What is Mustard Seed Faith?
What can we learn from Jesus’ comparison of faith and the mustard seed?
What is Mustard Seed Faith?
One of the profound statements Jesus made concerning faith is about the mustard seed. I want to correctly define the type of mustard seed that Jesus spoke about to clear any question on technicalities.
Pliny the Elder, who lived between 23 and 79 C.E., wrote about the mustard plant in his encyclopedia “Natural History”: He further defines that it grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand, when it has once been sown, it is nearly impossible to get free of it. For when this seed falls into the ground it germinates very quickly and then it becomes extremely difficult to exterminate. (Pliny, “Natural History” 19.170-171; Rackham et al. 5.528-529)
There is a distinction between the wild mustard and its domesticated counterpart. When one deliberately cultivates the latter for its medicinal or culinary properties, there is an ever-present danger that it will destroy even a well-maintained garden. It’s growth habits overtake and overpower other plants it cohabits with. This is even evident in the domesticated types, such as brassica nigra or sinapis alba or sinapis arvenis. These are the names of three distinctly different types yet all have the same characteristics.
I have scaled multitudes of scholarly opinions, writings from the ancient and modern day scientists and searched intently to define the exact name and plant that Jesus referred to in His statement about the mustard seed. I have researched numerous technical explanations from expositors, authors, scholars, professors as well as many well meaning people on this area of discussion. After my extensive research to define the exact plant mentioned, I have drawn a conclusion.
However, my conclusion is primarily based on the description mentioned in the gospels spoken by Jesus Himself. The study of the mustard seed grown in Israel draws several different conclusions of the type of seed it really was. My honor and respect to these peoples work, however I notice the results are vastly inconclusive from one to the other. Many conclusions do not fit the technical characteristics written in the Gospels.
Therefore the methodology to bracket the evidence of the exact species of the mustard seed must be determined by the well-described characteristics in both Matthew and in the book of Luke. My conclusion is a simple one. The core image of the parable is of the mustard plant is the dangerous domestic variety or of the intrusive kind. This might be a surprise to many as to how this could be related as a cognate parallel to the Kingdom of Heaven. My extensive research was thought important to avoid or infuse an argument that would deter from the subject of the tiniest seed being the controversial issue to some.
Christ spoke of the mustard seed as the tiniest seed from which grows a large tree. He did not give description as of a plant but clearly a tree deriving from a tiny seed. This has been baffling me, because the mustard seeds we know are definitely NOT the tiniest seeds found in Israel or around the world. However, there is a mustard tree in Israel, called Salvadora persica. Its seeds are real tiny like specks of dust. The Mustard that Jesus spoke about in 5 places in the Bible is grown in Israel, and I conclude it was this tree called Salvadora persica, also called the toothbrush tree. I will also conclude, there are several others that would have some of the character traits that this tree has and would fit well with what Jesus was saying in His statement concerning faith. We do find that whatever the tree of mustard really was had scriptural traits depicted in the Holy Bible specifically in the New Testament.
May we look into the characteristics of the Mustard seed and then the tree itself? It is the smallest of seeds. It is nearly impossible to destroy in its entirety. The mustard tree that Jesus spoke about is an invasive type plant. If roots are cut, a new plant starts to grow from the cut area. It is nearly impossible to annihilate. It grows tall as protection to the birds from other predatory hawks as well as animals. It is a resting place and offers a cooling component from the extreme heat in the deserts of Israel and shade from the Sun. The Salvadora Persica tree was used for centuries as a natural toothbrush, its fibrous branches have been promoted by the World Health Organization for oral hygiene use. Research suggests that it contains a number of medically beneficial properties including abrasives, antiseptics, astringent, detergents, enzyme inhibitors, and even fluoride.
The Mustard that Jesus spoke about in five places in the Bible is grown in Israel and is called Sinapi Nigra which is a Greek word. The Hebrew word is Chardal. This plant of the family Brassicaceae. The name Brassicaceae is derived from the genus Brassica. Cruciferae, an older name, meaning “cross-bearing” which we must embrace its meaning to receive from its source.
In the Jewish tradition (Mishnah), it states that it is not a garden vegetable, but that it is grown in fields. It has been suggested that Salvadora persica is the exact plant. The Arabs are reported to call this tree chardal. First, Salvadora persica is a shrub very much unlike any member of the mustard family. Second, it is never cultivated although the shoots and leaves can be eaten by humans and camels. Third, it has a very restricted distribution in the Holy Land, being found only in deserts. The most probable candidate remains the salvadora persica plant in my research. Now that we have defined the mustard plant we can gain understanding of its characteristics.
Let’s look at verses and then the application toward our personal life. Luke 17:5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. V.6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamore tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. Many look at this verse and are overwhelmed with defeat. “If my faith is no greater than the tiniest of seeds, I must have no faith and accept defeat and the impossibility of ever pleasing God.” Many think this to be saying if I had faith the size of a small mustard seed. But it does not say size. When I saw that Jesus says faith like the grain of mustard seed, I looked into what the grain of mustard seed was like. Why was the tiny seed of this tree used as a true description of faith the way God sees it?
The deeper truth in this account is among the most powerful illustrations I have ever observed concerning faith of a child of God! It is an amazing example of truth that is deeply life changing! Beyond the contemporary challenges of the Christian’s life, there are those whom have advanced under the anointing of the Holy Spirit into depths few would dare to endure. These are the ones who have suffered deeply for His righteousness’ sake. They have survived the killing fields of what is popular and highly esteemed among highest religion and cultural tradition. They are a classified few. Known only by a few as good soldiers in the fight of faith.
This is why I spend so much time exemplifying the deeper work of the Spirit in previous chapters to lay the foundation for this truth which is the title of the manuscript. The deeper virtue of God’s work brings such a deep work of faith and purifying of the saint that he becomes an extremely intricate person of true cause. These are the trusted ones of God in His Kingdom on the earth. The heavenly life stream they know makes them no candidate for obnoxious spiritual repressiveness. The depths of these sanctified ones are protectively isolated within the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. They are the offering before the throne of God. They are the incense burning in the holy place. They serve Him day and through the night. The tranquility of their soul is not fermented with sensational enticements. They are no more detoured by one’s personal vendetta against their purpose before God. They walk among delusional persuasions of complaints that seem legitimate but are as dung in God’s presence. They refuse to bow to its idols because they smell the source. Such a believer’s heart will no more sway by deceptive accusations against them. Self proclaimed prophets and gainsayers among relevant religions and cultures hold no light to guide their path any longer. The Holy Spirit is the only one who leads these men of God. They are surrendered to one purpose and that one is not their own nor man’s ideas.
The truth of what Jesus said is heavenly! He draws the parallels between the man of faith and the tiny seed of mustard. This revelation is a colossal illustration that very few Christians have understanding in. There are things that Jesus said to His followers that most people do not understand, or else seek to neutralize it with reason. Three of these verses are quoted below. John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. V.13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. V.14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
The fact that these are the written words of Christ does not present us the option or authority to refuse to accept, question or doubt them. This Word is as much the Word of God as any other verse in the Holy Bible. Christ spoke this Word to His disciples and those who He would call his own. This is written to the dispensation of the new covenant provision to Israel and the Gentiles. These verses are written to His believers alone.
So what is so profound about this truth in the tiny mustard seed? Where this tiny seed is placed into the ground, it starts a plant that is virtually impossible to destroy. If this plant is cut down it springs up in the very places it was punctured. The very puncture cut it suffers will be bed life to produce new growth very quickly. I was told by someone from Israel that the only way to destroy it is through harsh chemical sprays over a period of time. The mustard seed faith is one that, the more it suffers the more it sprouts renewed growth. True deep tested spiritual faith works this exact way! The more it is persecuted the more it grows new strength and developing of new sprouts and vigor that flourishes the Kingdom of God.
Mustard seed faith is not personal performance of advanced achievements in any human form. It is the complex triumph by the power of the Holy Spirit within the believer in the face of unfathomable spiritual adversity and anguish. These situations are not unusual encounters to the one that is a true surrendered cross bearing Saint. These situations can only be overcome by faith in the promised provision. These situations also do a deep work in the true believer. This refiner’s fire achieves an exceeding weight of glory only to be revealed in the last day. Many do not understand the depth of these children of God. They are misunderstood by the shallow and maligned by the well thought of elementary boasters. These Apostles of Christ’s righteousness of are vehement detriments to the self righteous. Men with these attributes are the ones that move the Kingdom of God by simple obedience. This is the faith needed and it rests in the sovereignty of God’s true ones. God uses these fellows to speak to the tall extravagant mountains and strongholds in communities, homes, family’s churches and where He leads their feet.
These men of God are not the ones that carry a chip on their shoulder and call themselves prophets. These men are not the ones that hold untempered boldness they acquired before they knew God. These are men of many tears and carry the mission of God’s purpose on Earth. These are men that speak the voice of God among the deprived. The Holy Spirit leads these men in the face of spiritual obstacles that are not overcome by argument, but by faith. Here they speak to the mountains and tell them to go to the same place that Jesus sent the Gatherene devils through into the swine and into the sea! They speak to the stubborn sycamine tree and tell it to be plucked up by the root and drowned into the sea!
Notice that mountains and Mulberry trees used to describe obstacles to faith? A Mountain is the enormous silhouette of death that stares destructive impossibilities into a life in a valley. It seeks to buckle the knees and cause you to run in despair and give up in the valley of decisions. The Mulberry tree is a messy tree that is seldom useful for human use. It feeds the foul of the air and the foul finds rest in them. It signifies the presence of sour fruit and nesting places of the powers of darkness upon someone. These are conditions of strongholds or unfortunate circumstances and evil encounters. It is also an invasive plant that is hard to destroy. This is why it has to be pulled by the root or else it will find growth again. Many problems that people and churches have need to be pulled by the root and cast into the sea! Not through methodology but by speaking to them the word of faith. This is a powerful exercise that can only be done by the ones that have mustard seed faith. God has equipped these agents of His Truth to deal with spiritual high places that prevail at times through generations of unholy precepts in captivity.
These are the deliverers that come out of Zion that the prophet speaks about. Obadiah 21 and saviors shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s. The mount of Esau is the pinnacle of the self made life. How it is that Esauic blindness can be so glaring that the highest performers of self accomplished substance can lent one in such despair where everyone else is the cause? The blindness of Esau, Ishmael and Ham is an awful deception. These spiritually refined people of God will be like saviors to the forlorn Truth seekers. These fine linen Saints will be saviors to the desolation of human thought and reason like the dismay of Eve in Eden. They will show forth the praises through radiating once more the ability of Elohim at the close of the age. There is much courage in this army of men. They will bind together by one heart even crossing denominational lines to protect by example the Truth the righteousness that is by faith.