Matthew 13:31-35 Mustard Seed, Leaven, And Prophetic Fulfillment.

Matthew 13:31-35 Mustard Seed, Leaven, And Prophetic Fulfillment.

Critics of the scriptures like to take examples, such as Jesus’ words concerning the mustard seed, to show his supposed ignorance, and the supposed errors which are found in the bible. A simple example is when the bible speaks of the sun rising, applying in this context strict rules of geophysics. It is a hypocritical stance to take when the same people will talk about, and go to weather reports to find the time when the sun will rise or fall. Neither are positing a belief that the sun revolves around the earth. This case of Jesus and the mustard seed parable is the same. “Please note that Jesus was not comparing the mustard seed to all other seeds in the world, but to seeds that a local, Palestinian farmer might have “sowed in his field,” i.e., a key qualifying phrase in verse 31. And it’s absolutely true that the black mustard seed (Brassica nigra = Sinapis nigra) was the smallest seed ever sown by a first-century farmer in that part of the world. It’s also true, as many modern-day encyclopedias will tell you, that the black mustard seed in Israel will typically grow to heights of 3.7 meters, or 12 (twelve) feet—plenty large enough to hold a bird nest.” (

To impose strict botanical comparisons on an international level is to completely miss the context in which these words occur. Herbs are also very small seeds, but when they grew up in that same area they were not near the size of the mustard plant, which could indeed get to be the size of a tree. The point is that the kingdom of heaven, the reign of which Jesus was bestowed upon his ascension to the right hand of the Father, is a kingdom which appears small in comparison to what people often think of it terms of kingdoms. Again, to take this parable in context, we know that the seed sown is the word of God. This kingdom is not furthered by huge armies and the military weapons of war. This kingdom works in the world through the teaching, preaching, and practice of the word of God. Elsewhere Jesus spoke of birds, namely the sparrow, perhaps what one might view as least among the birds of the air, but even they are the subjects of the Father’s care and protection. However, are we not of more value than many sparrows (Mt. 10:31)? Nothing escapes the impact of the word, and the kingdom refers to more than just the church, it includes the whole of life on earth, as in heaven.

In a similar fashion is the parable of the leaven. Leaven is but a small element in the menu of baked bread, but it is this which causes the loaf to rise and expand well beyond its own size (v. 33). The seed of the word has this effect in hearts prepared to receive it, like the good soil of the parable of the sower (vv. 1-9; 18-23). This string of discourses regarding the parables served the very purposes portrayed in that parable of the sower, and the wheat and tares, the sower whom Jesus stated referred to him sowing the seed of the word, the gospel of the kingdom (v. 34 Cf. v. 37; Mk. 4:33-34; Jn. 10:6; 16:25). Here Jesus makes the point that this use of parables had a differentiating purpose, and that their use was yet another proof of his messianic claim. “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world’” (v. 35; Ps. 78:2). Parables convey “things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” With the rest of the new covenant canonical testimony we know this to be the mystery of the gospel revealed to the saints (Cf. Rom. 16:25-26; I Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26).

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