The Mustard Seed
Jesus used the analogy of the mustard seed in two different ways. One day he was speaking to a group of people and asked them, “What is the kingdom of God like?” (Luke 13:19) They had various opinions about the kingdom, many thinking that it would be a time when God would send his Messiah king and set up a new and powerful state of Israel. But Jesus said that the kingdom was like a grain of mustard seed. In the Lukan record there is no exaggeration about the seed being the smallest and growing into the largest tree as it is recorded in Matthew. Luke, being more scientific since he was a physician, probably knew that it was not the smallest seed nor did it grow into the largest tree and probably birds did not nest in it. Jesus is only stressing that something small like a seed becomes many times bigger. In this instance he is relating the growth or expansion of the kingdom of God.
And what is the kingdom of God? It is the inner consciousness of the Presence of God within us. The kingdom was fully established in Jesus. Many today are not the least bit aware of this kingdom for they have no consciousness of the inner Presence of God. They have not been spiritually awakened. There are many who have caught a glimpse of this inner kingdom and they are the quality truth students who are seeking to grow and let their consciousness expand so that they can become more aware of the full potential of the kingdom. There are many who have a superficial awareness, mostly intellectual, of the kingdom. They know about it and want to use what they think is the power of the kingdom to gain personal possessions, success, fame, fortune, and many other things. Some day they will realize, as they go deeper into the study of truth, that there is much more to spiritual growth than the ability to demonstrate things on the personal level.
In the story of the healing of the epileptic, Jesus uses the mustard seed in relation to the development and expansion of faith. The disciples wanted to know why they could not heal the body. Jesus said it was because of their little faith. He said to them, “For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Mat. 17:20) If all things are to become possible there must be an expansion or growth in faith.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus uses the mustard seed in still another way. The disciples asked him to increase their faith. He did not do it. He did not give them a formula for doing it either. He did not say to take an affirmation and affirm it so many times. Jesus knew there was no way the personal ego could develop faith through personal effort. Instead he said to them, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6) That would be quite a feat literally, because trees do not grow in the sea. But the apostles knew Jesus was not talking literally or scientifically. He was seeking to help them realize the great potential for faith.
The question we might ask is this, “Why didn’t Jesus do it for them? Why didn’t he even tell them how to increase their own faith?” He implied that they did not even have the mustard seed degree of faith. He said that if they had had even that small amount they could have healed the boy. Since they could not heal him they must not have had even the mustard seed degree of faith. Evidently Jesus knew that faith was something that only God could increase in the individual.
What is faith? And what is the kingdom of God? Both are compared with the mustard seed. Faith is the ability of the mind to open up and perceive reality. The outer, factual world is not the real world or as we often say, it is not real. To be real, something must be eternal and unchanging. All appearances are constantly changing. Reality is that which is true in principle and not what we want to be true. We have been taught many things as being true and actually they are false. We have been taught things about ourselves as being sinners, doomed to eternal punishment, and this is not true. Everyone will eventually be saved. We have been taught that God is sometimes good and sometimes cruel and this is not true.
The writer of the Hebrews defines faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) We often look for evidence of things we hope to get in the outer world. We look for signs about how our lives will turn out, hoping the signs will be good. We look for signs in the stars, in our feet, in our head, and in our hands, and in other parts of the body. Jesus said no signs would be given when he was asked to give a sign that he was the Messiah. When one opens his or her mind to truth, what is really true, then this is an increase in faith. When we hear someone say, “I can’t accept that,” regarding some statement of truth, they are revealing their inability to grow in faith. Truth cannot be determined by our ability to accept it. There are many things that are true which many people cannot accept. Jesus made a very interesting statement about faith. He said, “According to your faith be it done unto you.” According to your perception of life, be it done in manifestation for you. If the individual cannot perceive the possibility of himself being healed, there will be no healing. If one cannot perceive the possibility of a better life, there will be no better life even though in truth a fantastic life is possible. Those who cannot perceive the greater potential of the inner kingdom will remain in the darkness of mind until they can open their minds. It may take many difficult challenges to crack open their closed minds, but one day they will open up. Many believe they are in the light today through what they call faith, but they are really only still in the darkness. They have accepted some theological theory of salvation and think that is faith, but it isn’t.
Take for example this idea. Can you accept the possibility that one day you can become another Jesus? By this I do not mean that you will look like him, but that you will become fully aware of your oneness with God, as fully aware as Jesus was aware of his relationship with God. And that through this awareness you will have the same powers and abilities of Jesus Christ. Many cannot accept this great truth that Jesus gave to us. They have such a low and closed minded opinion of themselves that they think of Jesus as a God and that they could never be like him. Even though he said that we should follow him and that one day we would do the things that he did and even greater things, they still cannot open their minds to his great teaching.
In Heb. 11:5, it is recorded by the writer that “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death.” The average human being today does not realize the full significance of the great idea contained in this statement. Evidently Enoch could conceive in his mind the great truth of eternal life, a life in which there was no death and birth and rebirth. Our human belief is that God created us in the beginning and that we have only one chance to make good in this life so that when we die we can go to a heaven some place in the sky and live forever. But this is not true. There was no beginning for you or any one else. When the Bible says, “In the beginning” it is only a figure of speech and does not mean that there was a time when you and I were created by God. We have always existed and we will always continue to exist. Life is an eternal experience. Many are living on higher planes of consciousness than we know of right now. There are many Jesus Christs throughout the universe and there are many human beings trying to become Jesus Christs.
Faith is something that happens in the individual when the consciousness is ready. Paul refers to this experience as “justification by faith.” “Justification” means to be in a right and true relationship with God. It means to be open and receptive to God, His guidance and will and purpose for us. In this state we know that God’s will is only good and we therefore do not have to fear him. Paul says this a free gift. He seems to mean therefore that it is not the result of personal effort, but the result that happens when we cease personal effort. It happens when we can let it happen, when we can receive greater insight of truth without cracking up. It happens when we can accept greater ideas about ourselves and others and the world. Many cannot accept the great truth that they too are divine and that they are the sons or daughters of God in the same capacity and relationship as Jesus.
Because the expansion of faith is a free gift, Jesus knew there was no formula to give to his apostles to increase their faith. He knew that the faith experience would happen in them as they began to grow spiritually, as they began to release many of their human beliefs and relationships. Peter had to open his mind from being a human fisherman to becoming a spiritual teacher. He even had trouble with that. You will recall his reaction when he had the vision of the sheet full of unclean animals coming down and he was told to eat them. He said he couldn’t. The unclean animals represented his attitude toward gentiles. About that time a gentile knocked on his door and asked him to come and teach them. Peter got the message and did it. But there was still another time in Antioch when he was liberal and associating with gentiles. But when a delegation from Jerusalem came up and rebuked him for associating with gentiles he stopped it, at least while the delegation was there. Paul rebuked Peter for this inconsistency.
Paul had to open up his mind or at least be willing to let the faith experience happen. Paul wanted to know what was true and right. He had a great misconception about truth but on the road to Damascus he had an experience that expanded his faith. It was an involuntary experience. He was not expecting it to happen. It was a blinding and traumatic experience for Paul. It took him many years to begin to grasp and understand something that happened in him. He was no longer to be the same person. He was changed inside because his mind, his consciousness of faith was expanded to such a degree that he saw himself in a new light. He saw Jesus in a new light. He saw the world in a new light. It took him many years, some say at least fourteen years, to grasp and understand even to a small degree what was happening. His understanding wasn’t always that clear but it did change him and his life and the lives of many others down through the centuries.
Many people are searching for a better life through faith but are not receptive nor are they willing to be receptive. They go through many of the intellectual motions such as reading truth books, practicing what they think is meditation, and giving all kinds of help to God with their personal suggestions.
How then do we get this faith experience? Paul tells us in Romans 10:17. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing means that we have to learn to listen with a complete and total receptivity. We can’t listen or hear if our minds are fixed and solidified already with many false beliefs that we think are true. We must be willing to say, “God, I want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We must also take time each day to listen. To listen means that we make no effort to send special messages of instruction to God. We do not try to get His attention but become still and listen so that He can get our attention. If we insist on having our own way and believing what is not true, then we are not listening. If we refuse to accept the possibility of change in our lives, in any area, then we are not listening. If we do not listen, then we do not hear the word of God. This means that we do not have revealed to us the meaning and purpose for our lives. It means that we do not get spiritual guidance and understanding. We just exist, working and doing what we want to do personally. In this state we fool around and play at trying to grow up spiritually. We do things that we think will please God but which makes little difference to Him within us. We spend a great deal of time trying to clean the cup on the outside but leave the inside state of consciousness in the same condition. If our beliefs or intentions are challenged we become defensive. We also tend to search for those teachers who are less threatening with their ideas. It would be like a person wanting to stay in high school rather than accept the challenge of going on to college.
Listening is not easy. It is ego shattering, for many of our cherished desires must be given up. Many of our pleasurable habits must be given up. If we are not willing to do this we will remain on a plateau. No growth will take place and it may be that some people will spend several physical incarnations on this level. It takes discipline and it takes patience and persistence. We have to keep listening when we do not hear, even if it takes a year or more. We should remember that the practice of listening is something that we are going to do for the rest of our lives. We have to keep listening even after we get wonderful and pleasing instructions. We have to keep listening therefore when we hear what is pleasing and what we want to do and we keep listening when we hear what we do not want to hear and know we must do. When we do this, then our faith is increased. When faith is increased, our outer lives change. New relationships are established. New work or creative experiences are revealed as opportunities for greater participation and enjoyment in life.
When faith opens the mind, mountains of problems are met and removed. Things or problems that we thought impossible now become possible to solve. The mustard seed parable is telling us that great things can be accomplished with just a little spiritual insight. And that insight comes simply through a willingness to listen and let our mind open up through faith.
© 1985, Jim Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.