And Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

Hesham Shehab: Because of Jesus, A Mustard Seed of Faith Could Change the World

Sermon text preached by Rev. Hesham Shehab
Sunday, June 13, 2021
Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church
Text: Matthew 13:31-32

Because of Jesus, A Mustard Seed of Faith Could Change the World


Invocation: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Illustration from life #1:

In 1963, my friend and mentor Rev. Dr. Bernie Lutz was the Athletic Director at Concordia College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Bernie said:

“I was coaching football and ice hockey.” It was the job I liked and wanted to do all my life. But at the end of the academic year, I took ill, very ill. I became nearly unconscious. I stumbled to my dorm room and fell on my bed. I thought I saw someone pass by in the hallway. I shouted, Help Me!  The man came into my room and I told him I was very sick and needed a doctor. That man saved my life, taking me to a town medical clinic.”

“At the clinic, the nurse took one look at me, put me ahead of the line, and drew a blood sample. In moments I was in an ambulance headed for the city hospital. A ruptured appendix is serious. For seven days I was on my back. It was during that time that the Holy Spirit touched my heart and I was moved by Him to leave my coveted job as Athletic Director and to study for the Holy Ministry. The rest of my life has been doing mission and outreach.”

Bernie Lutz went to Papa New Guinea when the locals were living in bamboo shacks and the women were walking around topless. Later, he did missions in Africa and the Middle East where he met me. Now, at the age of 87, he is teaching in a Lutheran Seminary in South Sudan.

God used Pastor Bernie to touch many people’s lives. Some years ago, the senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran in Roselle, IL, called me and asked me to meet a new young pastor from Africa who is a former Muslim like me. So, I went to Trinity that Sunday, and met the young African pastor after the service.

As we chatted, I asked him: A former Muslim I could understand. But how did you become an LCMS ordained minister?

The African pastor replied: “I was mowing the lawn at the residence of Pastor Bernie Lutz in Nigeria, when he asked to see me. As we sat in the shade under a tree talking about what I ought to do with my life, he asked me: Would you like to go to seminary? Pray about it.”

So, I asked the African pastor: You too? Bernie Lutz helped you go to seminary? He said, “Yes, what do you mean by ‘you too?”

So, I told him the story.

In April 2001, I was going into a bank building in Beirut, when I bumped into an American in his 60s, with his wife. He was boldly giving his business card in the elevator to people trying to say God is love in Arabic. He butchered the whole sentence, but came across as on fire for the Lord.

Later, I contacted him, we met, and he asked for my help for his mission in Lebanon. After, three years, he asked me if I would like to go to Concordia Seminary. The rest is history.

Today, as we look at Salam Christian Fellowship, we see that around 50 Middle Eastern immigrants have been baptized.

Through the work of Messiah for Muslims, Nader Hanna, an Egyptian immigrant, was colloquized and started a ministry in California. Vicar Chris Kolupa was certified for the pastoral office, after he had finished the first stage of the Specific Ministry Program at St. Louis, MO.

Isn’t this story a picture of the mustard seed and how it grows?

Back to our text today.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed we just read is a very short, only two verses in Matthew chapter 13, and we will focus on verses 31 and 32.

Now, the mustard seed is really small…I mean it’s tiny. And Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. What is he telling us? What is he telling us is that the kingdom of God seems small when it starts off, but it produces many bushes that grow in magnitude, because it is God’s work, not our work. It becomes so big and so expansive that birds can come and perch in it, like it’s a tree, even though it is actually a bush.

What Jesus is saying here is that that the smallest of seeds planted by God, the Word of God, Jesus Christ would grow into the biggest plants.

Also, Jesus mentions the mustard seed when the Apostles petitioned Him in Luke 17:

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you (Luke 17:5-6 ESV).”

At first glance this seems like an appropriate request, but Jesus does not give the answer we might expect.  He does not say, “Remain in my presence.” Nor does He encourage them to “Keep hearing God’s Word,” as if doing these things would “increase” their faith. In His answer to their request, Jesus is making a couple of powerful and important points.

First, He makes the point that the size of the Apostles faith is not as important as they might think. In our parable today Jesus had used the tiny mustard seed as an illustration of how God’s kingdom “begins” very tiny—like a mustard seed—and then grows into a bird-nesting bundle of tree-like branches.

So, again now Jesus uses the tiny mustard seed to illustrate the Apostles’ faith, and in so doing He communicates that a “tiny” faith is sufficient to transplant a tree into the sea!  Clearly, we should not be concerned about measuring our faith, for its supposed size is not what is important.  As soon as we begin to try to measure faith—either in ourselves or in others—we run the danger of making faith into some sort of personal quality or action.

A Christian’s faith only has importance and is only great because of its object.  This—that the object of our faith is what is important—is a second powerful point being made by Jesus’ answer, and it is magnified by the entire Bible.

Throughout Scripture, and perhaps especially in the Gospels, we see the theme of believing in Jesus. He is the object of the Christian’s faith, and He alone is what gives faith value.

And indeed, preaching about “faith” is not the goal of St. Mark or other evangelists. The goal is proclaiming Jesus—His person and His work—and through this proclamation the Holy Spirit creates a trusting faith. This truly is what the apostles did—they preached Jesus—and from this Gospel proclamation faith is generated.

The tiny “mustard seed” of faith is great only because it clings to Jesus Christ. It boasts not in itself but in its object—The Son of God, crucified and risen for mankind.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is the object of the Apostles’ faith that will enable them to uproot the mulberry tree of the Kingdom and plant it in the sea of humanity.  It will be the object of the Apostles’ faith, not their faith itself, which will incessantly move them to plow and plant the Gospel in the hearts of people from all nations and to tend the sheep of Christ’s Church.

It will be the object of their faith—that object being the master who lovingly purchased them to be His servants—which will move them to serve Him and to serve His holy meal to Him, and in so doing serve it to His bride who is one with Him.

It is the object of their faith—the One who made them worthy of heaven by His death and resurrection.

Ultimately, the Apostles would learn to confess no faith in themselves, nor in their gifts, nor in their strengths—but only in Christ, crucified and risen.  Theirs—and ours—is a great little faith; great because it trusts the Greatest One, and little, because it knows it must not nor cannot cling to nor boast in itself.

Maybe your faith is a mustard seed. Maybe your prayer is a mustard seed may be the act of kindness you do today is a mustard seed, maybe, your interaction with another person that day as a mustard seed, maybe the word that you read today is a mustard seed, maybe the effort you give today in the name of Jesus is a mustard seed.

It seems small. It seems small, but you understand that this really small thing that you plant is going to grow into something impressive. That’s the kingdom of God, thousands of us planting small, tiny seeds of faith everywhere. And then God grows it into something way beyond what we could imagine.

The Bible says that if you have the faith as a grain of mustard seed, you should say to this mountain, be thrown into the sea and it will obey you. Isn’t that funny, the smallest of seeds, we just need a mustard seed of faith and we can change the world.

The kingdom of God is like that today.

Would you just take a mustard seed of faith, a mustard seed of prayer, a mustard seed of serving God and see what He grows today?


Read more from Hesham Shehab……

Hesham Shehab
Hesham Shehab
Educator, Journalist, Columnist, Islamic Expert, Muslim Expert, Human Rights Activist, Pastor at Salam Christian Fellowship | Website

Adjunct Faculty at College of DuPage, Formerly Adjunct Faculty at American University of Beirut and Pastor at Peace Lutheran Church Lombard, IL Name pronounciation: HI-shahm SHI-hab  Hebrews 12: 4 & Philippians 1: 29

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