Walking in Truth Devotional Update
Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Leaven
Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
At the heart of Jesus’ proclamation of God’s kingdom lie wonderful parables, preserved in the Gospels to help us understand something important about the kingdom.
A mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds but when it [the seed] falls on soil that is cultivated, it produces a large branch and it becomes a shelter for the birds of the sky. Probably Jesus was referring to a shrub that grows 8 to 12 feet high. In the days of Jesus, the mustard seed was a symbol of smallness. The Rabbis spoke of “a spot or blemish as small as a mustard seed.” Jesus was describing the small beginning of the kingdom of God.
God’s kingdom is not likened to a mustard seed but to the growth of that seed. This similitude, then, is clearly about the contrast between the small beginnings and the final greatness of God’s reign. Jesus is teaching that although the beginning of the kingdom may seem small and insignificant, it will grow and continue to grow until it is large and powerful.
Some have tried to interpret the birds nesting in the tree as representing different things: Scofield taught that the birds symbolize pagan world powers; others believed the birds represented Satan; Barclay taught that birds represent the different denominations and he missed the point of the seed all together; others think that the birds represent the Gentile nations seeking refuge with Israel.
Probably all that the birds mean is that the tree was large enough to sustain life around it. It isn’t just a marginal tree, but one which provides support for wildlife echoing Daniel 4:11-21; and Ezekiel 17:23. The parable of the mustard seed, emphasizes the contrast between the humble beginnings of the Lord’s kingdom and its final, consummated form.
Jesus began with twelve ordinary men whom He appointed as Apostles and a handful of other followers. He lived and died in what was a province of the Roman Empire, and He is mentioned only in passing in the secular historical sources of that time. But since that time the kingdom of God has been steadily growing and is found all over the world.
The Parable of the Leaven Luke 18:20-21
“And again, He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
Leaven in both testaments represented corruption and was to be removed from the houses during the entirety of the feast of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15-20) etc. In the New Testament Jesus warned His disciples about the hypocrisy and false teaching of the Pharisees as “leaven (Matt. 16:6, 12).
Based on this concept of leaven some have argued that the leaven represents false teaching being introduced into the church. Such a view misses the whole point Jesus was making. This short parable must be looked at in its context. It follows on the heels of the mustard seed and relates to it.
Furthermore, such a view makes the parable end with the religion of Christ being finally and fully destroyed (hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened). While it is true that leaven is elsewhere used of corruption, this is essentially because of its permeating qualities (A little leaven leavens the whole lump Gal. 5:9).
Jesus is using leaven because of its permeating qualities as it operates quietly and unseen and does its tremendous work of converting people and growing the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God does not grow with great fanfare or by Armies waging war, nor by sensational schemes dreamed up by promoters we have seen even in the Lord’s church. The Kingdom grows through the simple preaching and teaching of the gospel just as Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:18-20).
Jesus is reassuring Christians that the Kingdom continues to grow in spite of the fact we may think nothing is being accomplished. So, stop being discouraged and do what you can to encourage people to accept the gospel.
By Guy Roberson
If you know of someone who would benefit from this devotional list please refer them to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you choose to unsubscribe please send an email with unsubscribe in the subject to email@example.com