Matthew 13:31-32 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
31 He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. 3It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
The mustard seed is the smallest seed, yet it is mentioned in the Bible five times. Small things matter in the kingdom of God. Though the seed is small, once it is planted in fertile soil it can sprout within five to ten days. Life is like the mustard seed; we all start small and, depending on how we are nurtured, we grow in the right direction.
I had my first encounter with mustard seeds in the small town of Bethany. The Church of Lazarus, located behind Jerusalem stone walls, is a real life sanctuary from chaos of Bethany now know as Al-Eizariya. Once you get through the gate, you must pass through a beautiful garden with lush flowers, and a meandering pathway to reach the main church. This church, like most Catholic Churches in the Holy Land, is run by the Franciscans. The number of Catholics in this parish has dwindled to less than 20 families in this mostly Muslim community.
When we arrived the priest was preparing for Easter Sunday service. He was not expecting a large crowd, yet the church was being adorned with white linens and white lilies on the altar. We prayed and sang a few hymns. The acoustics in this small church even made my flat voice sound angelic bouncing off the interior walls of this sanctuary. Though I have been to this church many times, my eyes never fail to gaze at the beautiful mosaics; even while praying, I do not want to miss their awe-inspiring allure. The altar is made of eilat stone, a deep green with blue hues, makes it the focal point of the tabernacle. This particular stone can only be found in Solomon’s mine. The pews are ordinary hard wood that creek loudly when you move. Only a small part of the Byzantine floor remains of the original church.
After we finished our petitions we headed outside the iron gates to get to Lazarus’ tomb. You cannot help but notice the mosque built almost directly on top of Lazarus’ Tomb.
Waiting at the entrance to the tomb was kind Arab man charging 3 shekels to enter the holy site. Going down the steps this time seemed a lot steeper and more claustrophobic. I held on to the walls and some guard railing to guide my footing, but I was still uneasy because the twenty-four steps are irregular, some shorter and some more narrow; even the opening to the tomb seemed smaller. I was with three men from our ministry, and they found it amusing that I had to talk my way into the tomb. When we reached the sacred site, we prayed. We prayed for those who needed to believe God for the impossible. When it was time to leave, I had to really psych myself on how to crawl out of the tomb.
I always feel the presence of God after praying at holy sites, and this was no exception. Just a few feet outside the tomb we saw a mature mustard tree located on private property. There is always someone there to greet us and to sell us some mustard seeds. This is the only place that I know of in the Holy Land where you can conveniently purchase mustard seeds, and depending on who is selling them, they could cost between two to four dollars. I always make it a point to purchase these biblical seeds.
In order to use the mustard seed it must be crushed; it has a bitter taste. The Word of the Lord has a bitter taste to those who do not believe. The Lord is telling us that even if our faith is as small as a grain of mustard seed, He will take care of our concerns. God can use that small faith that you have to move mountains. God does not measure your faith, nor does He compare your faith to other’s. He just wants you to have faith so that He can complete the work in you.
We are all called, and each of us has special gifts. God did not leave anyone out when He bestowed His gifts.
Look at those around you and you will recognize their gifts. My husband Mike’s greatest gift is servanthood; he cannot help but take care of those he loves, and he does this with great humility. I don’t have that gift, but I do understand my gifts and the calling God has chosen for me. As much as I would like to have a great voice, I do not because this is not one of my gifts. I love to teach the Word of God, which entails a lot of study, and with study comes discipline. I must manage my time in order to fulfill my calling. I teach three different groups, and it would be so helpful if I could use the same lesson plan for all three groups, but that is not how God would have it. Each of these classes has students who are at different levels of faith and understanding.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)
7 To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; 10 to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
The mustard seed may seem small and insignificant to the world, but to God it is a tool for us to live by. Even a little faith can grow into big belief. When I taught Bible study in the public schools through “Release Time Christian Education, ” I would always tape a seed to the childrens’ Bibles to remind them to have faith. It did not matter if their faith was as small as a grain of mustard seed because God was going to cause it to grow.