“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed….Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” —Matthew 13:31-32
In Matthew 13, Jesus gave two parables comparing the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed and yeast. A mustard seed is like a weed; each head of it is filled with thousands of seeds that, in their right time, falls to the ground and starts to grow, taking over whole fields. Likewise, a little yeast will spread through the whole dough. Both parables emphasize how something small in its beginnings can spread and grow in a mysterious way to fill the whole earth.
Throughout Scriptures, especially in the book of Acts, the early church was a subversive movement of Jesus followers who were conspiring to love God and love others. They cared for the poor and the marginalized, provided for the fatherless and the widow and advocated on behalf of those who were suffering. They shared their resources with one another so that the needy had food and medicine. During New Testament time, cities were disease-ridden and filthy; yet, these were the very places that Jesus and the early church sought out. In fact, the first home for the blind was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk, the first free dispensary by Apollonius, a Christian businessman and the first recorded hospital by Fabiola, a Christian lady. Any time anyone uses a hospital or health care services, they are benefitting from the yeast of Jesus. Even the modern scientific method that is used so often to argue against the existence of God owes its origin to Christianity.
Rome, like many other empires, discarded the weak and lived by the survival of the fittest. Even though the early church was not an empire nor was it politically powerful in its day, it stood out in the culture for its capacity to love others and care for the downtrodden and the poor.
The early church remained a subversive and persecuted movement up until Emperor Constantine. In the Battle of Milvian Bridge of 312 AD, Constantine had a vision of a cross of light in the heavens above the sun and the subscription, “with this sign, you shall conquer.” He placed that symbol onto all the shields of his soldiers, marched into battle and won. Later, he found out that the sign was a Christian symbol and converted to Christianity before he died. Whereas Christianity was despised, rejected and persecuted, that changed with Constantine. Within a century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Like the mustard seed and yeast, the kingdom of heaven does not spread by our power or our impressive organizational skills, but through the humility and mystery of small and hidden movements of God’s Spirit. Where can we join God and His work in the world today?
Holy God, how amazing that a small mustard seed can spread like yeast and grow around the world. I ask that You reveal to me where I can join Your work today. Thank You, Lord.