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Matthew 13:31-32 : Parable of the Mustard Seed

Posted by Ez1 Realty on January 5, 2012

Matthew 13:31-32 MKJV (31) He put out another parable to them, saying, The kingdom of Heaven is like 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 becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches.


Elam crossed over the ridge of the hill to his favorite place to praise God. From the top of the hill he could view the rolling hills of green grass, low shrubs, and scattered trees of his father’s land, handed down through generations. He knew the success of his plans relied upon God. Elam knelt down to pray. “Lord, you created the heavens and the earth. You set up and tear down kingdoms. Lord you watch over the strong and the broken hearted. Lord, I ask you to look over this tiny seed. Send your rain, and your sunlight. Protect the sprout, and the sapling Lord. Help this tree to grow, and be an effective witness to you and your power.”

Clearing the grass from a small area, Elam prepared the perfect site on the top of the hill. He took out a scrap of cloth from under his belt around his tunic. Unwrapping it slowly, his sharp young eyes searched for the seed the cloth had been protecting. Pressing the tip of his finger over of the seed, he lifted it toward his eyes. Once he was certain the seed was in place, Elam placed his finger into the ground, burying the seed at the depth his father had suggested. He make a tiny fence around his mustard seed, to mark the location, and protect the tiny plant once it appeared.

At the time, Elam was his father’s only son. As the eldest, Elam was in line to inherit the largest portion of his father’s land. Although Elam was only six years old, he felt a need to prepare for the future. He imagined the top of the hill as a natural landmark, for dividing the inheritance. His young mind pictured a large tree growing on the top of the hill as a landmark symbolizing the connection between him and his future brother. This tree would represent God’s miracle of birth and growth.

As Elam grew, so did his tree. It took weeks to appear. Nothing more than a tiny sprout, looking more like a sprig of grass than the majestic tree he had imagined. During the dry season Elam carried buckets of water, making certain his little tree received the best care, and was never left alone. He also replaced the hedge of tiny sticks with much larger ones, making a sort of fence to protect the growing plant.

As the years passed, the sprig took on the appearance of a shrub. Slender branches shooting out in all directions. On their way to tend their flocks, Elam proudly showed his pride and joy to his father, Assher. After carefully inspecting the small plant, Assher showed Elam how to trim a number of branches to help the plant to grow stronger, straighter, and quicker. It was a lesson Elam never forgot.

By age nine, Elam’s tree had grown almost as tall as him. By age twelve, his tree had reached a height taller than him, and would always remain so.

Throughout the years Elam carefully trimmed the branches. Assher would often pause at the tree and take time to compliment Elam for his care and dedication. Elam was always thankful for those moments.

At age fifteen Elam admired the size and shape of his tree. The truck of the tree was now large enough to withstand an attack from just about any of the local small creatures. One day a ram from the flock used the trunk as a rubbing post. It was nothing for the ram to break through the branches Elam had erected as a hedge. This left a distinct mark on the tree, which would remain as a permanent scar.

At age twenty one Elam’s tree had grown so tall, many of the branches were out of his reach. Visiting the tree which had grown to be more of a close friend, Elam looked up, and imagined himself as a young boy climbing trees. It made him wish his tree had been much larger when he was young. Looking back he had to admit, there was nothing he would have changed. Planting, caring for, and watching the tree grow would always carry special memories.

Elam married at age twenty four. The wedding was held under the branches of his old friend. His wife was touched by the stories Elam told about the tree, and how they had grown together. His caring warmth for his family, animals on the farm, his special tree, and His faith in God provided his wife Phebe with the sense of security she had prayed for.

His first child, Carmel was born when Elam was twenty seven. He dedicated himself and her to the Lord on the hill next to his tree. It was a simple, but heart felt ceremony with just the three of them. Elam asked the Lord to be with her, and help her to grow as straight and strong as his mustard tree.

When Elam reached age thirty three, his father died. Less than a year ago he had a large bolder near the base of the hill dug out for a grave. Elam could picture the day in his mind when his father pointed out the site, and asked Elam to promise he would grant this one wish. The hill had a number of large rock formations emerging from the ground. The rocks were almost pure white, and more than adequate in size. Assher had chosen one close to the tree, and hired workers to carve out the burial tomb.

After the funeral Elam sat down under his tree, and called Carmel to his side. Sitting her down on his knee, Elam looked up into the branches of the tree pointing out a birds nest in the tree, showing Carmel how the tree brought life to this world. It provides shelter and protection for the birds. Elam also pointed out the fruit hanging from every branch and asked, “have you ever seen a mustard seed?” Carmel answered, “no.” Elam stood up, pulled off one piece of fruit. Breaking it open with his fingers, he exposed a countless number of tiny brown seeds. He explained, “many years ago I planted a seed like this on faith, and asked God to help it grow. Today you can see it is producing many for seeds. Look at all the seeds from just one tiny fruit. Now look at all the fruit in the tree.” Carmel exclaimed, “there are more seeds in this tree than there are stars in the sky.” Elam replied, “now this is the faith of the mustard seed, that one day it will produce seed beyond measure.”


Matthew 13:33 He spoke another parable to them: The kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened.

When Elam and Carmel returned home, Carmel’s grandmother was beginning to prepare bread. They all loved the smell of fresh baked bread, and Carmel always looked forward to helping her grandmother. As they measured out the flour, and other ingredients, Ruth explained the purpose of each. When the leaven, or yeast was added, Carmel began asking questions, “is this what makes the bread grow? How does it do that? How does such a small amount find it’s way to all the dough?”

After adding the proper amount of water, Ruth had Carmel stir the ingredients together, and explained, “you begin with stirring.” Once the ingredients were mixed and the dough reached the proper consistency, Ruth prepared the surface and plopped the dough out of the bowl onto the kneading board and said, “you know what to do.” Carmel began kneading the dough back and forth, flipping it often, and said, “I see now, it requires a lot of work, going back and forth, turning the dough often. This is what spreads the yeast through the dough. All the time and work.” Ruth agreed, “you are right. If we were lazy about the preparation, and only threw the ingredients in the bowl we would never see the result we see when we work at it.”

Elam had been watching the two work together. He admired the gift Carmel had for helping people, and the way she always wanted to learn. He remembered the lesson he had taught her in the morning about the mustard tree and its seeds. This seemed to be a good time to teach another lesson. “When we study the scriptures, we have to remember to put in the proper work by going back and forth, comparing what we read in one part of God’s word to another. It is like mixing the dough. If we take one part and do not compare it to another, to understand how it applies, we will never discover the applications God wants us to understand.” Carmel answered, “I think I understand. We can plants seeds, like the mustard seed, but we still need to study God’s Word to make sure the seeds grow.” Ruth added, “both bread and seeds need water. God’s Word is like water, a key ingredient in bread, and essential for a seed to sprout. Bread also needs heat to rise and bake, as well as a seed needs the warmth of the sun to grow. We cannot base our faith on only one thing or another. Nothing will grow if it is missing any of the required gifts God provides for growth. They must be present and freely accepted.” Ruth also added, “once the bread is baked, the ingredients become permanent. It is like the trials in life we face. Once we learn to apply the lessons, they become a permanent part of our lives.”


Jesus sat down for dinner with His disciples at Peter’s home, and continued to teach His disciples by parables. He wanted to take His time, giving them time to consider one parable, before introducing another. He had been praying they would see the relationship each parable had with the next. When the time was right, He put out another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; which indeed is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches.”


With their minds still on the spiritual relationship seeds have with people, and God’s Word, they considered each application they had just learned. They considered the size of the mustard seed, and how it related to people. They could see, no matter how rich or poor, great or humble a man may be, with the Spirit, they are able to accomplish great things. As they considered the spiritual relationship between a tiny mustard seed and God’s Word, they remembered the many times Jesus spoke a few words to a person, and changed their lives. They remembered the Roman centurion, and the parents of the little girl Jesus raised from the dead. They wondered how Jesus’ words and His ability to heal were related. What good is a new life if it is not properly applied? These parables also showed the disciples how Jesus was able to teach a number of people a personal lesson using only a few words. Truly, the smallest word can have the most miraculous effect.

After the meal was placed in front of them, Jesus gave thanks, and blessed the food. As He broke the bread, He spoke another parable to them: “The kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened.”

The disciples knew the work which went into preparing bread. They looked back at the parables of the sower, and noticed, the seeds make the flour used to make bread. They thought of the preparation required to make flour. It had to be harvested. The seed was separated from the chaff. Next the seed is ground. They could see how many hands were involved in the process, and how important each step in the process was, and one was no more important than the other. They were amazed to see how everyday tasks taught such essential lessons when Jesus taught His parables. In this parable the disciples could see how they needed to meditate upon God’s Word. It is not enough to consider a story and the application on the surface. When God’s Word is read, every Word must be considered. They looked at the remainder of the loaf on the table and thought about how it grew in size when baked. They thought of how these parables were being kneaded together in their mind and heart. They were certain each of them, and all of them together would help them grow spiritually.

Matthew 13:33-34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable, (35) so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”

Jesus had indeed opened their minds to things never seen before. By comparing one parable to another, the disciples were learning lessons they never would have understood without Jesus. At that moment they had no idea how these parables would teach them lessons they would use to teach others in the future.


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