Summary: This parable expresses the small beginnings of the kingdom of God and the large increase and growth of it. The kingdom grows believer by believer. And now, He describes what it is like. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Today, we are going to look at one of the parables that Jesus gave, and it is probably one that most people are familiar with; the Parable of the Mustard seed. Both Matthew and Mark recorded it in their Gospel. Matthew begins with this brief dialogue by Jesus:
31 Then Jesus told another story: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field.
32 That seed is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows, it is one of the largest garden plants. It becomes big enough for the wild birds to come and build nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
He had been teaching them for some time, but He wasn’t through, because it says, “Then Jesus told another story.” This is the third parable that He gave on this occasion. The first, was the Parable of the Sower, and the second, was the Parable of the Tares. They described the condition of the world, that is, how it will be until Christ returns and establishes His kingdom.
This parable is different, because it expresses the small beginnings of it and the large increase and growth of it. The kingdom grows believer by believer. And now, He describes what it is like. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field.” The phrase “the kingdom of heaven” refers to God’s rule over the earth. It is His program for building His church during the time in which we live; the period between Christ’s return to heaven and His Second Coming. The “grain of mustard seed” can be either, the Gospel, the people of God, or the grace of God that is in them. The man that sowed it is the Lord Jesus Christ; and the field in which He sowed it is the world, or His church throughout the world.
A mustard seed is very small, in fact, Jesus said, “That seed is the smallest of all seeds.” It is often used in The Proverbs to indicate the least thing, when making a comparison, and Christ used it in that way in two other parables:
First, in Matthew, Jesus answered, “Because your faith is too small. I tell you the truth, if your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. All things will be possible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
And in Luke, The Lord said, “If your faith were the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Dig yourself up and plant yourself in the sea,’ and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6)
There are smaller seeds, but this is one of the least, or smallest, of all seeds, which were commonly known in Judea. The illustration is meant to express the small beginnings of the church; how it had its beginning through the word of God and by the action of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of His people, and how small their number was at first. In the beginning, the Gospel and the preaching of it were like a grain of mustard seed; little, insignificant and even looked down on. And the circumstances surrounding the Gospel were very discouraging, because it was considered a novelty, lacking common sense and reason, and leading to depravity. Also, violent opposition and persecution came close on the heels of Gospel preaching and believing.