The following study is based on Matthew 13:31-33, “31 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: 32 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. 33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”
There are two parables that we will be studying together today as they are both short parables.
Let’s start with focusing on the first parable, the parable of the mustard seed.
1. What do we understand about the mustard seed from the parable?
- It is the smallest of all seeds – the mustard seed is indeed a very small seed measuring about just 1mm in diameter.
- But when it is grown it is the largest amongst all the herbs – it actually grows, in some places, to a large bush or even sometimes large tree.
- So from such a small seed, it grows to something so large to the extent that even birds make their homes in the branches. So this is by no means a small tree.
- Other facts about the mustard seed becoming a tree:
- It takes about eight to ten days to germinate.
- It takes about 80 – 95 days to become a full tree, which means it must grow very rapidly.
- So this is fast growth!
- Something about the kingdom of heaven can take place quickly!
- If this something to do with our own lives, or meaning Jesus is coming soon? Let’s continue to study.
2. How about the second parable? The parable of the leaven. What do we understand the leaven?
- Leaven is substance that is put into dough that will make the dough rise. We know that today as yeast.
- What does yeast do? It makes dough rise in a very short amount of time.
- But do you know that the dough must be left in an ideal condition? It must be in a warm environment.
- But this yeast is put into three measures of meal. How much is three measures?
- 1 measure = 14 litres.
- So 3 measures = 42 litres of flour.
- This is a lot of dough!
- Yet the Bible says that the leaven that is put into 42 litres of flour still has the ability to affect every part of that 42 litres of dough to make it rise.
- So something that is so small is able to make an impact on something so large and in such a short amount of time – even shorter than growing a mustard seed into a tree.
3. What do we find in common about both these parables?
- Both are illustrating the kingdom of heaven.
- Both demonstrate how something small can grow so rapidly.
4. What is the kingdom of heaven connected to?
- Luke 17:20-21
20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
- Where is the kingdom of heaven? It is within us.
- The kingdom of heaven is not always talking about heaven up there, but sometimes it illustrates how a person can be ready for the heavenly kingdom – preparation for the second coming.
- It is referring to the heart preparation and how our citizenship into the kingdom of heaven is really decided within us and not so much anything external.
5. What does the mustard seed represent?
- Luke 8:11
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
- So the mustard seed represents the word of God.
- What else can it represent?
- Galatians 3:16
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
- The mustard seed can represent Christ and the work that He wishes to perform in our hearts today.
6. And what does the leaven represent?
- The yeast has a catalytic effect on the dough to make it rise in a very short amount of time. What in the Bible has this sort of effect?
- Psalms 119:25
My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.
- The Bible has the ability to speed something up, to quicken.
- So the leaven can also represent the word of God.
- Matthew 16:6, 12
6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
- This leaven that Jesus speaks of is bad leaven, it is the bad doctrine of the Pharisees.
- So leaven is doctrine which is also connected to the Bible.
- In this case it is a bad connotation, but in the case of the parable we are studying it is put in a positive light. So it is good doctrines.
- However, leaven can also represent something else as well that has a quickening effect. Let’s go to John 6:63, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
- Leaven can also represent the Holy Spirit and His work upon our hearts.
- Notice here that what quickens is not just the spirit though. The bible says that the words that Jesus spoke were spirit and life.
- The word of God cannot be disconnected from the work of the Holy Spirit.
- Ephesians 6:17
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
So both the mustard seed and leaven represents the word of God working upon our hearts. In the case of the mustard seed, it is also Christ in us. And in the case of the leaven it is the Holy Spirit abiding in us. Which means it is God dwelling in us. To have the word of God dwelling in our hearts is to have God Himself there.
7. Remember, what else did we see in the parable of the mustard seed and leaven?
- Was it slow growth or fast growth? It was FAST!
- One took a few months, another took just minutes or hours!
- When the Bible is put into our hearts, it begins to immediately work. We don’t need to wait for years for change, that change can take place immediately.
- Maybe some take longer and others shorter. Some it can take 2 hours. Others, a few weeks. But nonetheless, God is working because the word of God is taking root in our hearts.
8. How do we get Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our hearts today?
- We must put the word of God in our hearts. We must spend time reading and studying the Bible and meditating on what the Bible says. Maybe growth may seem slow at the beginning. Maybe you might feel that there is too much to learn. But the more you spend time in it, the more you begin to understand and the faster you grow.
- How do we have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts?
- Luke 11:13
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
- We must learn to ask. We must learn to pray.
- Luke 11:13
- The seed must be sown in the field. The leaven must be placed in the flour. There must be intentional action.
- There must be intentional time spent in the word of God and intentional time spent in praying.
- A person does not change miraculously by accident. True change comes from spending time with Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work upon our hearts and characters.
Let us make intentional decisions today regarding our relationship with Jesus. To allow that mustard seed and leaven to be placed in our hearts. God will surely work if we allow Him to. More than just saying yes, let us make a commitment to spend more time this coming week in reading and studying the word of God and praying to our heavenly Father.
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory
May this be our prayer – that God’s glory would shine through each and every one of us.