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Matthew 13 Parable of the Mustard Seed

Posted by adventbiblestudy on March 6, 2009


Jesus teaches parables sower, mustard seed, 10 virgins, etc

I was so surprised to see these study methods in the Bible, I had to write a book. This eBook not only explains the parables, it includes study methods Jesus taught His disciples.

KJV Matthew 13:31-32

31. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

To begin to understand a parable write the text in your own words paying attention to the physical aspects.

This text is a parable, therefore it contains more than one meaning. Parables have both physical and spiritual interpretations. The kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man sows in a field. The mustard seed is very small but when it grows it is the largest of all herbs and becomes a tree where the birds have a home in the branches.

When a text contains multiple key words it may help to create a list of the physical characteristics, giving due time and thought to each. The inspiration to explain these physical attributes may come to light hours or days after the study is begun.

This parable is designed to show a picture of the kingdom of Heaven. Both the physical and spiritual meanings must reflect the kingdom of Heaven.

The mustard seed is very small.  

A man plants this seed in a field. We are not told if the field is a natural field or a farm field. A natural field supplies us with physical beauty. A farm field supplies us with physical food.

This tiny seed becomes a tree, a miracle in itself. The physical aspects of growing a tree are not completely understood. Therefore they cannot be fully explained.

When the tree is grown, birds find a home in its branches where they find a home, protection and food.

The key words in these texts are; mustard, seed, field, tree, birds and branches. Each of these key words will be defined by other Bible verses. These verses can be located with the use of a Concordance or a computer program by simply looking up the key word.

Mustard

KJV Mark 4:30. And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32. But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

KJV Luke 13:18. Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? 19. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.

This is one of the few parables found in three of the four gospels. Whenever God repeats His word it is for our benefit. Pay attention, dig deep into His words and find the hidden meaning below the surface. On the surface we could say that the small mustard seed is an example of faith. This is a common interpretation, but is it correct? Does faith grow a tree? What do the other keys words represent?

Other Bible verses containing the word mustard fail to provide a clear spiritual meaning. We can than take a closer look at the physical aspects of a mustard seed. Have you ever examined a jar of brown mustard? The tiny dark brown spots are seeds. The mustard seed is not much larger than a spec of dust. Physically, the mustard seed is very small. The word mustard is used to describe the physical characteristics of the seed. We now will look at other Bible verses containing the word seed to see if we can find a definition of a spiritual seed.

Seed

KJV Matthew 13:37. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;

Jesus is the one that sows the good seed. Since there is a definition for good spiritual seed there might also be bad spiritual seed. To identify this spiritual seed we will look for a text showing the difference between the good and bad seed.

KJV 1 Peter 1:23. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.

The good seed comes from the word of God.

KJV Revelation 12:17. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Seed is used to describe a family line which will often indicate physical, mental and spiritual traits. The seed from the woman in Revelation 12 will keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus. This text shows this seed will be different from the rest of the world because they will know the word of God.

KJV Isaiah 59:21. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.

God will put His word in the mouth of His followers. The people that have His word will be His seed and posses the spiritual traits if God.

KJV Luke 8:11. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

Jesus told his followers the seed is the word of God.

KJV Isaiah 55:9. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

This text has a spiritual context that may be difficult for some to understand. The Lord’s ways and thoughts are His word from Heaven, which comes down to earth like rain. Physical rain feeds the earth and produces physical growth. God’s word is spiritual rain, producing spiritual growth.

KJV Matthew 17:20. And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

This parable appears twice in the book of Matthew. In Matthew 13 the seed produces a tree. Here in chapter 17 the same seed can move a mountain. The word mountain contains a spiritual meaning explained at the end of this lesson.

Seed = the word of God.

Field

KJV Matthew 13:38. The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

KJV Ecclesiastes 5:9. Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

KJV Genesis 2:19. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Genesis 2 declares God created every beast of the field out of the ground. It would not be unusual to substitute the word earth for field. God created every beast of the earth (field). Can we prove this Biblically?

KJV Genesis 1:24. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

When we compare Genesis 1 to Genesis 2 we see the Bible has provided written proof of the parallel between a field and the earth. The beast of the field are the animals God created from the earth.

This illustrates a very important rule of interpretation. Texts may have a much deeper hidden meaning. As we have seen from Genesis 1:24 and 2:19 key words have a spiritual interpretation using the algebraic term of: A = B and B = C therefore A = C.

Field = beast and beast = earth therefore field = earth. Just as Jesus had stated, “the field is the world.”

Field = the world, earth

Tree

KJV Proverbs 11:30. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

KJV Isaiah 61:3. To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

We can easily see that trees are used as a symbol to represent people.

Tree = people

Bird or Fowl

KJV Psalms 91:3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

KJV Psalms 124:7. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.

KJV Proverbs 6:5. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.

Fowl can be a symbolic representation of people.

Bird or fowl = people.

Branch

KJV Isaiah 11:1. And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; 3. And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4. But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

This branch is from the stem or lineage of Jesse, the father of king David. This branch will have the Spirit of the Lord and the knowledge to judge by righteousness. This branch is a spiritual representation of Christ.

KJV Jeremiah 23:5. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jeremiah makes it clear the branch represents Jesus.

KJV Proverbs 11:28. He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.

KJV Isaiah 60:21. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.

A branch can also represent God’s people.

Branch = Jesus and God’s people.

Whenever there is a collection of words in a text it is much easier to create a list of the key words. “And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” KJV Habakkuk 2:2.

Seed = the word of God.

Field = the world

Tree = people

Bird or fowl = people.

Branch = Jesus and God’s people.

KJV Matthew 13:31. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32. Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Once we have a complete list of the key words we can now paraphrase the text.

He told them another parable. You can describe the kingdom of Heaven as the smallest (mustard) word from God (seed), which can be taken by a man and spread in the world (field). Even the smallest word (seed) used by a person (tree) can attract people (birds) to Jesus (branch).

This parable teaches the lesson, the smallest or simplest word from God given to others can lead them to Jesus. A simple, truthful message hidden within one of Jesus’ parables. When properly studied this parable also demonstrates basic rules of Biblical interpretation.

1. Words may appear to have a spiritual meaning but when compared to other texts containing the same word, show the word does not have a spiritual meaning and must stand on its own. To make a paraphrase clear the word may be substituted by a word containing the same physical meaning, as long as the clear meaning of the text is not altered.

2. The Bible will interpret itself and supply a clear spiritual meaning for each key word.

3. The Bible uses the algebraic term of: A = B and B = C therefore A = C; to unlock the spiritual meaning of certain words.

Whenever Jesus supplies the interpretation of a parable it is vital we study the text to find, not only the hidden meaning, but the rules of interpretation revealed within the study. Every spiritual word Jesus used in His parables can be interpreted using the Bible and only the Bible. The parables of Jesus are designed by God to leave us not only a record of the lessons Jesus taught but the guidelines for interpreting the Bible.

We can now take the lessons and spiritual words we have learned and apply them to the parallel text of Matthew 13:31-32.

KJV Matthew 17:20. And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

The physical aspects of this text tell us, if we have the smallest amount of faith we will have the power to move mountains. Some may argue, anything is possible with God. That may be true but when we examine the physical aspects of moving a mountain we have to consider the people, animals and plants living on the mountain. Would God allow a person to exercise their faith through an act resulting in such destruction? Hence, the act of moving a mountain would be considered out of the ordinary. Whenever text is beyond ordinary physical aspects it must have a spiritual interpretation.

Mountain

KJV Exodus 3:12. And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

KJV Isaiah 11:9. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

God uses a mountain to represent His throne, or a belief in Him.

KJV Micah 6:2. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.

Is God really talking to the mountains and expecting them to listen? This is actually a link establishing mountains as a symbol for people. Here it is used to represent Israel.

KJV 2 Chronicles 18:16. Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.

Why is Israel scattered upon mountains, with no shepherd? That is because Israel is no longer worshipping at the mountain of God, but rather they have wandered away. They are now without the guidance of a shepherd.

KJV Amos 6:1. Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!

Here we see a false religion represented as a mountain.

KJV Revelation 17:9. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth

We have seen how God and his people, rather their beliefs, are represented as a mountain. We have also seen the false religion practiced in Samaria represented as a mountain, a place where people trust. The seven mountains in Revelation 17:9 are also false beliefs, or shall we say lies that the woman sits upon.

Mountain = religion or belief, faith.

We can now see that Matthew 17:20 is telling us; if we have the slightest amount of faith, we will be able to change people’s faith. In other words, if we share the truth with others, our faith will help others.

Have you ever tried to change someone’s mind on anything they felt certain about? Many people have an ingrained belief they will be lost if one point of their belief is proven to be false. They believe not only will they be lost but their entire family will be lost. They feel the eternal life of their forefathers hinges on their ability to defend these beliefs which have been handed down through generations. Changing these beliefs can be as difficult as moving a mountain.

At times this spiritual mountain may be moved a little at a time. Other mountains may be moved as dramatically as the imagination envisions the picture of Jesus moving a mountain, through the use of a single word.

Matthew the Stories of Jesus’ Ministry is now available for download in a series of three eBooks.  Link here to order your copies today.  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/AdventBible

Here are a couple of Bible Study Internet resources I have been using. I have to tell you. I have been learning so much from these classes taught for free by pastor, teacher, and lecturer Dr. Lee Gugliotto. He has taught classes in biblical languages, theology, and hermeneutics at several seminaries. His book, Handbook for Bible Study, was awarded a Gold Medallion, the equivalent of an Oscar for Christian writers. Since working with Dr. Lee, my insight into God’s Word has more than tripled.

WebStudy is a virtual classroom over the Internet. It will train you to listen for God’s voice in the text so the Bible can explain itself. You will master study basics that lay the foundations for deeper personal learning.

QuikerStudy relies on the way the Holy Spirit led Bible writers to express truth God revealed to them. It equips you to use basic Bible study tools and to understand scripture guided by three simple principles––integrated into a single skill. Easy enough for children, it is the ultimate online inductive experience for the whole family.

Http://webstudythebible.org/

CuppaJ Cafe serves the most satisfying CuppaJesus in town. We brew up a fresh daily devotion, verse-by-verse from the text to bring out its full flavor. Then we share each daily devotional with those who come to the Cafe to give the group a taste of what the text has to offer, so they can have a deeper, personal learning experience with Christ later that day.

How we brew up the word:

  • First, we define words, explain the meaning of figures and symbols, and acquaint them with people, places, and things in the text
  • Then, we lead the people on a simple trip through the text
  • Pour out a Christian thought from it, and…
  • Invite everyone to interpret the text from the writer’s words
  • Finally, we challenge everyone to spend time in the text alone with Christ later in the day to pour out another and better CuppaJesus from the same brewHttp://cuppajcafe.org/

2 Responses to “Matthew 13 Parable of the Mustard Seed”

  1. adventbiblestudy said

    To learn more about this and other Bible Study methods, visit this post: https://adventbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/free-online-bible-studies-teaching-simple-study-methods/

    Like

  2. adventbiblestudy said

    Matthew the Stories of Jesus’ Ministry is now available for download in a series of three eBooks. Link here to order your copies today. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/AdventBible

    Like

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