Two-fer Tuesday: Extra Mustard by Deacon Blue

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.


6 Responses to “Two-fer Tuesday: Extra Mustard by Deacon Blue”

  1. 1 drunkdreamer8
    July 30, 2008 at 1:34 am

    intresting blog, just wanted to invite you over to my new home, if you needed some encouragement today at http://www.drunkdreamer8.com
    hope to see you there

  2. July 30, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    I appreciate this post. In recent weeks, I’ve been having conversations with myself about my own faith. As I see things *not* changing, I wonder if (1) I don’t even have faith the size of a mustard seed or (2) my faith was sufficient and the season is coming or (3) I simply hoped and prayed for things that are outside of God’s will for me.

    I answered some of my own questions as I realized that those who love the Lord will (mostly?) have desires that match God’s will. For instance, a man meant to be a world-class golfer would love golf as a child (think – Tiger Woods). His early desire matched his destiny.

    I also realize that things are changing more than I was ready to admit. I met the type of man that I prayed for. I’m earning even deeper accolades at work – coming from sources that I never knew were “watching.”

    Then I look at my character and realize what a changed woman I am from long ago.

    No real ending point for this comment… except to say thanks again for the post.

  3. July 31, 2008 at 6:35 am

    I enjoy your blog. I’m more New Age than traditional in my beliefs, and I hope that’s all right with you? What we have in common, no doubt, is our love of God, and of the scriptures. I believe that’s a good beginning in any relationship.

    I like what Miz Pink and you have said here, and would like to contribute to the dialog, if I might. You didn’t give the translation source of the two passages from Matthew and Luke (and I didn’t research it), but I did notice that they differ slightly from that of the KJV.

    19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
    20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Matthew, 17:19-20

    And the other:

    5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
    6 And the Lord said,If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. Luke, 17:5-6

    As his apostles had just asked Jesus to increase their faith, no doubt size was fully referenced (yet, not solely) when he offered his answer referencing the mustard seed, but unlike the other translations the size of the mustard seed is not unequivocally stated, outside of calling it a “grain.”

    As you suggested: After asking for an “increase” in faith, his apostles must have been stunned to learn that a “grain of mustard seed” faith was all that was required. In a sense, it could be perceived as a rebuke, given what a “grain” could accomplish, and they still came up short.

    Because a definitive translation does not exist to my knowledge (any of the several could be correct), I will use the KJV as my primary source.

    I will come back to this later.

    In the KJV, Jesus attributes his disciple’s failure to their “unbelief,” suggesting that his disciples believed that the expulsion of a devil through prayer was either outside the realm of possibility, or that their faith lacked the power to do so.

    On another occasion Jesus issues more instructions on prayer:

    23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

    24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Mark 11:23-24

    In this passage, faith is not directly referenced, but doubting, and believing are. When Jesus stilled the waves and the winds, he said to those present: “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”

    All of this suggest that a quality of faith is needed to enhance the “size” of our faith. If we’re able to set doubt, fear, worry, and “unbelief,” aside, our faith increases. If not, our faith dwindles to a point of being ineffective.

    That faith can exercise control over both a growing thing (sycamine tree) and an inanimate thing (mountain), from the least to the greatest, was probably not lost on Jesus’ disciples, since Jesus used these two things as examples.

    It suggests, in addition, that faith doesn’t come with preconditions–that it is available to all for any purpose, be it good, or be it evil. Therefore, maybe it’s best that few can achieve the firmness of mind necessary to “remove” mountains. And we have this admonition:

    “…and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity [love], I am nothing.”

    However, there are checks and balances (as you sow you reap). So he that would use the power of faith nefariously, would, through the reaping, subject himself to the same fate.

    Finally, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,” may not reference size at all, but the faith inherent in the seed itself. The “mustard seed” requires no “faith” that it will be transformed into something other than a seed. It possesses an inner knowing of its destiny. It doesn’t question what it will become, it simply knows that it will be, in time, a mature “mustard plant.”

    Faith, then, is the absolute knowing that a thing is so, such as that exhibited by the mustard seed, which, as a seed, will build on that knowing (using nature’s impetus) to transform itself in a way that is more than seed. At no time does the seed question (doubt, fear, worry over) what it will become. The mustard seed becomes a mustard plant. The apple seed becomes an apple tree; the acorn, an oak.


    P.S: I believe that I left this post on your guest blog entry. It was a mistake.

  4. 4 Deacon Blue
    July 31, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Welcome, First Domino. That you are more “New Age” in your views isn’t a problem. Not everyone who comes here is “traditional” Christian. Hell, even I’m not. I hold to a fairly strong view of believing much of what the Bible says, even some of the crazy-sounding stuff, but no true conservative fundamentalist Christian would probaby want me on their side in a Bible debate.

    Thanks for the thoughts and insight. Always apprecaited, and I hope to see more of you around here.

    I’ll go remove that other post now for housekeeping. Cleanliness is next to godliness after all. 😛

  5. July 31, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    i was kind of thrown into the mustard pit then, so to speak, when my son was killed in an auto accident almost 4 years ago. i have had faith in God most of my life, but up until then i had had to use it minimally. had it not been for my faith in God, i would probably not be here today. there were times when i wanted to just throw in the towel and give up because the pain was too much to bear…but somehow, God brought me through and it gets ever so slightly less painful each passing day. i agree with you blue..about all of it!! the tightly packed seed (almost bursting) to the growth it has!!! well said!! thank you

  6. 6 Deacon Blue
    July 31, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I’ve never had to deal with the kind of loss you did, but I definitely find that when things really hit the fan, it’s leaning on God that has kept me from losing my mind.

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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