Mustard Seed


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The Parable of the Mustard Seed

    The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. -- Matthew 13:31-32

    What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade. -- Mark 4:30-32

This was another of Christ's many agricultural parables. In context, he had led his audience to consider the sower, casting his seed, with the various results arising from the ground upon which it fell. He had told them of the field that produced both wheat and weeds, and now he wants to present them with a symbol of the origin, progress, and consummation of his spiritual kingdom.

To do this, he uses the example of the mustard tree, refers to the small size of its seed and the contrasting height of the grown plant.

Mustard is mentioned five times in Scripture - twice in Matthew, once in Mark, and twice in Luke - always in reference to having faith like a grain of mustard seed.

The tree known in Palestine as a mustard tree has minute seeds and yellow flowers, and grows widely in the Mediterranean. Most Bible scholars believe that the plant is the black mustard, grown for the production of the condiment, but in New Testament times, it may have been grown for its oil content. The plants, when not crowded too closely with other plants, can grow to be fifteen feet or higher, and have a thick main stem, with branches strong enough to bear the weight of a bird.

The parable of the mustard seed exhibits the smallness of the origin, as well as the greatness of the progress and magnitude of his kingdom.

The smallness of the origin of the Lord's kingdom

  • The birthplace of Jesus
    • Bethlehem, not Jerusalem
  • The parentage of Jesus
    • Human parents being Joseph and Mary, neither wealthy or with prestige
  • The circumstances of his birth
    • Born in a stable, raised in a manger, no room at the inn
  • The beginnings of his ministry
    • At Nazareth, in relative privacy, without fanfare
  • The nature of his disciples
    • Fishermen, tax collectors, etc.
    • No rulers or very wealthy men
  • The number of his core disciples and followers
    • At his apprehension, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension, they all met in an upper room

The greatness of the progress of Christ's kingdom

  • The rapid spread of the gospel and kingdom of Christ
    • In Jerusalem, Samaria, etc.
    • 40 years after Christ's death, Christianity had spread throughout the known world
    • Jews and gentiles alike
    • Rich and poor
  • The difficulties that Christ's kingdom would overcome
    • Sinful nature
    • Old and sacred systems
    • Prejudice and wordly interests
    • Pagan rulers and authorities
  • The principle of its success
    • Inherent power of truth
    • Work of the spirit of the Lord
    • The power of God in the Gospels
    • Light of heaven
    • Power of love
    • Holiness overcoming evil

The magnitude of Christ's kingdom

  • It shall gain ascendancy over all other systems of religion
    • When grown, it shall be the greatest of herbs
    • Greater than Judaism, idolatry, cults, heresies
  • It shall evangelize all of the nations of earth
    • Adapted to man in his general character
    • Meets the moral state and spiritual needs of all
    • Shall take root in every soil, grows and thrives in every climate
    • Shall be carried into all the world, and preached to everyone
  • It shall bless everyone, and make everyone blessed
  • Psalm 72:16-17
  • Isaiah 60:21
  • When Christ's kingdom is fully realized, his will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven

The application of the parable

  • Hope
  • Congratulations
  • Personal inquiry
    • Are we with Christ?
    • Are we subject to Christ?
    • Are we working for Christ's kingdom?

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