Because we get our theology from the Bible, and not the daily news, we can say with great confidence that this world is heading somewhere wonderful. The Kingdom of God is growing and will one day cover the earth as the water covers the sea.
The seven parables of Matthew 13 refer to the value, nature and growth of the Kingdom. In Matthew 13:31-32 we have the parable of the mustard seed.
In this parable, the disciples are taught not to despise the day of small beginnings and not to be surprised or distracted by the presence of evil in the Kingdom.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.
It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches”. (Matthew 13:31-32)
Here, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in His field.
These seven parables are taught in such a way that the preceding parable provides an answer key to the next. They are not seven unrelated teachings. Each one helps interpret the other.
So, from the previous parables, we know that the Sower is the Son of Man. We know that the field is His field and it is the world.
The seed that’s planted is tiny but the results are tree-like. Eventually it’s big enough to enable the birds of the air to live in its branches.
In the Parable of the Sower, the birds represented the devil as the one who snatches away the seed. Here, the Kingdom grows to a size that allows an enemy to set up shop among the branches.
But, just as tares are not wheat, so birds are not branches.
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In the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, we are taught not to be thrown off by the presence of evil. So here, when we see the intrusion of evil we ought not to be surprised or confused.
One of the problems we face is that when we start to see some lovely growth, the birds turn up – and we panic. “Oh, no, the Birds! We must have done something wrong. Chop down those branches, get rid of the birds.”
But those branches are the people of the Kingdom. They are budding fruit. And just as the presence of evil is no argument against planting, so it is also no argument for chopping down the branches.
Jesus told us that, just as the planting of wheat in a wheat field will attract an enemy who sows tares, this growth of the kingdom would also attract the attention of our enemy.
And so, this presence of evil is not a sign that things are going wrong. It’s a sign that we are right on schedule.
This parable is an antidote to the despair we might otherwise feel when we see the birds circling our families, our church, our town.
What do you tell yourself when you hear the depressing headlines in the daily news: When you see birds perching in the branches, wolves moving in on the sheep?
What do you say when the church appears to be dying and the faith appears all but gone?
You tell yourself that is the way of the Kingdom of Jesus.
The Seed is small, it’s insignificant, but it’s growing. The seed is dead, but that’s okay. We have a God who knows His way out of the grave.
This is how it is done. You take up your cross and follow Him and then stand amazed at what comes forth.
You die, you get buried, yet get raised to glory. You stand ready to lose all in order to gain Christ and be found with Him at the resurrection.
You sow these seeds, these tiny, insignificant, unimpressive, dead seeds and watch what Jesus will do.
How do we know we will conquer the world with Christ? How do we know that our enemy will be defeated? That’s easy. We know because we are insignificant, we are tiny, we are nothing.
Faith is what overcomes this world, and that faith can fit in a mustard seed. Faith, grounded in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
The tree is up. It’s growing. And it will continue to grow until it fills the earth.
That’s some good news right there.