Summary: The historical development of the church of God would be one of humble beginnings. However, this parable contains more than this important truth. Hidden within it is a warning about the perversion of the church's method of growth and of satanic attacks up
Opening illustration: A young teenager was walking to church in a blinding snowstorm. He was unable to get to his church, so he turned in to a little Methodist chapel. The storm was so severe that the preacher couldn’t make it in that night, so a layman stood up to throw something together for a tiny group gathered. He spoke on just one verse from Isaiah, “look unto me and be saved, all ends of the earth.” And from that one little mustard seed on a most unlikely occasion, faith was planted in the heart of that teen boy for the first time … his name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who later shook England for God, won thousands to Christ, and built a 5,000 seat auditorium in his 20s, and yet it was never big enough to accommodate the crowds! A whole lot can come from just a little mustard seed!
Let us turn to Matthew 13 and catch up to read what the Kingdom of Heaven resembles …
Introduction: Today we have mostly apostate churches ... made up of people who have turned away from the fundamentals of the faith. Constant diligence must be given to keep the church true to the Word of God and its teachings. Just as God’s Word predicts, people in these last days turn away their ears from the truth, and are turned to fables. Did you know that whatever you want to believe, there’s a group in town that will accommodate you?
The historical development of the church of God would be one of humble beginnings. However, this parable contains more than this important truth. Hidden within it is a warning about the perversion of the church's method of growth and of satanic attacks upon it. This parable is an analogy, and as with all analogies, the symbolism is not exact but similar. Therefore, the symbolism of the Kingdom of God being likened to a mustard seed is not identical, yet it explains a particular aspect of the process that the church goes through in preparing for God's Kingdom.
What is the process that the church undergoes in preparing for God's Kingdom?
1. Remarkably Small Beginnings (v. 31)
The mustard seed stands for the progress of the church from small beginnings. Because of its minuteness, the mustard seed came to symbolize small beginnings, denoting the smallest weight or measure, a tiny particle. The parable focuses on this idea of smallness. The mustard seed is something small that does its part to expand in preparation for the Kingdom of God. The seed represents an instrument by which spiritual growth can be advanced, just as a plant grows and reproduces itself through a seed.
In this parable, the small seed is the church, which appeared as the first-fruits of the Word. Just as in the Parable of the Sower, the one who sows the mustard seed is the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, and the field is the world. Jesus Himself had an insignificant entrance into the world by human standards, and the church He founded is likewise a "little flock" (Luke 12:31-32), small and designed by God not to become a physically powerful organization that would make a spectacle of itself.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Christ says the way that leads to eternal life is difficult and narrow, and few find it. He reiterates in Matthew 20:16 that few are chosen. In Luke 10:2, when sending the seventy out, He says the laborers are few. Paul argues in I Corinthians 1:26-29 that God calls the weak and the base of the world to put to shame the mighty and the noble. Jesus is referring to those few who, upon their calling by God, voluntarily submit to God's dominion, the Kingdom of God.
You can see the truth of this parable when you think back over what God has done. King Jesus did not first enter the world in a purple robe on a red carpet surrounded by blaring trumpets, but as fetus in the womb of a young girl in a small town, subhuman by some standards today. His public ministry was not heralded with billboards and commercials and fliers, but with a single-sentence sermon in a rural area. His first followers were not proud and plentiful, but a dozen working class men. The Great Commission did not begin with a fleet of ships with Christian flags waving above, but with eleven stupefied men over a breakfast conversation. The church did not begin with an orchestrated launch, but with 120 people, about the size of Dulin’s Grove, in a prayer meeting.
Kingdom seeds are not big. Kingdom seeds are not small. Kingdom seeds are remarkably small, especially in contrast with how big a result they produce.
Illustration: An idea which may well change civilization begins with one man. In the British Empire it was William Wilberforce who was responsible for the freeing of the slaves. The idea of that liberation came to him when he read an exposure of the slave trade by Thomas Clarkson. He was a close friend of Pitt, the great Prime Minister. One day he was sitting with Pitt and George Grenville in Pitt’s garden at Holwood. It was a scene of beauty with the Vale Keston opening out before them, but the thoughts of Wilberforce were not on the beauty but on the blots of the world. Suddenly Pitt turned to him: “Wilberforce,” he said, “why don’t you give a notice of a motion on the slave-trade?” The idea was sown in the mind of the one man, and the idea changed life for hundreds of thousands of people. An idea must find a man in order that the idea may possess the man; but when an idea finds such a man an unstoppable tide begins to flow. (With thanks to William Barclay for this illustration)