So, I let Miz Pink pick the topic this Tuesday, and it’s my fault that I’m posting our Two-fer Tuesday stuff almost at the end of the day, mere minutes from midnight, meaning it’s almost Wednesday. Partly my day has been busy; partly I wanted to see what Miz Pink would say about her passages from Matthew before I spouted off on another mustard seed parable, the one with which probably more people are familiar:
“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew chapter 17, verses 19-20
Or this one from the Gospel of Luke:
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied. ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.'” Luke chapter 17, verses 5-6
I’ve always believed mostly, and made my points about these passages, based on the idea that what Jesus was saying that we don’t really need much faith to do big things, but that even so, most of us are so rooted in the real world and our daily troubles and doubts that we cannot even muster up a mustard seed’s size worth of faith.
I still do believe that is part of what he meant, but I also now believe, after taking much of the day to digest Miz Pink’s post after she sent it to me, that there are other layers as well. Two of them, at least.
First, something I read here, which says that the mustard seed is “probably the most tightly packed seed of all. There is no place for air inside it. Later we shall see that air is the dominion of the devil. As a result it can withstand high pressures and high temperatures. Your faith may not be an all encompassing faith, that fills the totality of your personality, being and activity. Initially it is restricted to only a certain section of your being or personality or activity.”
Now, I’m not sure if Jesus really knew horticulture all that well. I know he is the only begotten son of God, and had access to all sorts of knowledge, but I’m not so sure he was pulling on such complex knowledge of the seed and expecting anyone to get that reference. But still, it’s an interesting point, so I thought I’d share it, and I think it is reasonable to think that Jesus might have hid something just this complex, deep and mostly incomprehensible to his audience in there for future generations to discover.
The second extra layer of this mustard seed parable is this: I don’t think it’s all about the size, but about where you go with your faith. Thinking of the fact that Miz Pink points out the mustard plant’s weed-like nature, and the fact that weeds grow like, ummm, weeds—I think that perhaps one of the bigger things Jesus might have been getting at in this parable is the potential for growth.
That is, the mustard seed starts small, but can grow much more abundantly and ambitiously than you might think such a small thing would be capable of doing. So, having faith the size of a mustard seed is to have a faith that might be small now, but has the potential and likelihood to grow much more. To grow to the point that you could make a mountain move with but a word from your mouth. But most of us don’t have the fortitude to generate that kind of growth. Most of us are seeds that produce, at most, a small flower or a blade of grass.
In any case, I have yet to produce the mustard-sized faith that Jesus talks about. Instead, I’m stuck with ketchup and relish, but as with all things, I will forge ahead with what I have and not be all “woe is me” about what I don’t have. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that mustard seed in me one day.