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THE MESSAGE OF THE MIGHTY
Intro: As I studied this text, I was reminded of the story of a woman named Martha Berry. She was born just outside the town of Rome, GA in 1866. She was born into a wealthy family that owned a vast estate in that area. She asked for a playhouse and her father had a cabin built for her.
One Sunday as she was studying her Bible in the cabin, Martha Berry heard the voices of children outside. She went out and saw some of the poor children from nearby Possum Trot playing. Miss Berry was a teenager by this time and she called the children to her and began to tell them stories from the Bible.
Her Bible classes met each week in her playhouse. She taught children that would never have had the opportunity to go to school. She taught them how to read and write. She taught them arithmetic and other lessons. Then, in 1902, she had the idea to start a boy’s school on nearby Lavender Mountain. She deeded land, raised funds and opened the doors to students, and The Berry Industrial School for Boys was formed. The school continued to grow, adding a program for girls.
If you visit Rome, GA today, you can still visit the house Martha Berry lived in until she died. You can also see the cabin playhouse where she taught poor children about the love of God. If you visit Rome, GA you can also see what her little mustard seed school has become.
Today, Berry College sits on 28,000 beautiful acres of Georgia real estate. There are 38 major buildings and well over 2,000 students. Berry College is widely recognized as one of the outstanding comprehensive colleges in the southern United States. A school that had very humble beginnings has been a blessing to tens of thousands of Americans.
Today, I want to talk about another humble beginning that has produced amazing results. I want to share with you The Message Of The Mighty Mustard Seed.
Jesus is still teaching in parables. Verses 33-34 tell us that parables were our Lord’s primary means of teaching His truth. He begins this parable by seeming to search for an illustration of the Kingdom of God. The disciples may have held some imaginative ideas about what the Kingdom of God was like.
Perhaps they imagined it to be a high mountain that soared above the world, displaying its glory, power and majesty. Maybe they imagined the Kingdom of God as a mighty river that carried its life to faraway lands. Perhaps their minds pictured the kingdom as a massive oak, standing tall and providing shade and shelter. We really don’t know what they were thinking, but I am sure they were surprised when Jesus shared His illustration with them.
When Jesus began to speak, He didn’t compare the Kingdom of God to a high mountain, a mighty river or even a majestic oak. Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a tiny mustard seed!
Jesus uses the image of something small to teach us about something larger than we can comprehend. Let’s look into the words of this parable and see the lessons Jesus wants to teach us about the Kingdom of God. I want to preach for a few minutes on The Message Of The Mighty Mustard Seed.
I. v. 31 HOW THE KINGDOM BEGINS
A. 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. It takes about 750 of them to make up a single gram. There are 28 grams in an ounce. Thus, there some 21,000 mustard seeds in an ounce. It is a tiny seed, but it produces a very large plant. I will say more about that in a moment.
B. Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to that little seed. In truth, most people believed that nothing would come of the Lord Jesus and His ministry. The people could see the tiny seed, but they could not see the great tree. Let’s consider the facts.
· Jesus was born in the tiny town of Bethlehem in abject poverty.
· He was reared in Galilee, and no one believed that a man of God could come from there, John 7:52.
· He was raised in a Nazareth. The inhabitants of that city were considered to be wicked and worldly by the Jews.
· He had no family connections. He had no money. He had no support from the religious leaders of the day.
· Jesus was considered to be a nobody from nowhere Who would amount to nothing!
· His parentage was questioned, John 8:41 by His enemies.
· His followers were, for the most part, the dregs of society.
· His Own people rejected Him.
· He was despised and rejected by men.
· The Romans eventually nailed Him to a cross and buried Him in a tomb.
· His followers preached His resurrection, but most people ignored their message and considered them fools for following a dead man.
· Even the Lord’s message was hard to swallow. For some it still is! After all, Jesus said to get you have to give away what you have. He told people to love their enemies. He counseled men to turn the other cheek. He spoke of walking the second mile; succeeding through serving and denying self.
There is no question that the Kingdom of our Lord was just like that tiny, insignificant mustard seed in the beginning. No one could see what the tiny seed Jesus was sowing would become!
C. There are still many in our day who mock Jesus and make fun of His claims to be God in the flesh and the only Savior of men. There are many who believe that Jesus never rose again from the dead. There are many who deny that He ever existed.
Here are the facts: God sent His Son into this world. He planted the Lord Jesus in the insignificant soil of a backwater province of Rome called Israel. He grew up there; He lived there and He died there. He rose again in that obscure place. And, the kingdom He founded by His death and resurrection continues to exist today! In fact, it appears to be thriving! So, that is How The Kingdom Begins. Let’s look for a moment at How The Kingdom Builds.
II. v. 32a HOW THE KINGDOM
A. When the tiny mustard seed is planted in good soil, it germinates and produces a very large shrub-like plant that eventually grows to resemble a tree. Some mustard plants have been known to grow as high as 15 feet tall. Something so small, with such humble beginnings, can become something that is truly amazing to behold.
B. Again, this is a picture of the amazing growth of the Kingdom of God. When the seed was planted in ancient Israel, the prospects for success seemed far away.
In the beginning there was just Jesus and a few ragtag followers. His followers consisted of some uneducated fishermen, a few revolutionaries, some women and a traitor. By the time the Day of Pentecost came around, there were still just 120 devoted followers of the Lord, Acts 1:15.
On that day something amazing took place! Over 3,000 people came to faith in Christ, Acts 2:41. A short time later another 5,000 were saved at one time, Acts 4:4. The church began to grow at an astounding rate. It wasn’t many days until the church in Jerusalem is said to have numbered some 50,000.
That was just the beginning! As the message was carried around the world, vast multitudes began to come to Jesus. Cities and nations fell on their knees in the face of the message of the Gospel of grace.
This amazing growth has continued down to this day. Who but God knows the true count of the souls that have been saved from sin and damnation? Everywhere the Gospel seed had been planted, souls have been saved and lives have been changed. The church has continued to grow and Kingdom of God on earth has continued to expand. There will come a day when a vast multitude that cannot be numbered will stand before the Lord in Heaven and praise Him for saving them by His grace, Rev. 7:9.
C. God has a way of bringing great things out of humble beginnings.
Look at David. He was a mustard seed. He was the youngest son in a family of eight boys. He was ignored and given the job no one else in the family wanted, taking care of the sheep. God took this mustard seed and made a giant-killing king out of his life.
Consider Gideon! He was a mustard seed too. He was from the smallest family in the smallest tribe in the nation of Israel. God took Gideon and used him as a great military leader.
Now, let’s take a look at you. If you are a child of God today, you certainly had mustard seed beginnings! According to the Bible, you were a sinner, Rom. 3:10-23. You were “dead in trespasses and sins”, Eph. 2:1. According to the Bible, you were under a death sentence and you were headed to Hell, Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:3; John 3:18, 36.
But God, in His grace, looked beyond what you were to see what you could become through His grace. He saved you, planted you in Jesus and now your life is bearing fruit for the glory of God.
D. Zech 4:10 says, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” God can take someone who seems insignificant and make something great out of them! He can take a little red-headed boy nobody wanted on their team and make him a great leader of men. He did that with Winston Churchill. He can take a backward, stuttering man and use him to bring the Law of God to humanity, He did that with Moses. He can take an awkward, shy shoe salesman and use him to shake the world for Jesus. He did that with D. L. Moody. What could He do with your life?
III. v. 32b HOW THE KINGDOM
A. This tiny seed grew 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 found shelter from the storms; rest from their weariness and shade from the heat of the sun.
The humble mustard seed produced a plant that had many uses among the human community as well. People gathered its leaves and served them up as food. The seeds were crushed and used as a condiment; the pungent flavor enhancing the bland diet of the people.
Those seeds were also used as a medicine. They were crushed and mixed with other things to make antidotes for snake, scorpion and spider bites. Poultices were made and they were used to fight colds and other physical ailments.
B. Just as the plant in this parable brought joy to the birds who flocked to it for shelter, the Kingdom of God has provided many benefits for those who have turned to Jesus.
Everywhere the Gospel has germinated, compassion, decency and morality have sprung up. Hospitals and schools have been founded. Truth and salvation have been proclaimed and lives have been changed.
Everywhere the Gospel has gone; it has brought about the destruction of demonism, cannibalism, polygamy, child sacrifice and ten thousand other evils. The spread of the Gospel has built orphanages for the fatherless and homes for the homeless. The Gospel has reached out to comfort the bereaved, care for the infirm, and cure the sick. The Gospel has changed individuals, communities and nations. Even this great nation owes its existence and blessings to the spread of the Gospel of grace. This nation was founded on the principles of the Gospel and the Christian faith, and even those who reject the Gospel in America today still reap the benefits of a nation founded by God and for God.
When the Kingdom of God moves in with divine power, the kingdom of Satan must fall before its appearance. It may have had humble beginnings, but God has used it to accomplish great and wonderful things.
C. Just as the birds in this parable found many great blessings under the branches of the mustard plant, those who come to Jesus find more than blessings than they can imagine. In Him, they find:
· A shelter from the storms of life, Psa. 61:2-4; Psa. 27:5; Psa. 46:1-3.
· Rest from the weariness of sin and religious works, Matt. 11:28; Eph. 2:8-9.
· Shade from the fierce wrath of Almighty God, Rom. 8:1; 5:9.
· Food for the hungry soul, Psa. 34:8; Psa. 107:9.
· A new, better life. He can take a bland life and move into and make that life abound with the blessings of the Lord, John 10:10.
· He is the antidote for the terrible poison of sin, 1 John 3:5.
· He is the cure for the sting of death, John 5:24; John 11:25-26.
· He is the cure for the sin sick soul, Psa. 103:3; Isa. 53:4-5.
Thank God for the blessings we find in Jesus! I bless the day that I came under the shelter of His branches! I bless the day when the poultice of grace was applied to the deadly wound of my sin and I was healed!
D. Most commentators see in this parable a very different picture than I have preached here today. Most see this parable as teaching us that, while the Gospel may spread and the church may grow, it will become the dwelling place of many who have a false profession. The birds in this parable are believed to represent “evil spirits”. Those who interpret the parable this way do so because the birds in the parable of the soils represented devils, v. 4. They believe this parable teaches us that as the truth grows, so does the opportunity for the devil to get in and work.
There is some truth in this view, but I believe the birds in the parable represent lost sinners, wherever they may be found. Just as birds find shelter, rest and shade under the braches of a tree; lost sinners have the same hope when they fly to Jesus for their soul’s salvation.
I don’t know how you feel about it, but I am glad there is a place in Jesus for me. I am glad that I can tell you that there is a place in Jesus for you too!
Conc: What is The Message Of The Mighty Mustard Seed? The primary message is this: The Kingdom of God may have had humble beginnings, but it will expand and grow until it has a universal impact.
The secondary message is this: God can take something that seems so small and insignificant and He can transform it into something real big! He has done that with the Kingdom of God. He has done that in many of you. He can do that for all who will come to Him by faith.
You should take a look at your own life today. If you are not a child of God, you should take your life and place it in the hands of God. You might think He won’t have you and can’t use you; the fact is, He won’t turn you away and He will do more in and through your life than you ever imagine.
If you are a child of God, you should take your life and present it before the Lord today. He can take you and use you in ways you would never believe. Give Him your life and watch Him work!
Bring your mustard seed to Jesus today and watch Him take it and turn it into a massive plant for the glory of God.