You never know how things will turn out. Sometimes big events have very small beginnings. A little acorn can turn into a giant oak tree, for example, but you’d never guess from looking that the acorn had all that potential hidden inside.
Long ago, Jesus talked with people about that very idea. The people he associated with were folks like himself, farmers and fishermen and laborers who worked for a living, so he usually spoke in terms that would have been familiar to them.
For instance, he talked about faith being like a mustard seed, which he said is the smallest of seeds. Well, I looked it up on Wikipedia and a mustard seed isn’t the smallest. An orchid has such a small seed its practically like a grain of dust. But the mustard is still pretty small. And Jesus might have chosen to talk about it because mustard is one of those plants that’s practically like a weed. One plant can produce hundreds of seeds. And once it gets a toehold in a field or garden it starts to spread and spread, so that several states like Oregon and Veand Virignia and North Carolina actually classify it as an invasive species, which means a species that tends to take over and go everywhere. Looks small, but looks are deceiving. And if you had faith like a mustard seed, Jesus said, you could move mountains. That’s the way he talked, very poetically, helping people picture things in their mind. But what he meant was that if one person, just one person, had the courage to do what’s right, it could sometimes change everything, even make a revolution, like Rosa Parks. Have you ever heard of her? What did she do? Saying to the bus driver “no, I won’t go to the back” doesn’t sound like much, but it took a lot of guts at the time. Rosa had faith like a mustard seed and she moved mountains.
Jesus also talked about the Kingdom of God, which he compared to yeast in a loaf of bread. And a grain of yeast really is little, probably even smaller than an orchid seed. A typical grain is 3-4 micrometers in diameter. And a micrometer is a thousandth of a millimeter, so small you can’t even see it. Now even though the people Jesus talked with were farmers and folks who worked with their hands, they would have been familiar with kings, because there were plenty of them around in those days, emperors and pharaohs and Caesars and whatnot. And they loved to be seen. They’d stamp their own portraits on the money, they’d erect giant statues of themselves in the town square, dedicate temples and festivals to themselves--they did everything they could to advertise their own power and let people know about what great armies they commanded.
But Jesus said the real force that commands the world can’t be seen. Its behind-the-scenes, like yeast. You stir a little into some warm water and mix that up with your flour. And then, with a little patience, the bread starts to rise, to expand, in a way that’s almost unstoppable. And the people listening thought to themselves, well, we’re not kings, we don’t have armies, but maybe we do have some power after all …
It’s like a baby, at least that’s the story that Christmas tells. Nothing more tiny, nothing more helpless. But one child, even a child born in a barn, to a homeless family without much money, can change the world for the better and alter the course of history.
There’s power in all of us. We have more leverage than we imagine. And even the smallest of us can make a big difference in other people’s lives. That’s what Jesus taught.