03 The Mustard Seed And Leaven


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.

Matthew 13:31-32
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.

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!
    • Let’s continue our study.

How about the second parable?

Matthew 13:33
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.

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.

What do we find in common about both these parables?

  • Both are illustrating the kingdom of heaven.
  • And both demonstrate how something small can grow so rapidly.

What else 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.

Coming back to the parable of the mustard seed. 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.

And how about the leaven. 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 doctrine, good teaching.
  • However, leaven can also represent something else as well that has a quickening effect. Let’s go to John 6:63.
  • 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 we see leaven representing the word of God and also the work of the Holy Spirit. Both working together to perform this catalytic work upon our hearts.

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.

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 can take 2 hours. Others, a few weeks. But nonetheless, God is working because the word of God is taking root in our hearts.

So 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.
  • 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.
  • That will require effort on our behalf. We have to make time for Bible study, we have to make time for prayer.

A research was done quite a long time ago where they discovered that the average minister only prayers 7 minutes per day. How short! And if ministers only pray that amount, how much less would church members who are not involved in full time ministry? Why is it that so many people just don’t see the importance of Bible study or prayer? These Christian disciples, yes, we heard them growing up in the church. But so many of us know it is important, know that it is good to do, but yet we just don’t do it. Why?

It’s because many of us don’t see the need. We don’t feel the need of the word of God in our hearts or having to pray.

They say that the gospel is going out faster in the third world countries today than they are in those that are more affluent. Why? Because when a person is poor, they see the need. They see the importance of hoping for a better life. They are not satisfied with this world. So they turn to the scriptures where it gives them hope of the coming of Christ. No more sickness, no more pain, no more poverty.

Look at what riches do to us.

Matthew 13:22
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

  • Riches deceive us. It deceives us into thinking that we are OK. It deceives us to forget about heaven and make us set our affections on things of the earth. It makes us to lose our focus.
  • It makes us to think that our spiritual lives are OK. Makes us think that God is blessing us and so we should be OK right? We forget that sometimes Satan helps people to get rich too!
  • Maybe many of us are not rich. But maybe we are comfortable. You don’t have all your wants but at least you have your needs all covered at the moment and you don’t have a care in the world. That’s what the comforts of this life does.

1 Timothy 6:9-10
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

  • When we have money and riches, we fall into more temptations and snares. It entraps us. It makes us to lose our faith and our focus. It weans away the affections that should be reserved for God and sets it on the earth.

So because we see how riches can be so deceptive and ruinous to our lives, many times God has to do something drastic to get our attention. To wake us up!

  • Whether it’s the loss in health, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, loss of our money and possessions. Sometimes God has to rock our boat and get us to wake up! Make us lose our properties and our security and worldly comforts.
  • The question today that we must answer is, are you undeceived? Are your eyes open to the direction that you are taking in life?
  • It’s not that God wants to force us to follow Him. But He must give every person an opportunity to be saved. Yes, He will work with our decisions and honour them. If we say no to God, He will leave us alone. But at the end in judgment, at least we will know that He did His utmost best.

So, do you see your need today? A need of Jesus in your life?

We must make intentional decisions today regarding our relationship with Jesus. And we will only do that if we wake up to our spiritual bankruptcy. Then, and only then we will 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.

Colossians 1:27
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.