We have been discussing Yeshua's parables in Matthew 13. So far we have covered the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Between Yeshua's giving the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and His explanation there are two more parables that we have yet to analyze. Today we will be looking at the Parable of the Mustard Seed.
Matthew 13:31-32 (KJV)
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:
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.
This time Yeshua said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field (verse 31). Then in verse 32 He remarked that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but becomes a tree when it is grown. It is so large that the birds come and lodge in its branches.
This is all that we are given. So, if Yeshua did not give us any explanation, how are we to determine what Yeshua was trying to tell us? Most commentators believe that the message is pretty clear, that the Kingdom of Heaven starts out small, but grows to be so big that all kinds of people come to dwell within it. Specifically, the birds must represent Gentiles who come into the small Kingdom that Yeshua started. Although there seems to be a consensus on this parable's meaning, the reasoning involved is nothing more than guess work.
Instead, if we look closely, the four symbols used in the parable have already been defined by Yeshua. The man that sows the mustard seed must represent Yeshua, just as the man (sower) does in the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds and in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The field has already been shown to be the world and the mustard seed represents those who hear the Word of God. The birds represent Satan. When we put this together we now find that the Kingdom of Heaven, yes, starts off small after being sown by Yeshua into the world. It then grows to be very large, so large that evil (or Satan) finds shelter there.
But how is this possible that evil could be hiding in the Kingdom of Heaven? Actually, what the parable says is that evil infiltrates the world where God's people also exist. Isn't this the situation of our world? Isn't this what was being described in the Wheat and the Tares?
Perhaps our definition of the Kingdom of Heaven needs a little tweaking. These parables seem to indicate the condition of what is actually going on in the world today and not really what is happening in the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven. It is as if Yeshua was already looking to His physical Kingdom of Heaven that will be in place during the Millennial Kingdom here on Earth. Is it possible that in some sense Yeshua is viewing His Kingdom as our world, even though it is marred because of sin? This change in thought serves to explain how we are to view these parables. And there seems to be some patterns developing. We'll talk more about this as we progress.
Note: While the mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed, nor does it grow into a tree, the Jews traditionally used the mustard seed as an example of the smallest. Yeshua's use of hyperbole (exaggeration) was a common method of making a strong point.