After the parable of the sower which speaks of various types of soil Jesus gives two other parables that tell us about the growth of the kingdom of God. The first one is about the seed that grows in secret and the second one is the parable of the mustard seed, the tiny seed that grows into a big shrub.
The farmer prepares the ground and sows the seed, but he does not know how it grows. There is a secret energy that is at work, which is invisible to our eyes yet it is more powerful than the things we can see. The seed grows as the farmer goes about his work day by day. The day comes when the grain is ripe, and then comes the harvest. The sower did nothing to aid the growth of the seed, and thus can take no credit for its development. The farmer may not have a role in the growth of the seed, but he can see the signs that it is time to harvest, and he knows it is his responsibility to do it immediately lest the fruit go to waste.
The essential message of the parable is very clear, that the kingdom of God will come in its own time and without our help. It is the work of God, and anything we do to try and bring it about will have about as much effect as the farmer’s daily life had on the ripening grain. Farmer knows that it is not up to him to give growth to the seed and only time will bring the harvest and when the time arrives he needs to put “in the sickle”. The seeds of the kingdom of God are sown, and all that is required now is to wait for God’s perfect timing to signal the harvest. In today’s world much energy and church resources are spent to training, education, evangelization, seminars, and workshops, anything and everything we can think of to pack the pews. “While each of these goals and undertakings is very important in its rightful place, there are times when it seems that we have shoved God out of the picture and think that through all of our programs and seminars, we can bring about the harvest on our own.” In spite of all that we do, the seed grows at its own space. St. Paul was very well aware of it, so he wrote “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1Cor3:6).
In comparing the Kingdom of God to a tiny mustard seed, Jesus was using a powerful illustration. While the mustard seed is not the smallest seed known to man, it was the smallest seed planted in the gardens of Jesus’ day. The mustard seed itself is very tiny but out of it grows a big plant. God has a way of bringing great things out of humble beginnings. This tiny seed grows into an immense plant. Its branches spread themselves abroad offering a place for the birds to rest. In the shadow of that plant the birds find shelter from the storms; rest from their weariness and shade from the heat of the sun. The picture of the “birds of the air” nesting in the branches of the mustard tree suggests the universal, all embracing hospitality of the kingdom. Just as the plant in this parable brought joy to the birds who flocked to it for shelter, the Kingdom of God provides many benefits for those who turn to it.
The first parable cautions us that there will be a harvest in which we are accountable to what we have been given. The second parable reminds us that our new life in Christ has begun in a seed form. It has all the characteristics and capabilities it will ever have, but only in minute form. It must grow and “experience” living to fully produce the end result of what was begun in the embryonic form.
“We must be prepared to see weeds growing in our garden and also have the courage to pull them up”
St. Francis de Sales