What kind of impact is the church supposed to have in the world? Is it a continuing impact or one that ebbs and flows? Does yesterday’s victories guarantee that the territory taken by a church will remain indefinitely? These are questions that are rarely asked by people in the church and the state of most congregations attest to this ignorance. Far too often we assume that all of yesterday’s work, prayers and victories will be enough to sustain us continually.
So far in the last two weeks (HERE and HERE) in our journey of revelation we have seen Jesus as our high priest and adopted brother, we see Him not as just a man but as the Messiah. We understand that He was hidden throughout the entirety of the scriptures and Jesus lived His live to fulfill them. We are beginning to see Jesus clearly as He was before the earth was created and equally so during the time He wore a suit of dirt when He walked the earth. We have come to the place where know that He is, was and ever will be.
To fully see Jesus we must go beyond the images of Him with the disciples, or Jesus on the cross and see Him for who He is today. No longer just a lamb, but a lion, no longer a servant but the King of kings.
The Book of the True King
Let’s look to the least read and most misunderstood book of the bible the book of Revelations, a book of mystery, images, chaos, glory, hope, and fear. A book that seems to say different things each century and one which is most often studied to find the sources of evil in our world. However we must begin to look at the book according to its full and proper title “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”.
Put aside your eschatology (end times doctrines) and just focus on Jesus for a moment, not on the end and not on any book or movie you’ve seen. We are looking at the Revelation of who He is today and what He accomplished on the cross. For a moment take off your glasses of Futurist, Preterist, Spiritualist, Historicist, Pre-Tribulation, Amillennial, Post-Tribulation, dispensational, progressive, literal, allegorical or anything else of the like and take a good long look at Jesus in these pages.
Revelation 1:12-18 “12Then I turned to see [whose was] the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13And in the midst of the lampstands [One] like a Son of Man, clothed with a robe which reached to His feet and with a girdle of gold about His breast. [Dan 7:13; 10:5.] 14His head and His hair were white like white wool, [as white] as snow, and His eyes [flashed] like a flame of fire. [Dan 7:9.] 15His feet glowed like burnished (bright) bronze as it is refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. [Dan 10:6.] 16In His right hand He held seven stars, and from His mouth there came forth a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full power at midday. [Ex 34:29.] 17When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, [Isa 44:6.] 18And the Ever-living One [I am living in the eternity of the eternities]. I died, but see, I am alive forevermore; and I possess the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead). AMPC
Understanding John’s Worldview
Before we go any further we have to understand that this is written in poetic imagery, prophetic language and pictures, just like the book of Zechariah or even some of thePsalms (I’m not saying that John didn’t see Jesus but rather I am talking about how he describes Him). We have to differentiate our logical and literal Western (ancient Greek) method way of thinking with the image based way of thinking (worldview) of ancient middle eastern cultures.
For example take a pencil, a Greek/Western mind is focused on its appearance and would say it is yellow, made of wood, is so many inches long and has a point made of graphite. Where a Hebrew/Eastern mind is more drawn to the purpose of the pencil, thereby seeing a pencil they would say it is something I can draw or describe things with. In the Hebrew worldview words, actions and verbs are interconnected and often are not differentiated, such as the word “sword” being rooted in the word to “cut.”
We also have to differentiate the two methods of storytelling used between the two cultures. Where a Greek/Western mind uses a steady progression of time, with beginning, middle and end, Hebrew writing on the other hand which is seen throughout the scriptures as a poetic flow, where themes and moments are repeated much like a rhyme scheme in a poem.
Where a Greek poem or song would go AABB CCDD, in Hebrew it often follows a pattern of ABCDCBA (aka chiastic structure), a progression we find often in Psalms and longer prophetic writings. The ABCDCBA is not always found in each line but can also be the progression of an entire chapter or prophecy.
An example of this Hebrew progression is found in Revelation chapter 12 we see the same story unfold from two different perspectives. Even though one account is at the beginning of the chapter and the other is at the end, both take place simultaneously on two different levels (natural and heavenly). Another example is Psalms 110:1-7 where we see verses 1 and 7 speak of YHWH establishes the king. Verses 2 and 6 speaks of going out to conquer, verses 3 and 5 speak of contrasting days of power and wrath. Then we encounter verse 4 which anchors the poetry and speaks of YHWH’s unbreakable oath. Verse 4 then becomes the most important verse in the section, unlike Greek or Western thought which generally places that importance either at the beginning or the end.
Another thing to remember is that throughout the Scriptures God is notorious for repeating Himself. In Genesis 41:32 using the hermeneutic principle of first mention we understand why God repeats Himself. It is done to draw our attention to what He is saying and to confirm that the words will come to pass. We see this played out in King James Version and other classical Bible translations when Jesus says Verily, verily or truthfully, truthfully. Jesus didn’t stutter He was declaring and confirming what He was saying not only was not only true but established by God and guaranteed to come to pass.
What Did John See?
Now that we understand all of this we can take a better look at what John is describing in Revelation 1:12-18. I will now include a version of this verse that has the Hebrew imagery included in John’s account so we can better understand what he saw.
12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven (perfect quality) golden (purity, durability, superiority) lampstands (source of light, God’s presence), 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man (Dan 7:13), clothed with a garment (covering, Mt. of transfiguration, priesthood) down to the feet (stability, authority, to be bowed down before) and girded about the chest (righteousness) with a golden band (Is 11:5, symbol of priesthood). 14 His head (kingship, authority) and hair (glory) were white like wool, as white (pure, clean) as snow (rarity, pureness, transcendence), and His eyes (beauty, gateway to his soul, God’s omnipresence) like a flame of fire (refining, purification); 15 His feet (strength) were like fine brass (metal of the altar of sacrifice, Moses’s serpent on a pole Num 21:6-9), as if refined in a furnace (refinement), and His voice as the sound of many waters (powerful); 16 He had in His right hand seven stars (angels), out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (words and authority, Is 49:2), and His countenance was like the sun (light, source of life) shining (glory, Ex 34:29) in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand (power, strength) on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am (I AM that I AM) the First and the Last (Is 44:6, A to Z / Alpha and Omega). 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive (zoe, eternal life) forevermore. Amen (so be it). And I have the keys (authority) of Hades (where the dead go) and of Death (the power of sin over mankind).
In this expanded picture we see several things in common, Jesus is alive and not only that but He now has power, strength and authority as King of the world. Jesus also comes to us as our pure and holy heavenly high priest to bring about redemption for our sins and provides the strength for us to stand before God. Jesus is pictured here as someone who is already endued with power and authority, He is no longer just the humble lamb but the mighty lion of Judah the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Understanding how the people John first showed these visions to would have understood and interpret this passage gives us a clearer view of Jesus as the reigning King. Hidden here are many attributes and revelations about Jesus can typically go unnoticed with a casual glance of these scriptures. Other times while trying to fit square theologies in round truths we miss out on what Jesus is trying to reveal to us.
Seeing Jesus’s True Identity
If we only see Jesus as the lamb we miss out on His full identity and we cripple our own lives without knowing it. We must go beyond the facts of Jesus being king to having a revelation in our spirit, soul and flesh that He is King over all now. Not someday, not every other day, not far in the future. He is King of heaven and earth now, He is seated next to the Father now.
Let’s now look at another passage in the Revelation of Jesus Christ and see how this event unfolded just after the resurrection.
Revelation 5:11-15 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” 14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. NKJV
This has only been a small glimpse into the wonder that is Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah, our Savior, our High Priest, our Covenant Brother and our King. Understanding all of this helps us to answer the great questions of “Who is Jesus (his person and identity)” and “What shall I do with Him (his purpose and destiny).”
Having this information is only one part of the great battle, we must believe these things and put them to work in this world so that the gospel can be preached and the territory under the direct control of the King (Kingdom) can be expanded. Not with force, coercion, violence but through, love, power, glory, forgiveness, truthfulness, miracles and the uncompromising reliance on God’s words. It is not enough for us to say Jesus “was,” but we must declare that Jesus “is” and “forever will be”, our lives and hearts then must reflect that truth.
The great revelation which we can encounter is that Jesus is King right now, just as He is our Savior right now and just as He is our High Priest right new we must see Him as King. We must recognize that He is the King He spoke of in Luke 19:11, 27 who went to take a kingdom and the people rejected Him. Jesus is King but the world is still in open rebellion, it still fights back against the light of the gospel and it is our task as ambassadors to bring that light into the world. We are the representatives of the great King who is taking back the territory of hearts and spirits one person at a time so that all peoples, tribes and nations can be redeemed and join Him in covenant for all of eternity.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
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If you’ve been in or around church for any length of time you’ve probably heard someone quote the parable of the mustard seed in one context or another. Often it is used when speaking about faith, or prayer, or even the preaching of the gospel. It’s one of those parables and sayings of Jesus that we just seem to take for granted and believe that we already know all there is to know about having faith as a mustard seed. Just because you have a jar of mustard in your fridge doesn’t mean that you understand everything that Jesus was saying in Mark 4:30-32 (see also Matt 13:31-32, Luke 13:18-19), because there is so much more here than you could have ever imagined.
Throughout the gospels we have at least three instances where Jesus uses the humble mustard seed to make a point to the disciples. Since repetition is such a significant means by which God speaks to us through the scriptures (Gen 41:32) we need to pay extra attention to what Jesus is saying about these little seeds. But first let’s look at most recognizable place Jesus talks about mustard seeds:
Mark 4:30-32 “30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.” (NKJV)
What Is A Mustard Tree Anyway?
Through this parable Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples different pictures to describe to them what His Kingdom looks like and how it operates. In this case Jesus choose the smallest of the seeds in the region to show how something so unassuming can grow to be large and important. We look at this story and think that a mustard tree must grow to something large like a cedar, an oak, or even a pine. The thing is most of us have never actually seen a mustard tree, so we tend to imagine other trees we are familiar with when we read this story.
The reality is though is that it was less of a tree and more of a shrub. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (USACANADA) speaks of how for the most part this tree was probably only four feet high, although some are able to reach over 12 feet in height. This is far from the picture that most of us think of when we read this story of a mighty tree filled with birds and fruit.
What is also interesting is that mustard trees are annual plants, so every year they die off and have to grow up all over again, it is not a plant which endlessly endures like the might cedar. This need to constantly regrow is probably why Jesus compared the mustard seed to our faith in Matthew 17:20, where he speaks about mustard seed sized faith being able to move mountains. The disciples had just failed to heal a demon oppressed child so they run to Jesus for help, and after healing the child He once again spoke to them about mustard seeds.
This idea of an annual tree and our faith are one in the same, both require constant regrowth, and both are unable to just sit back and relax while waiting for the next season. The mustard tree must grow and drop fresh seeds which will grow the next year. If it doesn’t grow there are no seeds for the next season and eventually there are no more trees in the area. Our faith must be constantly built up through prayer, scripture, relationship with God and going outside our homes and doing either the great commission or the discipling of believers. Faith must be constantly refreshed or one day we will find the garden of our hearts has become barren because we neglected our faith and relationship with God by relying on the cold hard stones of our natural ways.
We must resist the temptation to become complacent in our relationship with God, our prayer lives, our studying of the scriptures and the work we do to spread the gospel and build up the Kingdom. It is a hard thing to say but victories in life don’t produce faith, it is faith which produces victories in our life. When we realize that our faith is like this mustard seed and not a great cedar we can then begin realizing that what you did three years ago won’t benefit you today in what ever situation you may be in. You can’t draw water from a well once and expect that bucket to sustain you for months on end.
The Mustard Seed Is Only Doing Its Job
In Luke 17:5-10 Jesus puts an extra spin on his discourse on mustard seeds and trees, here the disciples are asking for their faith to be increased after hearing about their requirement to be forgiving. The disciples were asking for the ability to forgive according to Jesus’s standards and instead get a statement about faith as a mustard seed being able to throw mulberry trees miles away into the sea.
Then Jesus goes on and speaks about how servants are not praised or rewarded for what is expected of them to do. This is quite the contrast, in the same breath Jesus speaks about demonstrating supernatural power and being held responsible to do what the disciples as servants are expected to do; be forgiving in this context.
The mustard seed has one job and one job only, to grow into a shrub so other seeds can be developed and dropped into the ground around it. We as believers also have a singular job, to serve Jesus and see ourselves developed from seeds to trees which can reproduce and see the land around us transform from barren rock to a lush garden. It is our duty to live this way and to serve Jesus in whatever capacity He has called us in.
We can have all of the spiritual power there is but if we are not faithful in living out our lives as Jesus commanded us to then we are still in darkness, and often are doing more harm to the Kingdom than good. When we stand before Jesus we won’t gloat over the number of visions we have seen, or healings we have performed, or the number of books we have written.
No our statement will be “we have done what was our duty to do.” That is how faith works, we serve Jesus and we go out and do what needs to be done so our master is glorified and others can see Him in His true light. Be it through preaching, compassion, miracles, prophecy, service, conversation, leadership, forgiveness, love or any other means.
To accomplish this we must be like mustard trees which must be continually refreshed and regrown so that our seeds never stop being produced. Our faith may begin small as a mustard seed but as Jesus has said it can have immense impact on this world.
But Wait There’s More!
This is where most people stop when they speak about the parable of the mustard seed, we focus just on what it means for us and how we can develop our faith. You see everything we have seen so far is only half of the story. The entire picture about mustard seeds and trees is not just about our faith or what we can do, but it paints a picture of who Jesus is. In all of the instances of the mustard seed Jesus was painting two very different but interconnected pictures. He was teaching us how our faith works but at the same time He was revealing not just the Kingdom but how He was the long-awaited King of the World.
We dedicate our lives to being like the servants in Matthew 17:20 not just because of the nice things Jesus has done for us but because He is our King. This isn’t just a theological idea it is reality, by confessing Jesus as your savior and Messiah you have declared Him to be King of Heaven and Earth. In the parable of the mustard seed Jesus was speaking to the disciples who He really was, but today we are oblivious to what Jesus was saying.
A Mustard Flavored Kingdom
Throughout the age of the Old Testament and into the time of Jesus it was a common metaphor to speak of a kingdom as a tree. We see this in scriptures such as Ezekiel 17:22-24, 31:6 Daniel 4:10-12 which use a picture of a tree to describe a nation or a kingdom. The Commentary on the New Testament Use of The Old Testament (USACANADA) talks about how “Mark 4:30-32 is an ironic fulfillment of Ezekiel 17:23 the lowly annual shrub rather than a might cedar, lamb not a lion maybe. The people expected a mighty cedar, but God came as a lowly shrub which would be exalted over all else.”
The lost message of the Kingdom of God hidden here in the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus the great shrub has come to rule the world. Not a mighty cedar or acacia, or mulberry the humble mustard shrub despite its size and appearance had sprouted and would rule over all. Jesus didn’t come as a superpowered reincarnation of King David, He came as the suffering servant and laid hold of a greater kingdom then anyone of that time ever imagined.
The people and religious leaders were looking for a cedar but got a shrub, so they rejected Him. They were looking for a warrior but got a shepherd, so they persecuted Him. They were looking for an angel of death but got the forgiving Son of God, so they killed Him.
They forgot about Isaiah 11:1 and Jeremiah 23:5-6 where God spoke about a humble branch which was coming to rule and exercise judgment on the people. Jesus executed judgment on sin, He rules over His covenant people and one day He will judge those who rejected His Kingship.
We can’t have the benefits of mustard seed faith until we bow down before the mustard tree of Christ. None of what we claim to believe matters at all if Jesus isn’t the King of not just the universe but our individual lives. Our faith doesn’t matter, the miracles we see doesn’t matter the lives we see changed doesn’t matter if Jesus isn’t our King and if we don’t act as grateful adopted servants.
Finding a Nest in His Branches
The last part of the parable has Jesus speaking about the birds of the air making nests in the branches of the fully-grown mustard tree. We take this statement for granted and don’t realize that to the disciples this was ridiculous. You see because the mustard tree regrows every year it can’t be developed enough to be ready for the time when birds make their nests. If one tried the branches would be too small or tender to support just a bird on it let alone a nest.
Here Jesus is again speaking in irony, just as the lowly shrub is King of the forest, so to is this tree which couldn’t before support dwelling places for the birds now be able to provide shelter and covering for them (Daniel 4:12).
We see then that Jesus has come to bring us a covering for our lives and that it is a foundational part of our faith. That covering of grace and atonement is our constant reminder that we can trust Him and remain committed to Him despite the problems of the world. Ezekiel used this same picture of birds finding rest in a tree to describe Egypt in Ezekiel 31:6, so how much grander and wonderous should that covering and shelter be for us who follow Christ our King.
Through faith we are able to go from mustard seeds to mustard trees and see great and mighty things happen in our lives. But we are only able to see such a transformation because Jesus the first seed which fell into the ground then died and came back as a King who has brought us under His covering of atonement. Now as redeemed, adopted servants we go out into the world and deposit new seeds into the ground so the whole world can be covered by the offspring of the great mustard tree.
Question: What can you do today to recognize Jesus as the King of your life?
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