"THE PARABLES OF JESUS"
The Mustard Seed (Mt 13:31-32)
1. From the first two parables that Jesus taught and then explained, it
is easy to surmise that the disciples may have been discouraged by
what they heard...
a. In "The Parable Of The Sower", only one soil of four would be
truly receptive to the Word sown
b. In "The Parable Of The Wheat And Tares", they learned that Satan
would be doing his best to undermine the efforts of the Sower
2. As early as Chrysostom (349?-407 A.D.), commentators have suggested
that the next two parables in Mt 13:31-33 were told by Jesus to
encourage His disciples in reference to the kingdom
a. The first parable is that of "The Mustard Seed" - Mt 13:31-32
b. The second parable is that of "The Leaven" - Mt 13:33
-- Both of which appear to describe the kingdom as destined for
[It is tempting to deal with both parables in just one lesson. But
that we might give each one its own undivided attention, this lesson
will focus only on "The Parable Of The Mustard Seed".
To appreciate the point of the parable, background information may be
I. THE MUSTARD SEED
A. THE PLANT ITSELF...
1. The mustard plant is well known for its hot-flavored seeds
2. Among seeds sown in a garden it was generally the smallest
3. As a plant, it reaches ten, sometimes fifteen feet in height
4. In the fall of the year, its branches have become rigid, and
the plant often serves as a shelter for birds of many kinds
(William Hendricksen, Commentary on Matthew)
B. PROVERBIAL USES OF THE MUSTARD SEED...
1. The mustard seed was used frequently to describe anything that
is small in its beginning
2. Jesus used it on another occasion to describe one's faith -
cf. Mt 17:20
3. The Koran (31.16)reads "Oh, my son, every matter, though it be of the
weight of a grain of mustard seed..." (quoted by R. C. Trench)
[With this understanding of the mustard plant and its seeds, perhaps we
are better able to appreciate the meaning of the parable itself (please
read Mt 13:31-32 )...]
II. THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE
A. THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN WOULD HAVE A SMALL BEGINNING...
1. Old Testament prophecy foretold this:
a. Concerning the Messiah - cf. Isa 11:1; Isa 53:2-3
b. Concerning the kingdom - cf. Dan 2:35b; Ps 72:16; Is 60:22
(starting out as a stone, becoming a great mountain)
2. Consider this description of the beginning...
"The Son of Man grew up in a despised province; he did not
appear in public until his thirtieth year; then taught for two
or three years in neighboring villages, and occasionally at
Jerusalem; made a few converts, chiefly among the poor and
unlearned; and then falling into the hands of his enemies,
died the shameful death of the cross; such, and so slight, was
the commencement of the universal kingdom of God."
(R. C. Trench, Notes On The Parables Of Our Lord)
B. BUT ITS TREMENDOUS GROWTH WOULD BELIE ITS HUMBLE BEGINNINGS...
1. Just as the "small stone" of Dan 2:35 "became a great mountain
and filled the whole earth"
2. The growth of the church in the first century A.D. certainly
confirmed the truth of Jesus' parable
a. The 120 disciples grew to over 3000 just in one day - Ac 2:41-42
b. It was soon about 5000 - Ac 4:4
c. The number of the disciples continued to "multiply"
1) In Jerusalem - Ac 6:7
2) Throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria - Ac 9:31
d. Years later, there were "myriads" of believers just in
Jerusalem alone - Ac 21:20
3. Even today, we see the growth and influence of the kingdom of
heaven in lives of believers around the world!
C. IT'S GROWTH WOULD BE BENEFICIAL TO THE WORLD...
1. In the parable, Jesus spoke of how "the birds of the air come
and nest in its branches"
2. What did Jesus mean? He does not say, but the kingdom of
God is certainly a blessing to all who take refuge in its
a. E.g., "for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but
righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" - Rom 14:17
b. To those seeking rest for their weary souls, the King
offers His tender invitation to come to Him and enter His
kingdom of rest - cf. Mt 11:28-30
[With this simple parable, Jesus offers encouragement to that small
band of disciples following Him over the hills of Palestine. They
would be a part of something that would grow and bless the world
What about today? The kingdom of heaven continues to grow and spread
out its branches to those who will accept it, certainly. But can we
ever expect growth similar to the first century?
Consider a few thoughts about...]
III. THE GROWTH OF THE KINGDOM TODAY
A. THERE IS THE "MATHEMATICAL POSSIBILITY"...
1. Beginning with just twenty disciples, each converting just one
person a year, and their converts doing the same...
2. ...the growth would be like a mustard seed!
a. End of year 1 - 40
b. End of year 5 - 640
c. End of year 10 - 20,480
d. End of year 15 - 655,360
e. End of year 20 - 20,971,520
f. End of year 25 - 1,342,177,280
-- All it takes is for each person to bring one soul to Christ
each and every year!
B. THERE IS CERTAINLY THE "SPIRITUAL POSSIBILITY"...
1. We have the same "seed" of the kingdom, the Word of God!
a. A "seed" which is incorruptible, that lives and abides
forever - 1 Pe 1:23-25
b. A "seed" capable of producing what God intends - cf. Isa 55:10-11
2. While the first two parables remind us that not all will
accept the Word of God, this parable declares that the kingdom
C. WHAT IS NEEDED IS PEOPLE...
1. People with vision
a. Who have the vision of Christ, as expressed in His parables
b. Who look not at an apple and count the seeds, but looks at
a seed and counts the apples (with their many seeds)!
c. Who look at converting and developing disciples in the same
2. People willing to put the kingdom of God first in their lives
a. The seed of the gospel will produce fruit, but only if it
falls on good soil
b. If we allow...
1) The cares of this world
2) The deceitfulness of riches
3) The pleasures of life
...to "choke" us, we cannot bear good fruit
c. Therefore we need to put the kingdom of God first - Mt 6:33
3. People willing to abide in Christ
a. For apart from Christ they can do nothing - Jn 15:4-5
b. For only they are able to bear "much fruit" - Jn 15:5
c. And only they will be able to glorify God and be His true
disciples - Jn 15:8
1. The potential for the kingdom's amazing growth rests in the Person
who reigns as its King...
a. Those who will abide in Christ can be used by Him to produce the
remarkable growth in the kingdom illustrated by this parable
b. As Paul wrote to the Philippians: "I can do all things through
Christ who strengthens me" - Ph 4:13
2. Brethren, allow "The Parable Of The Mustard Seed" to serve as...
a. An encouragement - The kingdom of heaven is destined for great
things, though its beginning was small
b. A reminder - That if we are going to be useful to the Master in
this ever growing kingdom, we must "abide in Him" so we can "bear
Dear friend, have you rested your weary wings in this great tree called
"the kingdom of heaven"? - cf. Jn 3:3-5
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