And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”Mark 4:30-32 (ESV)
The parable Jesus tells here is of the growth of the Kingdom of God on the earth. What starts out, in what seems to be an insignificant manner, eventually becomes so influential that the entire world is under its sway. So much so that the forces of evil, the birds of the air, find places to make their habitation within the structures that society has erected based on the principles of Jesus teachings.
Let’s break this down. Jesus’ teachings in their day were absolutely iconoclastic in their scope and substance. For example the in Sermon on the Mount Jesus takes the Jews’ already high moral law and goes from mere external observance to heart intent.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)
Jesus teachings were so radical and so at odds with the society of the day that it brought him into sharp conflict with the political forces of the day and eventually led him to his death on the cross. And that would have been the end of the story if he had not been raised from the dead . His disciples took up the message and practice of the Kingdom that Jesus established and within 30 years had transformed the society around them. So much so that when Paul and Barnabas went to Thessalonica they caused an uproar in the city and the indictment was that they had “turned the world upside down”
And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”Acts 17:6-7 (ESV)
Christianity has, for the last 2000 years, been a disruptive influence in the societies where it has been preached, and the entire world has, through the centuries, had opportunity to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is the defining foundation of our current western society. “Judeo/Christian values” are what all of the current democratic societies look to as the touchstone of their laws and societal norms. Ideas like equality and social justice spring out of the ideals of sanctity of human life that Christ preached. Care and concern for the environment come from the understanding that the earth is God’s creation and has inherent worth. “Do unto others what you would have done unto you” and the idea of “fairness” and a “level playing field” and “free speech”, all springboard from Christian teaching that all human life has value.
But we now see those very values being weaponised to demolish the foundations from which they spring. The enemies of freedom, individuality and peaceful free societies are using the institutions and ideals built on the basis of Christianity to destroy the fabric of the society which embody those very ideals.
The current situation in the USA is a prime example of this. The BLM movement utilises the ideal of free speech and free association and freedom to protest to vandalise and wreck private and public property and to bring anarchy in the name of a more equitable society. In western society we have seen an eroding of the previous high moral values to an “anything goes” morality based upon the ideals of personal freedom and expression.
Sexual immorality now is the norm rather than the exception and the idea that I might be doing myself or others harm by my uncontrolled lust for another is no longer even considered. We have children and young adults viewing porn, violence and addicted to all other kinds of destructive behaviours. We see the rise of governmental control of society far beyond what would have been accepted in times past, in the name of “public safety”.
The “birds of the air” certainly have made their nests in the shadow of the mustard tree. These are signs of the times that Jesus foresaw and predicted. One wonders what will be the resultant outcome of these signs? What sort of society will we be leaving to our children and grandchildren?
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”Luke 18:1-8 (ESV)