A few years ago, Gemma and I went to India for a month. If you’ve ever been to India you will know that it is one of the craziest and most amazing countries in the world. The noise, the smells, the bustling cities, the colours and the scenery are quite something. Not to mention that the people are incredible and the food is something else altogether.
Whilst we were in Udaipur we went to a half-day cooking lesson with a local chef. We made all sorts of stuff from chai masala, different curries and chapatis before we got to eat it all – and my goodness, it was a-m-a-zing… This chef had transformed my ‘beans on toast’ skills into Michelin star-like talent and all I had to do was follow his very simple step-by-step instructions and trust he knew what he was doing.
Afterwards we went into his shop and bought a tin full of spices and bits to take home with us and have a go at the recipes when we got back to Blighty. My tin of Indian spices is still in our kitchen cupboard. One item in that tin that recently caught my attention as I continued to read through Mark’s Gospel pondering our next stop on our discipleship tour.
It’s something that is literally no larger than the full stop at the end of this sentence.
The very humble mustard seed.
Last month we looked at the Parable of the Sower and following on from that Mark records a number of parables that Jesus told the crowd including his disciples. One of them was about that little seed.
”What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like…It’s like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you might plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants…With many similar parables Jesus spoke the work to them…He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.” (Mark 4:30-34 – NIV)
A mustard seed is incredible. If you dropped it you would never find it again and yet you cannot miss the plant it grows into. That’s the Kingdom of God. That’s a truth that we all need to grasp and hold on to. Something, God centred, a single person or a tiny idea, can become something that transforms a town or a community or impacts the life of another person with eternal consequence. All because someone somewhere who thought quietly to themselves, ‘I wonder if I could start x’ or ‘I feel like God is saying to commit to pray regularly for y‘. The apparently incidental or inconsequential can become anything but within the Kingdom of God when He’s involved.
The next few verses describe how, at the end of the day, the disciples and Jesus got into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. When they got part-way across a storm hit and the waves started to crash into the boat threatening to sink it. The disciples start to panic. Now remember that a bunch of these guys are no strangers to boats or the Sea of Galilee – they were fishermen from that very spot so they knew the danger that they were in.
Jesus, however, was asleep…
“The disciples woke him and said to him ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’. He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’”
The disciples knew that big waves caused big impacts and that’s what they were focussed upon and so often we fall into the same trap. Jesus however was unimpressed because it’s not about the waves crashing around the boat it’s about who’s in the boat.
Now there’s nothing wrong with the big and the dramatic. It all has it’s place but never mistake the rules of the world for the rules of the Kingdom of God. You never have to look far to see that God uses the small, the insignificant, the unnoticeable to transform situations, places and people.
I bet the disciples never saw Jesus in the same way after that night. And when we grasp the reality of who it is that asks us to do something, we won’t mind how small and insignificant it appears. We will know that if we trust him and follow the step-by-step instructions he gives us, whatever we think of our skills, our ideas, our little influence or stature, he’s the Masterchef who can turn a mustard seed into something altogether life changing.