He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Things are not always as they appear. I suspect I am not alone in saying that I can misinterpret situations. I think I know what is going on, only to discover that I don’t. Matthew 13 is filled with Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like…..’. We will focus on the ‘Parable of the Mustard Seed’ that proves the point that appearances can be deceiving. In the context, Jesus has encountered significant opposition from the religious leaders. This raises questions about the validity of His ministry and teaching. How can Jesus be God’s anointed deliverer if even the Jewish leadership oppose Him? And how can Jesus say that the Kingdom of Heaven is near when God’s enemies are not judged (Matthew 4:17)? Jesus’ parables are designed to address some of these realities.
In our parable, Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed planted in a field (verse 31). He points out that although it is the smallest of all seeds – proverbially so – yet when it grows, it is greater than the garden plants and becomes a tree so that the birds come and perch in its branches (verse 32). The thrust of this parable is clear: from tiny beginnings, comes spectacular growth. The kingdom of heaven is like this, claims Jesus. In the context of Jesus’ ministry, the advance of the kingdom seemed insignificant and unimpressive. Yet, from these humble and inauspicious beginnings, the kingdom would one day reflect remarkable growth. Some commentators suggest that the imagery of birds perching in branches is drawn from the Old Testament prophetic books of Ezekiel and Daniel, and may refer to the incorporation of the Gentile nations into God’s kingdom (cf. Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6; Daniel 4:12, 21). Whatever the case, the kingdom of heaven, like the mustard seed, will mature, providing shelter for many.
You and I live in an age that can testify to the enormous growth of the kingdom of heaven from its humble beginnings. In effect, first appearances were deceiving. It is worth keeping this in mind when we reflect on the struggles of the church throughout history. Even today, the church can appear small and insignificant. Don’t be discouraged! This parable reminds us that God is building a mighty kingdom that will one day be revealed for all to see, a kingdom that includes many, people from ‘every nation, tribe, people and language’ (Revelation 7:9; cf. Matthew 28:18-19). Are you part of this Kingdom?