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The Mustard Seed


          PART II: THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM

                CHAPTER 4   THE MUSTARD SEED

                               Introduction

         The Parable of the Mustard Seed is found in all three
         synoptic Gospels:  Matthew  13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; and Luke
         13:18-19.  Let us look at Mark's account.
 
 

The Story 


                        Again  he  [Jesus] said, "What shall
                   we  say  the kingdom of God is  like,  or
                   what parable shall we use to describe it?
                   It is like a  mustard seed, which is  the
                   smallest  seed  you  plant in the ground.
                   Yet when planted, it  grows  and  becomes
                   the    largest of all garden plants, with
                   such big branches that the birds  of  the
                   air  can  perch  in  its  shade."   (Mark
                   4:30-32, New International Version).

              Jesus  again takes a known natural phenomena and uses it
         to teach  an unknown spiritual truth.  The common mustard  of
         Palestine  is SINAPIS NIGRA, or black mustard, which can grow
         to a height of twelve feet.  [John D. Davis, A DICTIONARY  OF
         THE  BIBLE.  4th  Rev.  ed.  (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
         1969), S.F., "Mustard"].   The mustard seed was the  smallest
         known to the Jews of that time.
 
 


                          The Interpretation

            Like  other  parables,  the  story begins with    a  seed,
         representing  the abstract Word  of God.  It then becomes the
         incarnate word of God [the believer], and  in  this  parable,
         the corporate body of believers.

              Ralph Earle sees the theme of this parable  as,  "Little
         Is  Much  If  God  Is  in It."  [Ralph G. Turnbull, gen. ed.,
         PROCLAIMING THE NEW  TESTAMENT (Grand  Rapids:    Baker  Book
         House,  1961),  THE  GOSPEL  OF MARK, by Ralph Earle, ThD, p.
         38].

              Earle continues,

                   The beginnings of the Christian church  seemed
              hopelessly  small.    Twelve  apostles; one hundred
              twenty Spirit-filled disciples--could these conquer
              the  world?    But within  thirty years  the gospel
              of Jesus Christ had swept around the  Mediterranean
              from  Jerusalem  to  Rome.      Within a century it
              compassed the Roman  Empire.  Turnbull,  gen.  ed.,
              PROCLAIMING  THE NEW TESTAMENT, THE GOSPEL OF MARK,
              by Ralph Earle, p. 39).

              The parable was prophetic in that it foretold the spread
         of Christianity.

              Birds  in   this  parable  have  no  purpose  except  to
         illustrate the size of the mustard plant.

               Minor  variances  in the accounts of the three synoptic
         Gospels are probably due to the differences in the  audiences
         to whom the accounts were  written.  Matthew  was written  to
         Jews; Mark to Romans and Luke to Greeks. For  instance,  Mark
         and  Luke  use the phrase, "kingdom of  God," whereas Matthew
         uses  the  phrase,  "kingdom  of   heaven."   Heaven   is   a
         circumlocution  of    "God,"  the  use  of  which    might be
         offensive to Jews.
 

                              Central Truth

                  GOD HAS CAUSED HIS KINGDOM IN HUMAN HEARTS
                       TO  GROW  FROM A SMALL BEGINNING
              TO A KINGDOM THAT HAS SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
 

                               Conclusion

              Let us do our part as believers to extend the kingdom of
         God in the hearts of people.  END