/10 inch in diameter. They come in two colors: white (which is actually light yellow) and brown.’ (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/399596/mustard) Interestingly enough, the seed, not the plant, is used to make the mustard condiment.
However, the plant will grow extremely fast from its seed form. In a short amount of time the plant will develop ‘blooms that are intensely yellow. They reach their full height of around 5 to 6 ½ feet tall and ditch the flowers in favor of numerous seed pods on their branches.’ (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/399596/mustard)
So what does the humble mustard seed have to do with the teachings of Jesus? When describing the Kingdom of Heaven in Mark 4, Jesus states, “It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
You may be asking yourself, ‘what does this mean?’ Well, as we know, mustard seeds ‘are small, can spread rapidly, and can grow to be unusually big.’ (https://www.lds.org/new-era/2013/02/the-mustard-seed?lang=eng) The mustard seed is therefore used to represent the church, its growth throughout the world, and the evils of the world that it will face.
“The picture painted in the Parable of the Mustard Seed by Jesus is of the humble beginnings of the church experiencing an explosive rate of growth. It grows large and becomes a source of food, rest, and shelter, for both believers and false professing individuals that seek to consume or take advantage of its benefits while residing or mixing among what was produced by the seed.”
As we know, early Christianity was extremely tiny. However, it has grown to be arguably the largest religion in the world.
However, there is one more thing I found in my research that I found to be interesting. Jesus stated that the mustard seed as the smallest seed in the world. However, I found that the mustard seed in all actuality isn’t the smallest. That distinction belongs to the orchid seed.
So why would Jesus have that wrong? There is one plausible answer. “It’s important to remember that the Bible often uses everyday terminology in order to communicate simple truth.” (http://christiananswers.net/q-aiia/mustardseed.html) Also, these other seeds are not found in the region of Palestine and would probably be unknown to the people of the region. However, the mustard seed would be the smallest local grown seed. It all comes down to getting the point across.
It’s hard to believe that such a small seed could be an important teaching tool in the Bible. But as we have seen, it was very instrumental in the use of one of the most well-known parables used by Jesus in the New Testament.