Lent • Day 31

The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.

Zechariah 14:9

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

Mark 4:30-32

The Galilean countryside is their classroom. As they walk from village to village together, Jesus’ hands are always moving and his students are always asking questions. Their lesson today, and every day, is on “the kingdom of Heaven.”

Jesus and his disciples, like all faithful Jews, grew up reciting the Shema. It’s a daily oath to love the LORD with the whole heart, soul, and everything else (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). After reciting the Shema, they pledged to obey the commands of the LORD by reciting Deuteronomy 11:13-21.

This was their daily pattern: First, they recognized the LORD as the ruler of their whole life. Then, they committed to follow the LORD by living his good way.

Over time, the Pharisees began calling this pair of ideas “the kingdom of Heaven” or “the kingdom of God.”

When a person submitted to the LORD as the ruler of their whole life the Pharisees said they were “coming into the kingdom.” People who came into the kingdom also obeyed God, their King.

Jesus taught his students to pray, “[The LORD’s] kingdom come, [The LORD’s] will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13). Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who also does the will of my Father” (Matthew 7:21).

When a person accepts the LORD as King of their whole life, they desire and do God’s will everywhere they go. Because of their obedience, many other people get to see and experience the goodness and power of God and, likewise, accept the LORD as King of their whole life and begin doing His will. And on and on the kingdom spreads.

As he teaches, Jesus sees object lessons all around them – birds, lilies, mountains, an open field. In parable after parable, he illustrates for his pupils what the kingdom is like.

“What else is the kingdom of God like?”

He points several feet above his head toward the top of a towering weed. “Ah, yes, the kingdom of heaven is like this mustard,” he says.

He breaks off a tuft of yellow flower, crushes it in his hand and retrieves a single seed. Pinched between his forefinger and thumb, it doesn’t look like much. The students lean in and squint. “The smallest of all seeds…becomes the largest plant in the garden.”

When we submit to the LORD as King, and do his will, our neighbors and neighborhoods are transformed. More lives and more earth are ruled by God and his kingdom spreads!

The last time Becky and I traveled to Israel, it was just coming out of an unusually wet season. Rivers and streams were swollen. Some roads were still washed out. The land was beautiful, blanketed in lush green grass, everything in bloom – especially the mustard.

It’s the kudzu of the Holy Land – a gorgeous but pernicious weed that quickly overtakes crops, chokes out rival plants, and blocks touristy views of holy sites.

Mustard in Israel
Me, at 6’2″, standing beside a young mustard plant.

Jesus compares the kingdom of Heaven to mustard that grows to be larger than any other plant in the garden. But the odd thing is…no one plants mustard in a garden unless they want to push out all the other plants and soon end up with a garden that’s nothing but mustard.

That’s exactly what the LORD wants! The LORD sent Jesus to spread the kingdom so that one day the whole world would recognize the LORD as King and enjoy the fullness of an obedient life lived God’s way.


• Have I ever submitted to God and asked him to reign over my whole life?
• Do I live as if God is my king, obeying God and joining in His work on earth?

Our Prayer

Our Father in heaven, we bow before you. We want the whole world to worship you as King and experience the fullness of living your way. How can we join you in making that happen today?