The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand the Parables of the Kingdom

In my last post, we explored the parable of the wheat and the weeds.  In this post, we will look at the parable of the mustard seed, the leaven and a further explanation of His parables.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

“Yeshua put before them another parable. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a man takes and sows in his field.   It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up it is larger than any garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the birds flying about come and nest in its branches.’” ~ Matthew 13:31-32

No one parable can completely describe God’s Kingdom in all its aspects, so Yeshua gave several.  Through the parable of the mustard seed, Yeshua explained that his Kingdom would have a small beginning.  Indeed, it began with Yeshua alone and, upon his ascension, was left in the care of twelve emissaries and just a few hundred other talmidim.  Yeshua compared this beginning to the mustard seed, which was the smallest seed that a farmer used.  The mustard seed was so small that it would take almost twenty thousand seeds to make one ounce.

Modern critics have pointed out that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed, and they use this to argue against the accuracy of the Bible.  Yeshua, however, was not making a scientific statement.  Though the mustard seed is not the smallest seed in all of creation, it was used in rabbinic proverbs to designate the smallest of things.

No other seed so small produced such a large plant.  From this very tiny seed would grow a large shrub – the largest shrub among all the herbs that the farmer would plant in his garden.  A mustard shrub could grow ten to twelve feet in just a few weeks.  While that is not technically a tree, Yeshua used hyperbole to stress both the insignificance (smallest) and magnificence (tree) of the Kingdom.  His point was that just as a tiny seed will grow into the largest of garden plants, so God’s kingdom will produce many people who truly believe.  From this small start, the Kingdom will grow into such greatness that when Yeshua returns, it will take over the entire earth.  Yeshua stressed the future greatness of the Kingdom, which then seemed insignificant.  He also showed that the kingdom had small beginnings but would grow and produce great results.

The Parable of the Leaven

“And he told them yet another parable. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with a bushel of flour, then waited until the whole batch of dough rose.’”  ~ Matthew 13:33

In other Bible passages, “yeast or leaven” is used as a symbol of evil or uncleanness (see Matthew 16:6).  Here it is a positive symbol of growth.  Like the parable of the mustard seed, this parable stresses small beginnings with great growth.  While the seed grows, however, the yeast permeates and transforms; thus, we see another aspect of the Kingdom.  Although yeast looks like a minor ingredient, it permeates the whole loaf.  Although the Kingdom had small beginnings, it would grow to have a great impact on the world.  What the Jews saw as insignificant (the man, Yeshua, and His little band of followers) was actually the start of a great and world-changing event.  Like leaven working its way through the dough, the Kingdom message would spread across the entire world.

Yeshua Provides Further Explanation for His Use of Parables

“All these things Yeshua said to the crowds in parables; indeed, He said nothing to them without using a parable.  This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will say what has been hidden since the creation of the universe.’ Then he left the crowds and went into the house. His talmidim approached him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’  He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world.  As for the good seed, these are the people who belong to the Kingdom; and the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One.  The enemy who sows them is the Adversary, the harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  Just as the weeds are collected and burned up in the fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all the things that cause people to sin and all the people who are far from Torah; and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where people will wail and grind their teeth.  Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let him hear!’”  ~ Matthew 13:34-43

The first half of the quoted verse ~ I will open my mouth in parables ~ follows the first part of Psalm 78:2. The second half ~ since the creation of the universe ~ seems to be an independent rendition of the end of Psalm 78:2.  Psalm 78 reviews Israel’s history from the time of slavery in Egypt to David’s reign.  This psalm was told over and over to each generation so they would not forget God and make the same mistakes as their ancestors.  The things hidden refers to God’s mighty acts in redeeming His people despite their sin and unfaithfulness.

In Matthew 13:1, Yeshua had gone out of the house to sit beside the sea.  There he spoke publicly to the crowds.  Yeshua’s movement back into the house signifies a movement away from the crowds and to private discussion with His talmidim.  Yeshua’s followers had the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom (Matthew 13:11) and the ability to see and hear (Matthew13:16), but they still needed His help in understanding all His words.

Yeshua described the identity of the important parts of the parable of the weeds recorded in Matthew 13:24-30.  Yeshua explained to His listening talmidim that the good seeds are Believers, sown by the Son of Man in the field of the world.  In this world also existed those who were not children of the Kingdom; thus, they were children of the devil, sown by him into this world. At the end of the age, the angels would come and the harvest would begin.

At the end-time harvest, God will separate his people from Satan’s people.  As the harvesters collect the weeds into bundles to be destroyed, so Satan’s works and Satan’s people will be thrown into the fiery furnace.  I should note that the fiery furnace is not a name for hell but is a metaphor for final judgment (see Daniel 3:6).  Yeshua often used the phrase wailing and grinding of teeth to refer to the coming judgment (see 8:12; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).  The wailing indicates sorrow or remorse, and grinding of teeth shows extreme anxiety or pain.  Those who say they don’t care what happens to them after they die don’t realize what they are saying.  God will punish them for living in selfishness and indifference to Him.  Yeshua, who has already identified himself as the Son of Man (see Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40), revealed that He will inaugurate the end of the age and the final judgment.

Those who receive God’s favor stand in bright contrast to those who receive His judgment.  The Kingdom of their Father is another name for the Kingdom of God and Heaven.  Heaven will be a glorious place!

Satan opposes the Kingdom by trying to snatch the Word from our hearts (Matthew 13:4, 19).  But when that fails, he has other ways of attacking God’s work.  These parables reveal that Satan is primarily an imitator; he plants false Believers, he encourages a false growth, and he introduces false doctrine.

So, what lessons can we take away from these three parables from God’s Word:

  1. The work of Satan is hellish.  Renounce him and all his works; hate him and his henchmen with energetic hatred.
  2. The mustard seed will grow; the leaven will diffuse its influence.  He who has begun a good work in you will fulfill it.  Be of good cheer; only believe and plant as many seeds as you can and pray to the Lord of the Harvest to fertilize, water and reap an bountiful harvest.
  3. Think of the great harvest.  “Set your affection on things above.”

In John 10:10, Yeshua warns us that the Adversary (Satan) came to steal our joy, kill us and destroy our lives and those of our loved ones.  But Yeshua came to give us life, life to its fullest measure.  That message is vitally important, so anyone with ears should listen!

In my next post, we will continue to explore the parables of the Kingdom.

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