Jesus never ate a hamburger or a hot dog. So why does He talk about mustard so much?
One of Jesus’ most famous and influential parables is that of the mustard seed. He relates the importance of this tiny seed in the gospel as recorded by Luke:
Luke 17:5-6: And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
First, why did Jesus pick a mustard seed? The mustard seed is tiny, but it grows very quickly. Although a mustard seed is only 1-2mm in diameter, the wild mustard plant can grow to be over 10 feet tall. What was once a tiny seed can flourish and become a sprawling plant in which birds can build their nests (Matt 13:32). In effect, a tiny seed becomes an elaborate framework – an ecosystem which produces countless additional seeds.
Second, why did Jesus even share this parable in the first place? From verse 6, we know that this story was a direct response to the disciples’ request that Jesus “increase [their] faith.” Jesus wants us to know that, through Him, we can turn the smallest of seeds into immeasurable harvests. Even the tiniest seed of faith, when planted in good soil and watered liberally, will erupt into Kingdom realities which are greater than we could have imagined. To ditch the agricultural references: when we ask God for faith, read His Word carefully to determine those areas in our lives where we need to apply that faith, and then supplement that reading with persistent and passionate prayer, anything can happen.
Jesus is letting His disciples know that quality of faith is more important than quantity. The disciples asked for more faith, but Jesus is exposing the reality that we need stronger, more tangible faith. All the tools we will ever need to accomplish our earthly purpose according to the Great Commission have already been crafted from the Cross and made available to each and every believer. We need faith that does not expect a reward. We need faith that encourages us to serve our Savior humbly, knowing that He will finish all the good works which He commands us to start.
“For with God, nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
-by Pastor Mike White