Although theologians and even botanists disagree about exactly what variety of plant Jesus was alluding to in this parable (Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-21), one theory I read recently struck me. In the Holy Land at that time the mustard seed, although small, could grow as high as ten feet under the right conditions, so it could be considered a tree, unlike the mustard plants most commonly seen today. Moreover, it is was an aggressive plant which might be compared to the Star Thistles of the western United States in its ability to invade and spread. Like those pesky thistles, wild mustard was considered a weed, popping up, uninvited, and crowding out other cultivated plants.
Looked at in this way, our Lord may have been saying that if our faith holds the potential of this seed, believers could spread far and wide and truly move mountains, rather than implying that even a puny amount of faith could do so.
We’ve all seen people of weak faith lose even the faith they have in the face of adversity and wondered, in light of the mustard seed parable, why that small faith wasn’t effective, but if Christ’s words were speaking of the quality of one’s faith, rather than the quantity, it explains a lot.
When allowed to run rampant, insinuating itself into every part of life, even a seed of genuine faith could indeed change the landscape of our current culture.