mustard seed: the dilemma of growth



Photo by mrjoro

This? This…is the glorious mustard seed? Not the magnificent and beautiful tree one imagines. Its a weed…!

Thanks to our Pastor at Calvary Petaluma, this isn’t as shocking to me as it could have been. The parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13 is a little more rough around the edges than I’d ever given it credit for before.

He gave them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the wild birds come and nest in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32, the NET Bible.

Perhaps Jesus didn’t mean for the parable to only refer to the beautiful growth of the Kingdom of Heaven – which is still a facet of this image – but hoped to warn against false growth, as well. Isn’t it true that growth can allow things to go unnoticed and hidden from obvious view? In the two parables, the yeast and the mustard seed, something considered unwanted from the lens of the biblical culture – yeast (evil) and birds (enemy) – come to hide or lodge in the surroundings.

If this is true, what are the implications on the Kingdom of Heaven as we see it? What is true growth in the Kingdom of Heaven? What are the implications of physical growth in the church on this Earth?


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5 Responses to “mustard seed: the dilemma of growth”

  1. Bryan Says:

    I don’t believe He meant the weed….that doesn’t provide much shade for the birds like He said directly after that….

  2. Auntie Em Says:

    The character of this parable has been miss-taught, I believe, and so do those I’ve spoken to. The sower, with mindfulness, chose to sow the mustard seed, because of its value – great shade and production of the greatest of herbs. Herbs season – like salt. The shade protects and gives rest to the weary. The birds (Matthew) (or fowl in Mark) seek its refuge. From what? Predator birds that devour them. I experience this fleeing to the great trees in my backyard each day, as the hovering sharp-shinned hawk comes unexpectedly. The great branches are strong and have potential to bear more and more fruit – the laden branches are able to sustain it. One other note: when birds are used in scripture in a negative sense, keep in mind that as in the Sower of Seed parable, birds will hide from getting the seed while the humans are present in the garden. It is when the humans pass by (or go indoors) that the seed becomes available to the birds.
    We must look at the intent of the one that does the act within the parable. The old woman who added 3 measures of yeast – she did so on purpose for an excellent product to sustain her family. In this case the yeast is the fullness of the Gospel producing over a 100 fold. etc.

  3. Sandi Says:

    I was reading James M. Boice book on ‘The Parables of Jesus’ & came across his interpretation of this parable: 1st – growth of mustard seed into tree is abnormal – it does not grow into a tree; it grows into a shrub. so this great & unusual growth should mean something was wrong. 2nd -the birds in Matt 13 who rest in the mustard tree’s branches have been identified as the devil or devil’s messengers (v.19). 3rd – yeast in Old Testament (& in Jewish life today) symbolizes evil. The parables of the mustard seed & yeast are placed between the parable of the wheat & tares (v24-30) & Christ’s explanation of the parable (v 36-43).
    Christians must be on guard against Satan’s tactics – the infusion of his own people into the Christian community; the visible church’s bureaucratic growth; infusion of evil into the lives of even believing people. i.e beware of the secular church! (from James Boice book)

  4. Tonja Sundstrom Says:

    A Great post, I will bookmark this in my Reddit account. Have a great evening.

  5. Roger Emall Says:

    no SAndi, you don’t understand. You need to read the non-English ancient texts.

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