Study Guide: The Mustard Seed Kingdom

Sunday August 31, 2008 | Seth McCoy

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Jesus described God’s Kingdom like a mustard seed and like yeast. What did he mean? And what do Jesus’ unusual parables have to do with our lives today? When we consider how his original audience would have heard Jesus’ words, it helps us discover just how challenging his teachings are for us today.

Extended Summary:

Jesus came announcing the Kingdom of God, which can be summarized as God’s dream for the universe. One of the ways that Jesus taught people about the Kingdom was through parables, which are figurative stories or metaphors that indirectly define the nature of the Kingdom.

In order to understand what Jesus was saying through the parables, we need to put ourselves in the context of a first century Jewish persons. Jesus’ audience had a specific understanding of the nature of the Kingdom of God, but it did not line up with the God’s dream for the universe that Jesus announced. They had forgotten God’s dream. They had assumed that God would come and establish His Kingdom with majestic power. It would symbolically looks like the planting of a great cedar tree where great birds could nest.

The parable of the mustard seed provides a different symbolic way of understanding the Kingdom. Instead of a great cedar being dropped from the sky, the Kingdom is like a tiny mustard seed. In the first century, this would have been an unusual image because a mustard plant was a weed that no gardener would have wanted in his garden. While it began small, it would take over a garden if left to itself.

The Kingdom comes in ways that we don’t expect. It develops slowly and it grows according the pattern of the cross. The way of the cross is the way of suffering. We like Jesus are invited to go into the ground and die. Redemptive suffering is the kind of suffering we are called to seek out.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What parts of me need to be emptied so I can carry some of the suffering of this hurting world like Jesus?
  2. For what part of the suffering of the world, am I called to carry the cross?
  3. How can I look at my own spiritual life patiently, and pull weeds, and plant other seeds?
  4. Who are the people who will encourage me to walk the path that leads me where I would rather not go?