He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
(Matthew 13:31-32 ESV)
Yesterday we read the Parable Of The Tares. Before Jesus explains the meaning of that parable He gives us two more parables about the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven began the day Jesus ascended into heaven. From that moment the kingdom began to be built here on earth by creating new believers throughout the generations. It will continue to be built until judgment day.
In today’s parable Jesus likens the kingdom to a grain of mustard seed that was planted in a field. Even though the mustard seed is small, in the parable the mustard plant grows larger than all the other garden plants to become a tree.
Many critics of the Bible point to the statement that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds as proof that the Bible is filled with errors. It’s true that the mustard seed, although very small, is not the smallest seed known to man currently.
But at this time in Jewish history the mustard seed was, in fact, the smallest of all the crop seeds and this is how we should understand Jesus’ words as this parable, like all the parables, uses farming references.
We must also remember that Jesus was not teaching science here. He was speaking allegorically and prophetically, using what people understood to inform them about something they did not understand. Jesus was explaining that His kingdom, even though it was small and seemingly insignificant at the time, would grow beyond what anyone at that time could imagine, like the mustard plant in the parable.
Mustard plants don’t often grow into the size of a tree, although there are some species that do grow large enough so that birds can make nests in their branches. But again Jesus is not teaching science here. He is teaching a spiritual truth through the use of a parable.
Like the mustard plant in the parable was a blessing to the birds, the kingdom of heaven would grow to be a blessing to the world. This prophecy has undoubtably come true as the world has benefited greatly from millions of acts of Scripture-inspired Christian service world-wide in areas of education, poverty, slavery, women and children’s rights, and many other areas.
Today’s parable allays some of the doubts and fears that the previous two would have introduced. The previous two parables spoke of the rejection people would have for God’s kingdom as well as the contaminating influence of the world on the kingdom [Matthew 13:3-9, 24-30]. Many of Jesus’ listeners would have wondered, then, if the kingdom of heaven, would survive.
Jesus tells them that not only will it survive, it will thrive beyond what they could imagine. History has shown this is exactly what happened.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.