In order to understand how the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, we have to understand the spiritual, or figurative, language Jesus used to hide this secret. God has given us all the answers in his word. When Jesus came 2000 years ago he explained all the secrets hidden in the Old Testament. Now is the time to understand all the secrets that have been hidden in the New Testament.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
SEED: Lk 8:11 says, “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.” What do we do with seeds? We plant them. James 1:21 refers to “the word planted in you”, which implies the word is like seed. From this we can see that the word can be equated to a seed. However, there are two kinds of seed. This will be discussed in more depth in the “parable of the weeds”.
FIELD: Where was the mustard seed sown? In the field. 1 Cor 3:9 says, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building”. Ps 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart…” We already know that the word is the seed, and seeds get planted in fields, therefore our heart is the field where the word (seed) gets hidden (sown). On a small scale the field can be our hearts (us), on a larger scale it can be a group of us, a ‘building’ = church (1 Cor 3:9). On the largest scale the field can refer to the world (Mt 13:38).
In order for the seed to grow, what does it need? Water and light!
WATER: Dt 32:2 says, “Let my teaching fall like rain, and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” Here water (rain and dew) is compared to teachings (words). Water also has the physical ability to cleanse. Jn 15:3 says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” From this we can understand that the word is like water, it cleanses. Jesus’ words and teachings are also referred to as the water that wells up to eternal life (Jn 4:14). So water is equated to the word or God’s teachings.
LIGHT: Light has the physical ability to expose something, or reveal it. Ps 119:130 says, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” The unfolding or revealing of God’s word gives light and understanding. Jesus also called himself the light of the world (Jn 8:12). Jesus explained all the things hidden in the Old Testament because he had the revealed word. Ps 119:105 makes it pretty clear what light refers to: “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path.” Light = the word.
TREE: A tree grows from a seed. Depending on what type of seed you plant, that is the type of tree that will grow. Therefore if it is God’s seed (his word) that is planted, then it is God’s tree that will grow. Ps 1:1-3 talks about a man who is blessed because he meditates on the law of God (God’s word or seed) day and night. Verse 3 says, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water.” This man is compared to a tree. A tree refers to our inner being that is born again of the seed of the word (1 Pt 1:23).
BIRDS: In Mt 3:16 the Spirit of God is likened unto a dove descending from heaven. On the opposite side of things, in Rv 18:2, demons and evil spirits are referred to as unclean and detestable birds. From these passages the spiritual meaning of birds can be clearly understood, they refer to spirits. Just as there are 2 kinds of seed, and therefore 2 kinds of trees, there are also 2 kinds of birds – holy spirits and evil spirits.
God’s spiritual language is consistent throughout the Bible. If you read Daniel 4, for example, King Nebuchadnezzar is compared to a tree in one of his dreams (Dan 4:20-22). There are, however, different scales (as seen in the explanation about the field). On a small scale, this mustard seed parable refers to a person, who has God’s word planted in their hearts, has God’s teachings and true understanding of his word (the revealed word), and thus has grown into a large tree inhabited by the holy spirit. On a larger scale this parable refers to God’s church (kingdom or nation), where his word of truth is, where understanding is being taught, and where his holy angels work and dwell. It is made up of many parts (trunk, branches, leaves), all working together as a unit (1 Cor 12:12-28). A kingdom is where its king is. Therefore God’s kingdom – the kingdom of heaven – is where God is. Let’s make sure we understand the map God has given us (his word) so that we can find, and be a part of, God’s kingdom.