We are taking a break for the summer until futher notice.

(Friday, 12/14/07) Parables 5 & 6 of the Similitudes - The Mustard Seed & The Leaven

The Mustard Seed- The extent of the growth of the Kingdom

Matthew 13:31-32

We will treat this one with the next parable.

The Leaven- The secret of the growth of the Kingdom

Matthew 13:33

Some think that the growth of the mustard seed into a tree is deliberate overstatement by Jesus to alert his hearers to the fact that something is wrong. And they say that the birds nesting in the branches are Satan’s messengers. They also say that yeast is always bad in the Bible and that the yeast in this passage represents the pervasive nature of evil - i.e. the way it spreads.

I think that is an over reaction to the way the postmillennialists interpret this passage.

Just in case you are not familiar with Postmillennialism - “it is the conservative counterpart to the optimistic, liberal, evolutionary view which expects the world to get better through Christianization. A transformed world will precede the coming of Christ to the earth. Though this view nearly died with the transpiration of two world wars and subsequent events, there seems to be a contemporary resurgence of it in some Christian circles.” (Ramesh Richards, Elements of a Biblical Philosophy of History, BibSac, Apr-Jun 1981, p. 116) Postmillennialists typically deny the future millennial kingdom and think that the church is in it.

Therefore, postmillennialists see the rapid growth of the mustard plant and the dominance of the leaven as indicating the millennial kingdom will be brought about by the church dominating society and bringing about world peace so that Jesus can return.

I think Boice’s view is an over reaction to the typical postmillennial interpretation. We don’t need to over react to the postmillennialists. All we need to do is look at the society around us to see that things are getting worse and not better.

The mustard seed growing into a tree is not overstatement by Jesus. In Palestine, the mustard seed (the smallest seed in that culture) did in fact grow to be ten or twelve feet tall. And birds could and did build nests in mustard tree branches. Jesus’ hearers would not have been “alerted” that something was wrong because nothing was wrong with what he was saying. It was true. Jesus is simply saying that what starts out small (with just Him and a few disciples) would grow to great proportions in a very short time. And in fact it did. So, that is the significance of the mustard seed illustration - rapid growth.

The illustration with the leaven may be teaching one of two things:
-First - it may mean that the kingdom is hidden -- like the leaven is invisible in the lump of dough. That would refer to the spiritual aspect of the kingdom that was begun with the arrival of Jesus.
-Second - it may mean that the source of growth would be secret - an internal dynamic -- i.e. the Holy Spirit, and that it would spread to the whole world (like it spread throughout the dough. That in fact did happen. By the end of Paul’s life, only 40 years after Christ spoke these words, the gospel had been taken to the end of the known world. I don’t think it has to mean that the whole world would be converted and the millenium brought in by the church.

The birds nesting in the branches are not Satan’s messengers. They are Gentiles participating in the Kingdom of God. It is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that through his seed all the nations would be blessed. Hosea 14:7 talks about Israel as a tree with others being blessed by living in its shadows. Also compare Dan 4:12 for the birds benefiting from the tree.

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