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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Matthew 13:31-32 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when 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. (See Mark 4:30-32 & Luke 13:18-19).

Although a very short parable given by Jesus, a great meaning can be inferred. Inference is necessary because its meaning was not given by Jesus as He did with a number of other parables. Many of Jesus' parables were given to describe the kingdom of heaven on earth which was to be His body; the church He died to establish; the church of which He is head today. In this parable, Jesus compares His church to a mustard seed. Although there is much debate as to what the herb might be that grows from the small mustard seed into a "mustard tree." Some scholars seem to think mustard plants that grew in the area of Palestine attained a height of up to fifteen feet. Most agree that the plant was not actually a tree, but an herb that, due to its great height, was tree-like in appearance. However, what the actual plant really was is not significant and is only secondary to the real reason this example was chosen.

The primary reason the mustard seed was chosen as an example in this parable was because of its extremely small size compared to the very large plant that was produced at maturity. Most gardeners seem to be amazed by the size of the plant, fruit, or vegetable produced from a small seed. However, it seems in the case of the mustard seed this extreme was even more noticeable, and was the very reason it was chosen by our Savior to better illustrate His teaching in this parable.

The lesson is that great things can result from small beginnings. The church of Christ, itself, began on the Day of Pentecost with the twelve apostles of Christ and a few dedicated disciples - in number they were but a mustard seed compared to the great number of people present on this Jewish holy day. Being guided by the Holy Spirit, the message delivered by the apostles laid the foundation of the church. The message, itself, was small and simple - it, also, was but a mustard seed when compared to the lengthy and complete law of God that was delivered to the Jewish nation by Moses. The small seed that brought one into the New Testament church was this. Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The response was great. On that day the church of Christ grew by three thousand souls. It continued to grow is subsequent days due to the scriptural teaching ofa small number of disciples proclaiming a very small, simple message. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47).

Although persecuted by Jewish authorities, the seed planted on the Day of Pentecost could not be contained. It continued to grow and spread in all areas where persecuted disciples of Christ fled for safety. For everywhere they went, they brought this simple message of salvation. Fulfilling Old Testament prophesies, the message was first delivered to the Jewish nation, and secondly to the Gentile world. Through a vision, Peter realized that God was no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and that the message of salvation was to be delivered to all people. With the conversion of Cornelius, Gentiles were brought into the fold of God, and were added to His church. They responded to the same message from the beginning and were baptized in the name of the Lord. Upon hearing this, disciples of Christ that were scattered in all nations abroad, due to the persecution at Jerusalem, began preaching the message of salvation to Gentiles. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord (Acts 11:21). Converted on the road to Damascus, Paul became the "apostle of the Gentiles" and by extended missionary journeys, spread the gospel of Christ throughout Europeannations, nations in Asia Minorand, eventually, to the entire known world.

Appearing to His disciples after His resurrection, Jesus instructed them by saying, go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:15-16). This great deed was done. Hear the message contained in the parable of the mustard seed. From the simplest sermon ever preached came the greatest reward the world has ever known - salvation in heaven. Indeed, small seeds can, and do, yield great trees.