In the last couple of lessons in our series on the life of Christ, we began looking at the seven parables found in Matthew 13. So, far we have looked at the Parable of the sower, the wheat and the tares and the dragnet. Some of these parables are unique to Matthew, but some of them are found in the other accounts as well, which brings us to our next parable, THE MUSTARD SEED (Mt 13:31-32, Mk 4:30-32, Lk. 13:18-19).


This is another parable about the kingdom. Jesus spoke about the kingdom often because He wanted His hearers to understand more about the kingdom. Each of these parables in Matthew 13 gives a different perspective of the kingdom. In the parable of the mustard seed, we see great encouragement given in the fact that something that starts out insignificant would grow into something great.


This is how the parable reads:


Matthew 13:31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,  32 "which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."


Once again, Jesus uses an example that His listeners would be familiar with. The mustard seed was known for its smallness. In fact, it seemed to be a common saying during their time to denote smallness. For example, notice this example:


Matthew 17:20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.


This would be similar to some of our modern day expressions such “big as a barn” or “quiet as a mouse”. When we use this type of expression, we are not stating a scientific fact because no one is actually as big as a barn, but we use the expression to graphically illustrate a point we are trying to make. This is what Jesus was doing with the mustard seed. Some will look at the verse 31 and take it to mean that Jesus is stating that the mustard seed is the smallest seed that there is. This however is not true because there are other seeds smaller than the mustard seeds. However, the mustard seed was one of the smallest seeds used during ancient times. He was using a seed that started out very small but grew into something large enough to support birds.


I think that Jesus really wanted us to appreciate how something as small as a mustard seed could grow into something big. So, when we apply this to the kingdom of God, we can clearly see that Jesus is telling us that even though the church will start  out very small or may even seem insignificant, it will grow and continue to grow until it is large and powerful. This parable was so true.


From a human perspective the origin of the kingdom was small and insignificant. Jesus is the founder of the kingdom, but He did not posses the qualities that are normally associated with the establishment of a great empire. For example, listen to what Isaiah says about the Messiah and it will become clear that from man’s perspective, Jesus should not be a king of anything.


Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?  2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.  3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.


Jesus came to this earth as a baby born in a stable one that could easily be killed just like Herod had hoped to do. This was not what the Jews were expecting. They were expecting God to manifest Himself is some spectacular way and deliver all the children of Israel from the Romans. This is just one of the reasons the Jews had such a difficult time believing that Jesus was the coming Messiah.


Jesus was raised in a despised town. Nathanael said "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" in Jn 1:46.

Jesus had not even had any formal rabbi training. As:


John 7:15 And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"


He was not rich or well known. He was just a carpenter by trade:


Mark 6:3 "Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary,


2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.


Though Jesus had such a low stature on this earth, Paul tells us that He gave up the riches of heaven to become poor, so that we could become rich, but this fact was not known among the Jews because all they could see was a poor carpenter instead of the King of kings.


Jesus had no political fame and even His own people initially rejected Him as can be seen in:


John 1:11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.


Also notice what:


John 7:5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.


So, not even His own brothers believed in Him. In the beginning, Jesus had all kinds of thing going against Him. If Jesus’ circumstance was not bad enough to mess with the opposing Jews’ minds, Think about who Jesus chose to be His apostles. For the most part, these men were just plain ordinary workers who were not scholars or any one of significance. For example, notice what the opposing Jews said about Peter and John in:


Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.


If you are going to build a kingdom especial the physical kingdom that these Jews were looking for, you do not do it with some poor carpenter and a bunch of uneducated common workers. That is just unheard of. From a human perspective, it seemed that all chances of Jesus being a king ended when he died on the cross. Even His disciples got discouraged after His death, and some of them went back to what they were used to doing as can be seen in:


John 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We are going with you also." They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.


When you combine all this together, it really didn’t seem that the kingdom of Jesus had much chance of succeeding. But, we know that when God is in control, all things are possible. In fact, the success of the kingdom was prophesied in the Old Testament.


In Daniel Chapter 2, Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. This was not the usual interpretation because the king would not tell anyone what he saw in his dream, but he wanted someone to tell him what it meant. The only man up for the task was Daniel with God’s help.


In his dream, he saw this great image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, a belly of brass, and legs of iron with feet part iron and part clay. Daniel was able to tell the king what he saw, and then he interpreted the dream for him starting in:


Daniel 2:37 "You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory;  38 "and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all -- you are this head of gold.  39 "But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.  40 "And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.  41 "Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.  42 "And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.  43 "As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.  44 "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.


Daniel tells the king about four kingdoms. The head of Gold represents the Babylonian Empire, The breast and arms of silver represents the Medo-Persian Empire, The belly brass represents the Grecian Empire, and the legs of iron with feet part iron and part clay represents the Roman Empire. It was during this fourth kingdom, the Roman Empire, that the new kingdom would be made and it was to be a kingdom that would last forever.


Think about how powerful a kingdom would have to be to last forever. Every kingdom has its start somewhere, but none of them last forever with the exception of the kingdom that Jesus would establish that certainly started out as something that seemed insignificant. Daniel has given us a timeline of when this mighty kingdom would be started. It would happen during the Roman Empire. Jesus was on the earth during the Roman Empire, and He and John the Baptist was preaching the message that the kingdom was at hand.


During Jesus’ ministry, Peter made a great statement about Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Jesus responded by saying:


Matthew 16:17 "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  19 "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."


Jesus was going to build His church and He would give Peter the keys of the kingdom or we could say the church because the church and the kingdom are used synonymously throughout the NT. Just as a side note, Peter was not the only one who received the keys of the kingdom and the authority that went with them because we can see Jesus telling all the apostles the same message in the latter part of verse 19 in Mt. 18:18. Also, on the day of Pentecost, it was all the apostles that stood and proclaimed the truth about Jesus.


Jesus also said:


Mark 9:1  "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power."


He also said:


Luke 24:46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  47 "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  48 "And you are witnesses of these things.  49 "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." 


We learn from verse 49 that when the Holy Spirit comes as promised when they were in Jerusalem, they will be endued with power. So, the kingdom Daniel prophesied about would come during the Roman Empire, it would come with power, and it would come when the Holy Spirit came because that is when the  power would come. This would happen before some of them died.  


Verse 47 teaches us that the new law of the new kingdom would begin in Jerusalem, which was also prophesied by Isaiah in:


Isaiah 2:2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.  3 Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.   


All we have to do to confirm when and where this mighty kingdom had its beginning is to go to the Book of Acts because Jesus tells His apostles in:


Acts 1:8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."


Just as Isaiah prophesied, the Law of God would begin at Jerusalem, and it would spread from there. So, this mighty kingdom that would last forever would begin in Jerusalem and its beginning can be found in Acts 2, which was the Day of Pentecost:


Acts 2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


One final proof that this was the day the mighty kingdom began comes from our verse in Isa. 2:2, which tells when this prophecy would occur in the latter days. Now notice what Peter says in:


Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.  15 "For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.  16 "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.


These things happening on the day of Pentecost were happening in the latter days or we could say the last days. When we put all the facts together, there is no denying that the  kingdom of God that will never be destroyed started in Jerusalem during the Roman Empire on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles and the law of the new kingdom began to be taught at Jerusalem. Then it spread like wildfire from that point forward and the kingdom grew and grew.


This is exactly what our parable is talking about. Just because these Jews were having a hard time understand what was happening during their day, does not take away from the fact that it did happen. This should show us that God can work with what seems insignificant and turn it into something glorious. This should not surprise us at all because God did many times throughout the O.T. Story after story could be told about how God would use anywhere from one person to a few to overcome great odds. So, the parable of the mustard seed should be encouraging to us all.


Before we leave this topic of the kingdom,  I want talk about how there is still some in the religious world today who call themselves Christians who still claim that the kingdom has not come and that Jesus must come again to establish it sometime in the near future. They even agree that all the OT prophecies point to Jesus bringing in the new kingdom during the Roman Empire, but they think the Jews were not ready for this kingdom so Jesus failed His mission and would have to try again later. So, they believe we got the church instead of the kingdom, which I have already shown that the church and the kingdom are one in the same.


I find this way of thinking strange because Isaiah said that Jesus would be rejected by men in:


Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.


If Jesus was trying setup His kingdom on earth like the Jews wanted, then why did He avoid being made into a physical king by the Jews as seen in:


John 6:15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.


If Jesus had failed to complete His mission in starting the kingdom of God, then how could He could pray to God and say:


John 17:4 "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 


If Jesus did not build the church/kingdom as prophesied by the OT prophets, then we have the first promise that God could not keep, but we know that this is not the case because after the day of Pentecost, the kingdom of God is spoken of as a present reality.


Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,


Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.


When Paul talks about Jesus coming again, he says nothing about Him establishing His kingdom. Instead, he says when He comes, it will be for judgment, and He will deliver the existing kingdom to the Father.


1 Cor. 15:24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.


The mighty kingdom of God is a reality, and it has been in place since A.D 30, and it was built by Jesus as prophesied by the prophets of old. It is not a physical kingdom, but a spiritual one as Jesus told Pilate:


John 18:36 "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."


No matter how many nations have fallen or have risen over the last 2000 years, none can make the claim of the Kingdom of God because it cannot be destroyed or conquered by any foe, and those who belong to the kingdom of God and remain true to it will continue to live for eternity in heaven.


From the day of Pentecost to our present day, the commands of God have been taught and followed. Starting in Jerusalem, the apostles used the keys of the kingdom to preach the truth, and that day about 3000 souls were baptized into the kingdom and were added to the church by God (Acts 2:47).


As Jesus commanded them, they preached the truth to the world. As the kingdom/church grew in number and persecution began, the people scattered and went into new areas preaching the good news of Jesus (Acts 8:4). We also read about men like Paul, who journeyed to new places preaching the truth and grew the kingdom of God.


In fact, those disciples of Jesus managed to preach the Word of God to every creature as can be seen in:


Colossians 1:23  if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.                


Colossians 1:6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit….


Romans 16:26  but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith --


Romans 10:18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world."


I know that many in the religious world are confused about the first half of Matthew 24 because they think it describes some future event that we have not seen yet that will be preceded by certain signs, but a careful study of that chapter will show that that the signs and the things Jesus was talking about would happen in their generation and it was a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem. As Jesus plainly states:


Matthew 24:34 "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.


All things mentioned before verse 34 have already happened, which was before 70 A.D. Notice one of the requirements that would take place before the destruction of Jerusalem would occur in 70 A.D.


Matthew 24:14  "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.


We just looked at some verses that said that the gospel had already been preached to the whole world and these verses came from books that were written before 70 A. D. Therefore, this is just another verse that proves that the good news of Jesus was preached to the whole world in the first century before 70 A.D.


In conclusion, Jesus has taught this wonderful parable about a mustard seed, which shows how the kingdom of God would start out as something that seemed small and insignificant, but would grow into something that would affect the whole world and would last forever. We certainly see the truth of the parable come to pass as we read through the New Testament and see that the church/kingdom is still alive an well today. As I said earlier, this parable should encourage us and lift up because if God could bring forth the mighty we are part of today through Jesus and all the things that seemed like it would make it fail, we must understand that God can do great things through us as well. We might seem weak or insignificant in the eyes of man, but if we continue to press forward and uphold the Word of truth, I am fully convinced that God can do great things through as we do our best to influence our neighbors and our nation. So, never give up on living for the Lord.