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In the full comparison that Jesus made, He likened the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed by saying that a mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds, but, after being planted, it would grow into a large tree that would allow the birds to come and nest in its branches (Matthew 13:31-32). This is similar to His teaching elsewhere in Matthew's gospel (Matthew 17:20) that, if a person had an amount of faith that was even as small as a mustard seed, he could tell a mountain to be uprooted and cast into the sea, and it would happen. By these sayings, Jesus was stressing the importance of both faith, and also of persistence in prayer and in effort (which are concrete reflections of that faith) in seeking God's help in attaining a desired objective. For the person who exhibits such faith and tenacity, the results of his or her efforts will be as disproportionate as the examples that Jesus gave, just as has been the case with Christianity (as a reflection of God's kingdom) starting with a group of twelve men, but growing to numbers in the billions worldwide.
Jesus' parables in Matthew 13 contain an interesting set of three "seed" teachings on the kingdom of God as it will exist during the period between the founding of the Church (planting the seed) and Jesus' return (the harvest). - The sower and the seed - The wheat and the tares - The mustard seed The parable of the sower and the seed, and that of the wheat and the tares, are explained by Jesus in the text. The sower and the seed parable describes the sown Word, and how that much is lost (the birds, 'the evil one', snatch it away), and how that many who receive it are weak or choked out by concerns of this world, and yet the ones in whom it takes root grow strong and produce a good harvest. The wheat and tares parable describes how, along with the authentic plants from the good seed, grow simultaneously the inauthentic plants from the tare seed. Both will be allowed to grow so as to ensure the harvest from the good, and only at the time of harvest will the separation of the bad from the good occur. Using Jesus' narrative and explanation for those two parables, we have the framework by which to understand the parable of the mustard seed. First the seed is planted. It is small, but it grows quickly and spreads. But something is not quite right. It doesn't grow entirely as it should, and instead of being a bush with stem, leaf, flower, and seed, it grows to be more like a tree. A tree in which are solid branches that support the influx and nesting of birds. As we already know from the parable of the sower, birds are analogous to "the evil one". They don't belong there. They snatch away good seed. They are not a welcome addition and take away from the harvest. As we know from the parable of the wheat and tares, this coexistence of what is good and what is bad will be allowed to continue until the harvest. In each of these parables, the "seed" (the Gospel) is sown with the intent of the sower (Jesus) to produce a good and perfect harvest. But, as the parables indicate, all is not perfect in this world/the hearts of men where the seed is sown. Thus the church of this (our) age will, as Jesus the sower intends, contain the "good", the authentic Christians, obeying Christ, and bearing much fruit as a result, but it will also contain the "bad", the inauthentic Christians, the heretical and disobedient who undermine the faith and the work. We are to take these parables both as encouragement that the church in this world will grow even though it had/has humble beginnings! But we are to take them as a watch word, a warning, as well, about the work and interference of the evil one within the church. Not all who are in the churches are truly of the church, they are not truly Christians.There will be those in the midst of the "church" who profess faith, even lead and teach, but are both inauthentic and damaging to the church. We see that these prophetic parables by Jesus have indeed come true. They were already true in the 1st century church - 2 Pet 2:1, 2 Cor 11:13-15, Rom 16:17-18, Titus 1:15-16 - and they are still true today. What should we do? Plant the seeds of the Gospel. Go and make disciples among all the people of the earth. Nurture the believers in the church. Be on guard for the birds of the air, the false teachers, the wolves in sheep's clothing, the inauthentic Christians. Hold to what is pure, and grow in faith, love, knowledge and understanding. When the time of the harvest comes, the church that Jesus is building, of which we are "living stones", will be purged of the false and inauthentic and Christ will present the Church to himself, "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:27)
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