It’s All About the Mustard

by Lester Young

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re familiar with the now-famous ‘mustard-seed’ parable. There, Jesus’ staff had just asked Him to increase their faith; to which He cryptically responded, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6). Now… …is it just me, or do you also wonder if His disciples sometimes wished to themselves that the Lord would – at least once in a while – give a straightforward reply? Of course, we know by the Scriptures why Jesus responded the way He did: to keep those who weren’t willing to repent and follow Him from understanding the mysteries of God’s Kingdom (Matthew 13:10-15, 34-35; Mark 4:11-12). And certainly He always explained the meaning of the parables to His inner circle when there were no crowds around (Matthew 13:36; Mark 4:10, 34). But can’t you imagine the disciples sitting there in front of Jesus during one of those teaching sessions thinking, “Lord, we don’t suppose You’d mind giving us a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer this time – just this once? Our brains are startin’ to hurt…”

Actually, I didn’t come here to tell you that.

However, with that said, the “parable” format of education wasn’t used simply for the purpose of keeping the unbelieving in the dark. It was (and still is, for that matter) also an extremely effective way to surreptitiously reveal underlying principles to believers. For instance, let’s consider that ‘faith-and-mustard-seed’ thing. On second thought, in order to get a really good run at it, we should back up even beyond that: let’s start with just the ‘seed’ part for now.

Think about a seed: What does it do, what’s it for – in other words, what is its primary purpose? Now certainly some seeds are quite edible – peanuts, sunflowers seeds, etc. – but I tend to think they were not made ‘seeds’ first and foremost for the intent of being boiled, salted and sold on the side of the road for fifty cents a bag. If you trace the Hebrew word zera that’s translated ‘seed’ in the Old Testament, you’ll find it comes directly from the root word zara, which means “to sow” – that is, to disseminate or plant (seeds). So what was God’s main purpose for seeds? To be planted. And since He never changes, their primary purpose hasn’t changed, either (Malachi 3:6).

So seeds are meant – in their highest calling – to be planted (Genesis 1:11). And something interesting happens when they are – when they’re used in line with that main purpose: they grow into a plant that produces a whole lot more seeds than the single one which started the process. The bottom line, then, is that seeds multiply – it’s simply what they were meant to do. And, virtually always, the increase in numbers of seeds produced compared to the “producer” (planted) seed is nothing short of staggering.

Here’s another tidbit of info that’s extremely helpful to note about seeds: they’ll only produce the same kind of seed as what they themselves are; which, of course, means they’ll only grow the type of plant that they originally came from. A very wordy way of saying that an apple seed is only going to grow an apple tree, a rose seed is only going to grow a rose bush, a grape seed is only going to grow a grape vine… you get the idea. Elementary, yes: but still invaluable to keep in mind (Genesis 1:12; Matthew 7:20).

Now I’m quite sure I haven’t yet told you anything you weren’t previously aware of. Indeed, I can’t imagine anybody older than age six who hasn’t already figured this stuff out. So I’ll get down to the point. “Yes, Lester, why don’t you!?”

Alrighty, then. Getting back to our original ‘faith-and-mustard-seed’ topic, Jesus used everyday situations in His stories because people could feel comfortable with and easily understand those settings. He used ultra-familiar real-world processes to shed light on the invisible workings of God’s Kingdom. And in addition to it being the most effective means to explain things, He was also absolutely correct to teach that way because of the fact that this natural world follows and mirrors the spirit realm – i.e., things happen in the spirit first and then they manifest in the physical (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 11:3; James 3:6). (Is it therefore any wonder that Jesus, when expounding the parable of The Sower, told His disciples, “If you understand this parable, then you already have the insight you need to understand all the others” [Mark 4:13 The Message, paraphrased]. In other words, if you recognize how the ‘created’ world works, there’s absolutely no reason for you not to comprehend how the ‘creating’ world works, because they both work the same way – the one copies the other.)

The disciples asked for more faith. Jesus responded to them by saying, “Look, if you’ve only got a ‘spot’ of faith no bigger than a mustard seed – a single mustard seed – you’ll do with it what you’d do with a mustard seed: you’ll plant it; in other words, you’ll put it to use! And if you put it to use, it’ll do what it’s been created to do. If you plant a mustard seed it’ll create a mustard tree. If you plant a mulberry seed, it’ll create a mulberry tree. And if you plant a be-uprooted-and-planted-in-the-sea ‘seed’ (that is, a faith-filled spoken word [Mark 4:14]), it’ll create an uprooting-and planting-into-the-sea of whatever it’s aimed at.”

A successful farmer doesn’t need to be a molecular herbologist (or whatever) to grow crops; all he really has to understand is this: “good seed + good ground + good water = good crops”. He knows that if he plants seed, takes care of it and lets it stay there in the ground doing its thing, it’ll grow into what it’s supposed to, period. It just will (Mark 4:26-28). You and I are familiar enough with nature’s track record to know that that mustard seed will eventually turn into a mustard tree, and that mulberry tree will do the same (except, of course, for the ‘mulberry’ part). And if we’re fully persuaded within ourselves that those two events will most certainly occur if the seed is put to work, the Lord tells us we ought to be just as sure that our faith-filled spoken words will produce what they’re filled with (Deuteronomy 30:19; Proverbs 4:23, 18:21; Mark 11:23; Luke 6:45). Why? Because words are ‘spiritual containers’ (seeds) and they start the creative process rolling to produce ‘things’ in the natural (Mark 4:14; John 6:63; James 3:6). Period. They just will. In addition, the Hebrew word dabar not only means “word,” it can also be translated “thing”; which I find pretty interesting.

But by those same two mustard and mulberry examples above, we’ve also already been taught and are fully aware that the results we want when we plant those seeds – that is, fruit growing from mature trees – will not be immediate. And since we now know that the ‘be-uprooted-and-planted-in-the-sea’ seed works exactly the same way the mustard and mulberry seeds do, should we get upset if we plant it (by “declaring” it once or even twice) on Friday afternoon but still don’t notice anything different when we get up on Saturday morning? Should we jump to the conclusion that “This ‘you’ll-have-what-you-say’ process didn’t (or isn’t) working for me!”? Even our ‘natural’ experience with the vegetation outside tells us that we should know better than that. Just slow down, step back and remember to mentally diagram the “seedtime-and-harvest” system like so: seed – time – and harvest.

Now in addition to the ‘seed’ correlation, Jesus also referred to our faith in terms of a servant at our beck and call. This servant has been given to us for one reason and one reason only: to serve us. That is in fact his sole lot in life (Luke 17:7-9). As such, the Lord tells us we’re to treat this servant accordingly – in other words, we’re to treat him… [drum roll]… just like a servant! Don’t give him a break – any break at all – until he’s completely finished with his work! While in the natural this sort of heavy-handed supervision would quickly net you visits from the local Labor Board and ACLU, our spiritual servant will only benefit from such “harsh” treatment by growing stronger.

So go ahead and plant your faith – put him to work. Then keep him on the job until he’s produced the results you’re looking for. He may take a while to get it done, but don’t pull him out of the ground he’s working in – because he is indeed working, regardless of whether you can tell it or not with your physical senses. Oddly enough, the more you give him to do, the stronger and more efficient he’ll become at his job – and the less time he’ll take getting things done!

And by the way, here’s a hint I think the Lord was also alluding to: as soon as your servant faith finishes one job, immediately find him something else to do – don’t even give him a chance to sit down. Before long you’ll have him looking like he could be elected Governor of California.


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7 Responses to “It’s All About the Mustard”

  1. Brilliant. As usual brilliant. Lester, I am very much drawn to your work today. I love to plant and watch my gardens grow in the natural. I too feel the frustration in the natural to weeds, pests, drought, etc. Those come without fail – but so does the harvest. I too feel that we are drawn to the idea of husbandry, even if it’s to admire a potted plant. That draw I feel because as Adam, we were made to nurture. I know this will seem off beat and not on topic but as I write I don’t think so – forward. I’ve been studying and doing a comparison between Genesis chapters 1 and 2 to the Gospel of John chapters 1 and 2. Adam being created on the 3rd day – Jesus’ miracle of water to wine on the 3rd day of His ministry. Here we have two Adams, caretaker, husband (not in the sense of man and wife but cultivator) and Shepard and Savior. Where am I going – I know sometimes I’m very scattered, but I see these two Adams as seed planters, seed bearers. Then of course we have the garden, woman, the fall – but in John the wedding already taken place, the wine depleted gone but miraculously there because the second Adam is more, much more and with a deep purpose, that of saving the world the first Adam let slip away. But again, I sense that Jesus was, is teaching us how to plant, how to husband, starting us out again – plant here, take care, watch grow and especially now, now that Jesus has redeemed the very ground that was cursed because of sin. Am I too scattered. I will admit here freely I’m very consumed at present with this study and if I’m trying to fit a square peg in a round hole just tell me.
    Thank-you Lester for all your efforts on behalf of the Church. You are a wonderful teacher. -Sandy

    • Hi, Sandy.
      You know, that word you used: ‘nuture’, just struck a chord when I saw it. So much so that I stopped and looked it up just to see exactly what the clinical def is. The first entry said it all: “to feed and protect.” It’s the totality of what both the husbandman and the shepherd do. And God teaches us how to live and operate in His Kingdom by using both examples. You’re quite right, because there are a number of similarities between the first and second Adams. Of course, we’re all too familiar with the 180-degree differences (and we’d certainly better be lol). But we often tend to overlook the striking similarities between the two. Just by being called the ‘second Adam’ points out that there must be some very important, very fundamental things the two have in common. For instance, we don’t often think about it that way, but Adam was God’s son, too. And before his fall, he had the same living, communing relationship with God that Jesus did. They hung out in the Garden together in the cool of the day. As you alluded to, God put him in the Garden to take care of it, grow it, expand it and live from it. Our Good Shepherd takes care of us, grows us, expands us, and causes us to live from Him. You’re quite right, there’s a lot to be learned from both Adam and our Lord Jesus; not only individually, but in comparison, too. (Funny thing I’ve noticed about comparisons: the more you study one, the more it seems you learn about the other lol)
      As always, San, thank you for your kind and encouraging words. And don’t even concern yourself about being too scattered… not at all. 🙂

  2. Good morning,
    I woke up this morning determined to study those passages of scripture that you gave in your new post from yesterday on faith again. While studying, you mentioned this post and I in my curiosity tapped on the link to read it. And I am glad I did. Your article has strengthened me again.

    I also see that you have a book out and I want to read it, because it looks as if it is a good study book that can accompany me through this passage I am going through. I hope I can download it at Amazon, Germany.

    So, thanks, Lester. You really have helped me and when the seed that I’ve planted sprouts out above ground in the visible world I will personally let you know.


    • Good morning, Pat.
      It really blesses me that you found it helpful — but I’m very pleased to give the Lord Jesus all the glory: they’re His words thru me. And thank you for the interest in the book — it is available internationally (including Amazon Germany). I hope you get something out of it, as well. Now, you have no idea how I’m looking forward to hearing your praise report. I’m sitting here thinking about it with a big smile on my face. and I’m adding my faith to yours and standing with you that you’ll very soon be living right inside that dream God has placed in your heart! (Psalm 37:4) So when you’re jumping up and down in joy, don’t forget to drop me that line 🙂
      Again, many thanks, and blessings to you, Pat!

      • Hi,
        I got the book this morning and I have a smile on my face. I praised God this morning for you by bringing you before the throne of grace with thanksgiving in my heart that you are out there. Sometimes we look all over the world and that what we need to hear is right before our eyes.
        I subscribe to your posts, but honestly, I haven’t been reading them, and it’s not because they are boring or have no meaning for me. I had simply given them a lower priority because I was searching for the Kingdom Keys.
        Some while back, maybe two or it could be three months ago, there was a desire in my heart too read the passage of scripture where Jesus says, “It’s my Father’s pleasure to give you the keys to the kingdom.” Did I read it? No. I got bogged down and it slipped out of my focus.
        Yesterday evening, that passage of scripture and your post practically blinked like a neon signs before my eyes. I had sat there before I read your article, a little depressed and disturbed because I wasn’t getting the answers that I needed. Your faith article steered me back on the path. We all need lights along our way that light up our paths and that is exactly what your article did for me last night. You cannot imagine how peaceful I slept and how happy I awoke.
        So, no more putting your posts aside. I may not always comment, but I’ll be reading.
        Have a blessed week.

      • Hi, Pat.
        You know, I think we can all plead ‘guilty’ to those kinds of things. The Lord’s trying to talk to us all the time, but we can end up getting our attention consumed in ‘looking at’ our problems – so we end up hearing Him but not really paying much attention (i.e., not doing what He told us to), or not hearing at all. And I’m sure that’s why He told us to “cast the care – all of it” – over onto Him (1 Peter 5:7). Not only do we not need to carry it, doing that will free us up to just hear Him better.
        Thank you so much for getting the book. Please let me know what you think of it — questions, comments, criticisms (hopefully constructive lol), discussion points, whatever; feel free to throw them at me.
        Your words have really blessed me, Pat.. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate them. And I’m glad you’ll be reading, because I’ll keep writing. 🙂


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