Matthew 13:31-35 - Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 29 July 2012


13:31 He laid out another parable for them saying,
“The kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard seed

            which a man got and then planted in his field.

  13:32 which is [among] the smaller of all the seeds,

            but whenever it has been grown, it is [among the] larger of the herbs and becomes a tree,
                        such that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”


13:33 He told them another parable:
“The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven,
            which a woman got and hid within three buckets of flour
            until such [time] as [the] whole was leavened.”


13:34 All these things Jesus said in parables to the crowds;
            indeed He did not speak to them without a parable.

  13:35 Thus the word through the prophet was fulfilled which says,

                        “I will open my mouth in parables;

                        I will pour forth things which have been hidden since the foundation of the universe.”

Introduction - Little things can make big differences

o       How many of you have played a game of golf? One degree of difference in the angle the golf club hits the ball can make a huge difference in where that ball lands several hundred yards down the lane, can’t it? Just a small adjustment in how you hold the club can make the difference between having to chase the ball out of the woods or getting a hole-in-one. Little things can make big differences.

o       What could the effect be of one mother telling her child about Jesus and reading Bible stories to him at night? That’s how Mordecai Ham became a Christian (contrary to popular belief[1]) – his Christian parents taught him about God, and he wrote, “From the time I was eight years old, I never thought of myself as anything but a Christian.” Mordecai Ham grew up to be a fearless evangelist. The story of his life is an amazing adventure because he believed in going after the most notorious sinners – gangsters, murders, whiskey runners, and other criminals, and that always made his life interesting. It is estimated that “from 1929 to 1941 he had seen some 168,550 decisions for Christ, in sixty-one crusades in fifteen states…” Hamm opened up his fall 1934 crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina with the words, “There's a great sinner in this place tonight.” A young man in the audience named Billy thought, “Mother’s been telling him about me!” That night Billy Graham was saved, and, although we can debate over how good his theology was, he is nevertheless internationally recognized as the most renowned evangelist in history.[2] Did Mordecai Ham’s mom have any idea what a big effect her unsung efforts in training her son would have in reaching some 15% of the world’s population with Billy Graham gospel presentation? God starts with faithfulness in little things.

o       But, when you look at a world of billions of people ravaged by wars and diseases and famines and natural disasters, do you wonder if your feeble efforts to follow Jesus will do any good?

o       It often feels to me like Christianity is weak and small, despised by the media, persecuted throughout the world, and on the verge of being wiped out by science and irreligion.

o       If you’re feeling that way, Jesus has a word for you – another course in the spiritual and intellectual meal that He served up to His disciples – in the Parables of the Mustard and of the Yeast.


1. The Parable of the Mustard

13:31 He laid out another parable for them saying, “The kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard seed, which a man got [tookall Eng] and then planted [sowed] in his field,

Αλλην παραβολην παρεθηκεν[3] αυτοις λεγων ‘Ομοια εστιν ‘η βασιλεια των ουρανων κοκκω σιναπεως ‘ον λαβων ανθρωπος εσπειρεν εν τω αγρω αυτου


13:32 which is [among] the smaller of all the seeds, but whenever it has been grown, it is [among the] larger of the herbs and becomes a tree, such that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”

‘ο μικροτερον μεν εστιν παντων των σπερματων ‘οταν δε αυξηθη[4] μειζον των λαχανων εστιν και γινεται δενδρον ‘ωστε ελθειν τα πετεινα του ουρανου και κατασκηνουν[5] εν τοις κλαδοις αυτου.

·         In the parallel passage in Mark 4:30, it explains that Jesus is providing an answer to the question, “What is the kingdom of God like?” Jesus says, it is like a grain/seed from a mustard plant.

·         The Greek word kokkw, translated “seed” in most modern English versions, is not the standard word for “seed.” It is translated more literally “grain” in the KJV and ESV, as in “a single grain of wheat” – which is, of course, a seed, and happens to be one of many kinds of cereal grains, but the emphasis is on the smallness of the granule, not the seed-ness or cereal-ness of it.

·         This seed shows up again later in Matt. 17:20 to represent something small: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed… [you can still move mountains].”

·         It doesn’t show up anywhere else in the Bible, but it is commonly thought to be the plant we get mustard from. [VISUAL AIDS: bottle of mustard, package of mustard seeds]

·         This seed is indeed small, and it does indeed grow large, but it isn’t the smallest seed there is, and there are trees that grow larger.

o       There are critics who poke fun at this passage, claiming that the Bible is not accurate.

§         But this criticism evaporates when you look at the original text, for the Greek words are not actually superlatives, but rather are comparatives, literally meaning “smaller” and “larger,”

§         and botanical studies bear out that the mustard seed is indeed smaller than lots of other seeds (such as grapefruit seeds or peach seeds or avocado seeds), and it does indeed grow bigger than lots of other plants (such as basil, or dill, or clover).

§         If Jesus lived in Kansas, maybe He would have used a sunflower instead, because that makes a big garden plant, and the birds like the seeds.

o       So if the Greek words are in the comparative degree, why do so many English Bibles use the superlative instead?

1.      Partly because this particular Greek sentence is impossible to translate exactly into English without changing something – for instance, although I translated it with the comparative form I had to add the word “among,” which is not in the Greek text, in order to make my translation make sense: “it is among the smaller of all the seeds.”

2.      Secondly, the point of the parable is that the kingdom grows from small to big, so superlatives “smallest” to “largest” emphasize that main idea. (I’m not defending this method, just offering an explanation.)

3.      Thirdly, the context is already somewhat limited by the word “lachanthwn – herbs/garden plants.”

·         There are 7 other instances of this word in the Greek Bible, and they all have to do with the kinds of plants that people like to eat. (Gen. 9:3; 1Ki. 21:2; Psa. 37:2; Pro. 15:17; Mar. 4:32; Luk. 11:42; Rom. 14:2)

·         Jesus mentions “mint, dill, & cumin” as representatives of this class of plant in Lk.11.

o       We’ve grown spearmint for years in a big planter outside our house, and it never grows more than a foot tall.

o       Some dill grew in our herb garden this year, and it really took off, but it only grew to a height of two feet and was hardly big enough for a bird to build a nest in.

o       Likewise, the “Plants for a Future” website says that Cumin only grows to a foot in height.

o       In contrast to these small herbal plants, mustard can be a bit larger. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that the Mustard can grow over 15 feet high in Palestine. So, although it wouldn’t seem big compared to, say, an oak tree, nevertheless within its class of garden plants/herbs, it is considerably large and could conceivably support a small bird’s nest.

·         Another interesting thing about the mustard plant is that, according to Dr. Lytton John Musselman, botany professor at Old Dominion University, “there are few plants which grow so large in one season as a mustard... Mustard planted one day could begin growing the next.[6]” It is a plant characterized by growth, representing a kingdom also characterized by growth, the kingdom that Isaiah the prophet wrote about of the “son given to us… whose empire’s increase will know no end, and whose kingdom will be upheld in justice and righteousness forever” (Isa. 9:6-7, NAW).

·         In the parable, the birds of the air “nest” (or lodgeKJV/perchNIV) in the branches of this growing mustard shrub. The word for “nest” is a special use of the word usually used to describe people residing in homes or of God dwelling in human communities,

o       but there are a few occasions where this word describes birds nesting, such as Nebuchadnezar’s dream which Daniel interpreted (and which Jesus seems to be quoting here3), speaking of the Babylonian kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar.

o       Nebuchadnezzar is called the “King of Kings” (Dan. 2:37), and his kingdom was truly vast, encompassing all kinds of peoples throughout the Eastern hemisphere that he conquered.

o       However, Babylon’s ethnic diversity and span of government is only a foreshadowing of the kingdom spoken of here by Jesus, the ultimate King of kings, which will include representatives of every tongue, tribe and nation (Gen. 12:3, Rev. 7:9) and will grow to encompass the entire earth! (1Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 2:8)

o       From the various places in the Bible which describe trees that represent kingdoms, and birds in the trees, I think it is legitimate to say that the birds in this parable represent people of various nations who are blessed by the existence of God’s heavenly kingdom.

o       Commentator William Hendriksen wrote, “…this influence… is clear... All one has to do is to compare conditions – for example , the treatment of prisoners of war, of women, of workmen, of the underprivileged – in countries where Christ’s rule has not yet become acknowledged to any great extent, with those existing in nations where this principle has already been operative for some time on a generous scale” (p. 568).

·         Interestingly enough, this parable is actually a re-telling of an O.T. story. Jesus is repeating a parable that the prophet Ezekiel told!

o       In Ezekiel 31[7], an Egyptian Pharaoh, is pictured as a great tree with all the birds nesting in his branches, but, just like Nebuchadnezzar, he was proud, and he was brought down.

o       But in Ezekiel 17, there is the prophecy of another tree which would grow in Israel and become a haven for all the birds, and who would not be brought down like Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh were. I believe this is speaking of Jesus:
For thus says the Lord, “I will also take from the choice branches of the cedar - from its top… and I will plant it on a high mountain… yes, I will plant it, and it will put forth shoots and bear fruit, and it will be a great cedar: and every bird shall rest beneath it, even every fowl shall rest under its shadow: its branches shall be restored. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord who brings low the high tree, and exalts the low tree, and withers the green tree, and causes the dry tree to flourish: I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.” 4 (Ezekiel 17:22-24 - LXX)

o       This also reminds me of Isaiah's prophecy (53:2) about the Messiah coming up like a root out of dry ground. God promises in Ezekiel 17 to plant part of the tree representing Israel and make it flourish again. Perhaps the “top of the highest” means that Jesus will come from Mary and Joseph, who were both of the royal line of David. This will be a new kingdom that will grow and produce real fruit pleasing to God. And “every bird of every wing shall live under it” so shall men from every tribe, tongue, and nation be gathered to the Name of Christ!

·         In Hosea 14:6-10 God says, “I will be as dew to Israel: he shall bloom as the lily, and stretch forth his roots... His branches shall spread, and he shall be as a fruitful olive, and his smell shall be as the smell of Lebanese cedars. They shall return and dwell under his shadow: they shall live and be satisfied with grain… What has he to do any more with idols? I have afflicted him, and I will strengthen him... From me is your fruit found. Who is wise, and will understand these things? or prudent, and will know them? for the ways of the Lord are straight, and the righteous shall walk in them: but the ungodly shall fall down in them.” (Paraphrase of Brenton)

·         So, what does this parable mean? The explanation I found from botanist Dr. Lytton John Musselman is so good that I don’t think I can improve on it:[8]

Many dispensationalist expositors... following a line suggested by J. N. Darby and C. I. Scofield, have made a strong case for a negative meaning: a garden-shrub out-doing itself; the mustard-seed shows an unnatural, an abnormal growth, and the birds lodging there bring defilement. Such is Christendom with its worldly ambitions and its unsaved masses...
It does not seem, though, that growth towards greatness is so much the point.

D. A. Carson has convincingly argued that the greatness of the Kingdom would be no surprise for Jesus' audience - they were born and bred in a religious background were this Messianic magnificence of the age to come was taught with much emphasis...

On the contrary, a real novelty in the teaching of Jesus was the perspective of the smallness of its beginning. This line pervades the whole chapter: a sower sows a small seed, the enemy introduces tiny germs of evil, a minute lump of leaven permeates the whole loaf, an invisible treasure turns out to be the real value of a piece of ground, one very precious pearl is worth more than all the possessions of a merchant, an invisible net is drawn through the depths of the sea, and (in the eighth parable) a scribe discovers things hitherto unseen in his treasure. Things that seem small, inconspicuous, hardly worth observation, invisible, turn out to be by far the greatest things.


So this is the meaning of the parable of the mustard, and the meaning of the next parable is similar:

2. The parable of the yeast

13:33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven [yeastNIV], which a woman got and hid within three buckets of flour until such [time] as [the] whole was leavened.”

Αλλην παραβολην ελαλησεν αυτοις [9] ‘Ομοια εστιν ‘η βασιλεια των ουρανων ζυμη ‘ην λαβουσα γυνη [εν[10]]εκρυψεν εις αλευρου σατα τρια ‘εως ‘ο̃υ εζυμωθη ‘ολον.

·         Here the simile shifts from a farmer planting a small seed which grows into a large plant to a baker-woman putting a little bit of leaven into a big batch of bread dough.

o       There is also a shift from the outward growth of Christianity into the world to the inward growth of the kingdom to fill the hearts of mankind. (JFB)

o       The dough is made of from wheat or barley[11] that has been milled, thus it is called “meal” in the old versions, but nowadays we call it “flour.”

o       And it’s a lot of flour – literally “three seahs,” or, as the KJV and ESV translate it, “three measures.” Lowe & Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon says that these seahs were “the Hebrew measure for grain, about a peck and a half or somewhat less than one-half bushel” of flour each, thus the NAS translates “3 pecks of flour.” What would that be in gallons? 5 to 9 gallons total, depending on who you ask[12]. It’s a huge batch of bread!

o       Early church fathers had a heyday with interpreting these three measures as
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or as the spirit soul and body of man,
or as the three sons of Noah, but most likely Jesus is just remembering how His mom made bread for His brothers and sisters (ATR, JFB)

o       The main point is that a whole bunch of dough is thoroughly affected by a little bit of yeast.

·         What is leaven or yeast? It’s what makes bread rise. (cf., Gal. 5:9)

o       With biscuits and pancakes, we use a chemical reaction with sodium bicarbonate and some kind of acid to make the bread rise, but with most other breads we use yeast.

o       Yeast is a naturally-occurring fungus that can be added to bread dough. It eats the sugar in the dough and excretes alcohol and Carbon Dioxide as a by-product. These are the little bubbles you see in bread. When you cook the bread, it kills the yeast and makes the alcohol evaporate, but the little air bubbles remain in the cooked bread and make it soft and chewy.

o       In the old days, they didn’t have packages of Brewer’s Yeast at the grocery store; they just kept a hunk of leavened dough in the kitchen, and whenever they made a new batch of bread, they would knead that hunk of sourdough in with the new batch of dough and wait a little while for the yeast to make the bread rise, then remove a bit of that new dough to use in leavening the next batch.

o       Every Passover, the Jews would follow the law of Moses from Exodus 12 & 13 and get rid of the old sourdough and make a new batch from scratch. This symbolized getting rid of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8).

·         The woman literally “hides,” “puts away, buries, stashes” this leaven by kneading (or mixingNIV) it into the dough. This “hiding” of the leaven is part of a theme throughout the Gospel of Matthew: (scripture quotes from NAW)

o       Although, as the light of the world, we cannot ultimately be hidden
(Matt. 5:14 “It is y’all who are the light of the world. It is not possible for a city to be hidden when it is situated upon a hill.”)

o       Nevertheless, there would be knowledge of God hidden from some people and revealed to others (Matt. 11:25 “…Father, Lord of the heaven and the earth… you hid these things from wise and smart men and revealed these things to babies”)

o       And the ensuing parables will underscore that this kingdom of God will have a hidden nature to it and will not be recognized and valued by everyone. (Mat. 13:44 “The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure which has been hidden in the field...”)

o       In the parable of the yeast, we are reminded that the unaided eye cannot see the agent inside the dough which will radically transform it. It would not be obvious to a person who was not accustomed to bread-making that hidden within that dough is something that could blow the lid off any container that he tried to store it in!

·         What is the meaning of this leaven?

o       It is a little unexpected for Jesus to chose something to represent His kingdom in this parable that represented sin everywhere else in the Bible.

o       Thus, some Bible scholars have strained the limits of hermeneutics to make the leaven in this parable represent sin (Such as Unger’s Bible Dictionary that says, “there is evil in the church; but… the loaves with leaven were baked; that is, the manifested evil in the Body of Christ, the church, was judged in the death of Christ.”)

o       But just because something is used to represent evil most of the time doesn’t mean it can’t be use to represent something good in a different context. For instance:

§         lions were evil wild beasts and Satan is pictured as a lion in the Bible, but so is Jesus, the Lion of Judah! (ATR)

§         Likewise serpents generally portray evil in the Bible, and Satan is pictured as a serpent, but so is Jesus in John 3:14 (Hend.)

o       But I think we need to keep the big picture in view. Jesus explicitly says that the leaven represents the kingdom of God; He doesn’t say this is about the growth of evil. And both of these parables have in view something that is small (mustard seed, or little bit of leaven) which grows to considerable influence.

3. The Parable of the Parables

13:34 All these things Jesus said in parables to the crowds [multitude(s)KJV], indeed He did not speak to them without a parable.

Ταυτα παντα ελαλησεν ο Ιησους εν παραβολαις τοις οχλοις και χωρις παραβολης ουκ[13] ελαλει αυτοις

·         The parallel passage in Mark 4:34 adds that Jesus spoke the word in keeping with the ability of the multitudes to heed it, but explained everything to His disciples in private.


13:35 Thus the word through the prophet might be fulfilled which says, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will pour forth things which have been hidden since the foundation of the universe.”

‘οπως πληρωθη το ‘ρηθεν δια [14] του προφητου λεγοντος Ανοιξω εν παραβολαις το στομα μου[15] ερευξομαι[16] κεκρυμμενα απο καταβολης [κοσμου-B,f1].

·         Here, Matthew quotes from Psalm 78 - A Maskil of Asaph. (who, by the way, was called a prophet in 2 Chron 29:30) Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation… Yet they turned back... They did not keep the covenant of God And refused to walk in His law; They forgot His deeds And His miracles that He had shown them. (Ps. 78:1-11 NASB)

o       The history of God’s dealings with Israel, which was recounted by Asaph in Psalm 78 contained proverbial “truths for all time.” (JFB)

o       It’s the song of all the prophets – and of every faith-filled father – to remind the children of his people about the eternal God and call them to walk in a covenantal relationship with God which will stretch into eternity. All too often the many things in this world cause people to forget these eternal relationships.

o       It appears that Matthew (following Jesus) rendered the first half of the quote from the Septuagint word-for-word, but embellished the ending a bit to fit with the word “hidden” in the parable and possibly also to allude to the role of Jesus in creation. This is typical of the way that the apostles saw Jesus as the central theme of everything in the Bible, for indeed Jesus is the center of it all (Col. 1:16-18).

o       Just as Jesus kept speaking parables about these truths that existed from before the foundation of the world, and commanded that His followers “make disciples… and teach them everything [He] commanded,” (Mt. 28:19) so we too should, in the words of Asaph, “teach them to the children that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God.”

·         This phrase “foundation of the world/universe” is unique to the N.T. – there is no verse in the Greek OT that explains it. However, when we look at all the passages in the N.T. which use this phrase, we can gain fascinating information: (following verses are from the NASB)

o       Luke 11:50 speaks of “the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world” and starts with Abel (Adam and Eve’s second son), who was also the first human to die, so “the foundation of the world” can’t be any later in time than the first century (Gen. 5:3) of human existence. (cf. Heb. 9:26)

o       But Hebrews 4:3-4 goes back even further, “…His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day:AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS

§         So “the foundation of the world” goes all the way back to the creation week!

§         That’s why in this parable in Matt., the NIV translates the phrase “the creation of the world,” even though the Greek word has more literally to do with “founding” than with “creating.”

o       What, then, was going on before there was a physical universe? What kinds of things might be obscured by a physical universe coming into existence? What kinds of ancient secrets will be revealed at the end of the age?

o       For one thing, there is a God who has eternally existed in three persons, so there has always been interpersonal knowledge and love between God the Father and God the Son:

§         1Peter 1:20 For He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world…

§         John 17:24 Jesus said to God the Father, “…You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”

§         In eternity past, there were no things; there were only persons, so personal relationships were all that mattered.

o       The other hidden thing, partially revealed by Jesus in His first coming, and to be fully revealed in His second coming, is that personal relationships with God are all that will matter in eternity future. In eternity past, God chose to create humans in His image and chose to love and save humans in this temporary physical universe, and chose to share eternal existence with Himself in heaven in the future.

§         Eph. 1:4 “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him…”

§         Matt. 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”

§         Rev 13:8 speaks of people who have and have not had their names “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (cf. Rev 17:8).

§         The people whom God had planned to be His people from eternity past, and whose names He wrote down before the creation of the world in His Book of Life, and for whom He has been preparing through all the ages of the earth to host in heaven, would be bought and brought into eternal life with God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus!

o       Astronomers tell us that the light we see from stars comes from the distant past, but this Biblical window into the pre-cosmic realities of relationships with God beats the Hubble photographs of distant galaxies all hollow!


1. The Kingdom of God must be Acquired:


But once you’ve got it, then what? Sometimes it’s hard to see the end result.

2. Do not despise the day of small beginnings when it comes to Christian faith:

·         Every spring I stand on my garden plot and wonder; what if I plant these seeds and nothing grows?

·         The disciples must have felt the same way about reaching the world with the Gospel. (Peter’s personality was not exactly marked by patience!) “How are we ever going to be successful? It’s too big a job to save the world!”

·         John Calvin commented that, “In these parables, Christ encourages His disciples so that they may not shrink back in offense at the lowly beginnings of the Gospel… Don’t let distrust diminish [your] zeal… [The surprising results of growth will end up] glorifying God’s power the better!”

·         Now, we have a much better vantage point than the apostles did, and more reason to hope because:

o       we have read the history reports that Christianity grew from nothing to evangelize 18% of the world by 100AD and had converted 20% of the world’s population by 300AD. (Acts 17:6)

o       We have seen whole empires and nations from the Byzantine age to the Holy Roman Empire to the various protestant Western European nations formed in the Reformation,

o       and today we have access to powerful research and communications tools that inform us of the sweeping movements to faith in Jesus among the millions of Chinese, Indian Dalits, Algerian Berbers, Black Africans, and South American Pentecostals in such numbers today that there are many nations in the global south far more Christian than the USA.

o       We’ve seen phenomenal growth. But the apostles didn’t have that perspective. They were part of only about 100 people who knew the truth about Jesus and the kingdom of God, and they faced a big, scary world. What a tremendous encouragement this parable must have been to them as they gave their lives against impossible odds to spread the good news that Jesus died to save sinners and now calls people to repent and believe in Him and join His eternal kingdom.

·         When you are looking down at your first feeble efforts at prayer or family devotions or evangelism or positive community change, it looks so unimportant and unable to do the great things you hope for, but, just like the non-baker can’t see the power hidden in that insignificant bit of sourdough, so the world will be surprised at the results of your faith applied diligently over the years of your life.

·          This fits with what God said before and afterward:

o       When the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem, God encouraged them through the prophet Zechariah saying, “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings…” (Zech 4:10)

o       And later on, Paul, the apostle who evangelized the gentile world, wrote in 1 Cor. 1:26-29: “For y’all see your calling, brothers, that not many were wise according to the flesh, not many were powerful, not many were upper-class. But it was the stupid ones of the world God chose for Himself in order that He might put down the strength of the wise men, and it was the weak ones of the world God chose for Himself in order that He might put down the strength of the strong, and the ones without class of the world and the ones that have been despised God chose for Himself... so that all flesh might not boast before the face of God.”

·         God starts with little things like seeds and sour dough starter. And in our little expressions of faith is something that God uses to expand His kingdom. As Romans 11:16 says, “If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.” (NASB) Holiness spreads and grows because it is the nature of God’s kingdom to grow inexorably. He will take our little mustard seeds and bits of sourdough and use them for mighty influence if we are patient and faithful over time.


But what about those whose faith is strong and who are seeing great blessings in the kingdom of God?

3. You are blessed to be a blessing

·         The end part of these parables is for you. Just as the full-grown mustard provides a haven for birds, so you should look for ways to share your blessings with others, and just as bread gives nourishment and satisfaction to human stomachs, so we should look for the kingdom of God to give nourishment and satisfaction to human souls.

·         As Bible commentator Matthew Henry put it, “Grown Christians must covet to be useful to others.”

·         And, just as the leaven permeates the whole batch of dough, “so also the citizen of the kingdom demands that every sphere of life shall contribute its full share of service, honor, and glory to [the] King of Kings… ‘for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of [the LORD] as the waters cover… the sea’ (Isa. 11:9).” (Hendricksen, p.567)


Wait & See

by Nate Wilson


 “Well it all started out with a tiny mustard seed;

See how it grew to a big mustard tree!

In the middle of faith it looks like it’s falling apart;

Hang in there a little longer and see the work of art!


The Master’s hand is at work in this land - Wait and see; wait and see!

Won’t you take a stand in the shifting sand - Wait and see; wait and see!


I know of a man in chains who wouldn’t give up on the fight,

He struggled and he taught, and filled the world with light.

I know where his strength comes from, and I know that I can be

Filled with God’s power working through me!”


Do you wrestle with the Lord when you're down on your knees?

Is Christ the center of your life--the only master that you please?

Are you serious about the call to take it to the world?

A wise and watchful servant sees the kingdom unfurl.


[1] (28 July 2012)

[2] (28 July 2012)

[3] According to Nestle-Aland, several ancient manuscripts (D,L,N,θ,f13) use the more literal word “spoke” (ελαλησεν) rather than “laid forth.”

[4] D & f13 spell this verb peculiarly as Future Active Indicative “will grow,” instead of Aorist Passive Subjunctive “shall be grown” – the uncertainty of the Subjunctive has to do with the uncertainty of the Future “whenever,” so both express the same concept, and it’s common for variants to occur along the lines of a non-future Subjunctive vs. Future Indicative.

[5] See. Mt. 8:20 for noun form. Note similarity of this with the LXX of Dan. 4:21c εν τοις κλαδοις αυτου κατεσκηνουν τα ορνεα του ουρανου. (See also Psalm 104:12, 139 for birds nesting.)

[6] Henk P. Medema and Lytton John Musselman

[7] Here’s the LXX text for comparison with Matthew: identical words are underlined, and synonyms are bolded. Text that matches the parallel passage in Mk. 4:32 is blue:
Ezek 17:24b και παν πετεινον υπο την σκιαν αυτου αναπαυσεται τα κληματα αυτου
Ezek. 31:6 εν ταις παραφυασιν αυτου ενοσσευσαν παντα τα πετεινα του ουρανου και υποκατω των κλαδων αυτου (also in v.13)

[8] (27 July 2012)

[9] Several ancient Greek manuscripts (א,C,L,θ,f13,and 1241) insert the word λεγων here, but it’s not included in the CT, Byz, Maj, TR, or Vulgate.

[10] Not in Maj, but in CT, Pat, and TR. Nestle-Aland gives no explanation. This verb with this prepositional prefix is not found in the Bible outside this parable.

[11] See Hosea 8:7, 2 Sam. 17:28, Num. 5:15 for the only contexts of the word αλευρου which indicates what kind of grain has been milled. I prefer to avoid the word “meal” because that is still more closely associated with maize-corn-meal than with wheat flour and could give the wrong impression.

[12] 4.8 U.S. dry gallons according to, 9 gallons according to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon.

[13] This is the reading of the Majority and the TR. CT & Pat. editions read ουδεν, following א,B,C,W,Δ,f13,and 1010. While these are not essentially different meanings, the ουδεν does seem to add an unnecessary “but/and.”

[14] Several ancient manuscripts (א,θ.f1,f13,33) add the prophet’s name here as “Isaiah,” but the quote is from the Psalms, not from Isaiah, thus this variant is not included in the Majority, TR, Patristic, or Critical editions.

[15] The second half of Matthew’s quote is more different from the Masoretic than the Septuagint text is. It appears that Matthew (following Jesus) rendered the first half of the quote from the Septuagint, but embellished the ending a bit to fit with the word “hidden” in the parable and possibly also the role of Jesus in creation. This is typical of the Christocentric hermeneutic of the apostles and it is not hostile to the Biblical text. Compare the LXX Psalm 77:2 ανοιξω εν παραβολαις το στομα μου φθεγξομαι προβληματα απ’ αρχης to the Masoretic:

אפתחה  במשׁל  פי  אביעה  חידות  מני  קדם׃

[16] The verb describing what this prophet will do is interesting. This is the only occurrence in the NT. According to the Greek translation of the O.T., this is what lions do (‘roar’ – Hosea 11:10; Amos 3:4-8), and it’s what fish do in the water (swarm? – Lev. 11:10); and, according to Psalm 19:2 it’s the way that the heavens declare the glory of God. Louw & Nida’s Greek Lexicon defines it as “announce in a sudden and emphatic manner (with an implication of ‘blurting out’)” Strong’s uses the word “belch” (The English word “eruct” is a transliteration of this Greek word), Thayer “spew out…pour forth,” Vincent “disgorge.”