The mustard seed (Lk 13:19-13:19)

“The kingdom of God

Is like

A mustard seed

That someone took.

He sowed it

In his garden.

It grew.

It became a tree.

The birds of the air

Made nests

In its branches.”

 

ὁμοία ἐστὶν κόκκῳ σινάπεως, ὃν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος ἔβαλεν εἰς κῆπον ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ ηὔξησεν καὶ ἐγένετο εἰς δένδρον, καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατεσκήνωσεν ἐν τοῖς κλάδοις αὐτοῦ.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that the kingdom of God was like a mustard seed (ὁμοία ἐστὶν κόκκῳ σινάπεως) that someone took (ὃν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος) and sowed in his garden (ἔβαλεν εἰς κῆπον ἑαυτοῦ).  Then it grew (καὶ ηὔξησεν) and became a tree (καὶ ἐγένετο εἰς δένδρον).  The birds of the air (καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) made nests (κατεσκήνωσεν) in its branches (ἐν τοῖς κλάδοις αὐτοῦ).  Luke did not explicitly say that this mustard seed was the smallest seed, but implied it symbolically.  However, this seed could grow to become a tree or shrub where birds could nest.  There was no explanation of this parable, except the clear indication that the kingdom of God might start out small but would grow to hold many people.  This parable of the mustard seed can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 13:31-32, and Mark, chapter 4:31-32, plus here.  Jesus, via Mark, said that the kingdom of God was like a mustard seed or a grain of mustard.  When planted in the ground, it is the smallest of all seeds on earth.  But when it has grown after being planted, it becomes greater than all the garden plants or shrubs.  It then produced great branches.  Thus, the birds of the air would be able to come and perch or build nests in the shade of its branches.  What started out small can become quite large.  Jesus, via Matthew, explicitly presented them with another short parable.  He said that the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdom of God, was like a mustard seed.  A man planted this seed in his field.  When planted, it was the smallest of all seeds.  But when it was grown, it was the greatest of garden plants or shrubs.  It then became a tree.  Thus, the birds of the air could come and perch or build nests in its branches.  What started out small can become quite large. Do you know something small that became large?

The mustard seed (Mk 4:31-4:32)

“The kingdom of God

Is like

A mustard seed.

When sown

Upon the ground,

It is the smallest

Of all the seeds

On earth.

Yet when it is sown,

It grows up.

It becomes the greatest

Of all shrubs.

It puts forth

Large branches,

So that the birds

Of the air

Can make nests

In its shade.”

 

ὡς κόκκῳ σινάπεως, ὃς ὅταν σπαρῇ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, μικρότερον ὂν πάντων τῶν σπερμάτων τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς,

καὶ ὅταν σπαρῇ, ἀναβαίνει καὶ γίνεται μεῖζον πάντων τῶν λαχάνων, καὶ ποιεῖ κλάδους μεγάλους, ὥστε δύνασθαι ὑπὸ τὴν σκιὰν αὐτοῦ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατασκηνοῖν.

 

This parable of the mustard seed can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 13:31-32, and Luke, chapter 13:19.  The mustard seed was the symbol of small things.  However, it could grow to become a tree or shrub where birds could nest.  There was no explanation of this parable, except the clear indication that the kingdom of heaven may start out small but would grow to hold many people.  Jesus, via Mark, explicitly presented them with another short parable.  He said that the kingdom of God was like a mustard seed or a grain of mustard (ὡς κόκκῳ σινάπεως).  When planted in the ground (ὃς ὅταν σπαρῇ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς), it is the smallest of all seeds on earth (μικρότερον ὂν πάντων τῶν σπερμάτων τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς).  But when it has grown after being planted (καὶ ὅταν σπαρῇ, ἀναβαίνει), it becomes greater than all the garden plants or shrubs (καὶ γίνεται μεῖζον πάντων τῶν λαχάνων).  It then produces great branches (καὶ ποιεῖ κλάδους μεγάλους).  Thus, the birds of the air would be able to come and perch or build nests in the shade of its branches (ὥστε δύνασθαι ὑπὸ τὴν σκιὰν αὐτοῦ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατασκηνοῖν).  What starts out small can become quite large.

The king’s dream about the big beautiful tree (Dan 4:10-4:12)

“Upon my bed,

This what I saw.

There was a tree

At the center

Of the earth.

Its height was great.

The tree grew.

It became strong.

Its top reached

To heaven.

It was visible

To the ends

Of the whole earth.

Its foliage was beautiful.

Its fruit was abundant.

It provided food

For all.

The animals of the field

Found shade under it.

The birds of the air

Nested in its branches.

All living beings

Were fed from it.”

The king was laying in his bed when he saw a great big strong tree in the center of the earth. It was so tall that it reached to heaven and could be seen from the ends of the earth with beautiful leaves and lots of fruit. This tree provided food for everyone. Animals found shade under it, while birds built nests in its branches. This was quite a wonderful tree.

The mythical tall cedar in Lebanon (Ezek 31:3-31:5)

“Consider a cedar

Of Lebanon!

It has fair branches.

It has forest shade.

It has great height.

Its top is

Among the clouds.

The waters nourished it.

The deep made it

Grow tall.

Its rivers flow

Around the place

It was planted,

Sending forth

Its streams

To all the trees

of the forest.

So it towered high

Above all the trees

Of the forest.

Its boughs grew large.

Its branches were long

From abundant water

In its shoots.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, compared Egypt to a tall cedar tree in Lebanon. This majestic tree had fair branches in a forest shade. It was extremely tall so that its top reached into the clouds. Ezekiel seems to be referring to an ancient Babylonian myth about the deep abyss or a dragon from the watery chaos that made trees grow tall. Thus they would enter the heaven of the gods in the clouds. The nourishing water from this deep abyss made this cedar tree grow tall. Streams from this water abyss flowed all around the place where this tree was planted. Even the other trees in the forest were able to grow because of this water. Nevertheless, this high cedar tree towered over all the other trees in the forest, because it had large long branches, due to the abundance of water in its shoots.

The return of the exiles (Bar 5:5-5:9)

“Arise!

O Jerusalem!

Stand upon the height!

Look toward the east! See your children

Gathered from the west,

Gathered from the east, At the word

Of the Holy One! They are rejoicing

That God has remembered them. They went out from you

On foot.

They were led away

By their enemies.

But God will bring them

Back to you.

They will be carried in glory

As on a royal throne.

God has ordered

That every high mountain

With the everlasting hills

Will be made low.

The valleys will be filled up

To make level ground.

Thus Israel may walk safely

In the glory of God.

The woods

With every fragrant tree

Have shaded Israel

At God’s command.

God will lead Israel with joy,

In the light of his glory,

With the mercy,

With the righteousness

That comes from him.”

This author concludes this book of Baruch with a call to Jerusalem to arise and stand tall. They were to look to the east to see their children, both from the east and west, returning and rejoicing because God had remembered them. They went out on foot, led away by their captive enemies. However, they would return as if carried in glory on a throne. Every high mountain and hill would be leveled, while the valleys would fill up, to make a level ground so that they could walk safely in the glory of God. The fragrant trees of the woods would shade them. God would lead them with the joy and the light of his glory that comes from his mercy and righteousness.

The justice of the rulers (Isa 32:1-32:4)

“See!

A king will reign in righteousness.

Princes will rule with justice.

Each will be

Like a hiding place from the wind,

Like a covert from the tempest,

Like streams of water

In a dry place,

Like the shade of a great rock

In a weary land.

Then the eyes of those who have sight

Will not be closed.

The ears of those who have hearing

Will listen.

The minds of the rash

Will have good judgment.

The tongues of the stammerers

Will speak readily.

They will speak distinctly.”

Isaiah maintains that there will be new age when justice will prevail. The righteous kings and the good princes will rule with justice. Thus they will be helpful to others because they will be like a hiding place from the wind, like a covering in a storm, like streams of water in a dry place, and like shade in a hot weary land. The seeing will see and the hearing will hear. Minds will make good judgments. People who stammer will speak readily and distinctly. This would be some kind of utopian time when justice and fairness for all existed in an enlightened society.

The dead (Isa 26:14-26:15)

“The dead do not live.

Shades do not rise.

You have punished them.

You have destroyed them.

You have wiped out

All memory of them.

But you have increased the nation!

O Yahweh!

You have increased the nation!

You are glorified!

You have enlarged

All the borders of the land.”

The dead do not live and will not rise again where there is no shade. Yahweh has punished and destroyed them. He has wiped them out so that all memory of them has been lost. On the other hand, the glorified Yahweh has increased his beloved land, the nation of Israel, and enlarged its borders. It is difficult to place this prayer at a specific time.