Matthew 13:31
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
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(31) The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed.—The two parables that follow are left without an explanation, as though to train the disciples in the art of interpreting for themselves. And, so far as we can judge, they seem to have been equal to the task. They ask for the meaning of the Tares, but we read of no question about these.

It is scarcely necessary to discuss at any length the botany of the parable. What we call mustard (Sinapis nigra) does not grow in the East, any more than with us, into anything that can be called a tree. Probably, however, the name was used widely for any plant that had the pungent flavour of mustard, and botanists have suggested the Salvadora persica as answering to the description. (See Bible Educator, I. 119.)

The interpretation of the parable lies almost on the surface. Here again the sower is the Son of Man; but the seed in this case is not so much the “word,” as the Christian society, the Church, which forms, so to speak, the firstfruits of the word. As it then was, even as it was on the day of Pentecost, it was smaller than any sect or party in Palestine or Greece or Italy. It was sown in God’s field of the world, but it was to grow till it became greater than any sect or school, a tree among the trees of the forest, a kingdom among other kingdoms (comp. the imagery of Ezekiel 31:3; Daniel 4:10), a great organised society; and the “birds of the air” (no longer, as before, the emblems of evil)—i.e., the systems of thought, institutions, and the like, of other races—were to find refuge under its protection. History has witnessed many fulfilments of the prophecy implied in the parable, and those who believe that the life of Christendom is an abiding life will look for yet more.

Matthew 13:31-32. Another parable put he forth — The two former parables relate chiefly to unfruitful hearers: the two that follow, to those who bear good fruit. The kingdom of heaven — Both the gospel dispensation in the world, and the kingdom of grace in the souls of true believers, especially the former; is like to a grain of mustard-seed — Small and contemptible in its beginning. Which is indeed the least of all seeds — “That is, of all those seeds with which the people of Judea were then acquainted. Our Lord’s words are to be interpreted by popular use. And we learn from this gospel, Matthew 17:20, that like a grain of mustard-seed was become proverbial for expressing a small quantity.” But when it is grown, it becometh a tree — The term tree is applied by botanists to plants of the larger kind, which grow to the magnitude of shrubs, and for that reason are termed plantæ arborescentes: and “that there was a species of the sinapi, [mustard seed,] or, at least, what the Orientals comprehended under that name, which rose to the size of a tree, appears from some quotations brought by Lightfoot and Buxtorf from the writings of the rabbles, men who will not be suspected of partiality when their testimony happens to favour the writers of the New Testament.” “The Talmud mentions a mustard-tree so large that a man might with ease sit in it; and another, one of whose branches covered a tent. And it is certain we shall be much mistaken if we judge of vegetables or animals, in the eastern and southern countries, merely by what those of the same species are among us.” — Doddridge. Thus, from small beginnings, will the Christian doctrine spread in the world, and the life of Christ, or true religion, in the soul.

13:31-35 The scope of the parable of the seed sown, is to show that the beginnings of the gospel would be small, but its latter end would greatly increase; in this way the work of grace in the heart, the kingdom of God within us, would be carried on. In the soul where grace truly is, it will grow really; though perhaps at first not to be discerned, it will at last come to great strength and usefulness. The preaching of the gospel works like leaven in the hearts of those who receive it. The leaven works certainly, so does the word, yet gradually. It works silently, and without being seen, Mr 4:26-29, yet strongly; without noise, for so is the way of the Spirit, but without fail. Thus it was in the world. The apostles, by preaching the gospel, hid a handful of leaven in the great mass of mankind. It was made powerful by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, who works, and none can hinder. Thus it is in the heart. When the gospel comes into the soul, it works a thorough change; it spreads itself into all the powers and faculties of the soul, and alters the property even of the members of the body, Ro 6:13. From these parables we are taught to expect a gradual progress; therefore let us inquire, Are we growing in grace? and in holy principles and habits?See also Mark 4:30-32. The kingdom of heavens See the notes at Matthew 3:2. It means here either piety in a renewed heart or the church. In either case the commencement is small. In the heart it is at first feeble, easily injured, and much exposed. In the church there were few at first, ignorant, unknown, and unhonored; yet soon it was to spread through the world.

Grain of mustard-seed - The plant here described was very different from that which is known among us. It was several years before it bore fruit and became properly a tree. Mustard, with us, is an annual plant: it is always small, and is properly an herb. The Hebrew writers speak of the mustard-tree as one on which they could "climb," as on a fig-tree. Its size was much owing to the climate. All plants of that nature grow much larger in a warm climate, like that of Palestine, than in colder regions. The seeds of this tree were remarkably small, so that they, with the great size of the plant, were an apt illustration of the progress of the church and of the nature of faith, Matthew 17:20.

"I have seen," says Dr. Thomson,this plant on the rich plain of Akkar as tall as the horse and his rider. It has occurred to me on former visits that the mustard-tree of the parable probably grew at this spot, or possibly at Tabiga, near Capernaum, for the water in both is somewhat similar, and so are the vegetable productions. To furnish an adequate basis for the proverb, it is necessary to suppose that a variety of it was cultivated in the time of our Saviour, which grew to an enormous size, and shot forth large branches, so that the fowls of the air could lodge in the branches of it. It may have been perennial, and have grown to a considerable tree; and there are traditions in the country of such so large that a man could climb into them; and after having seen "red pepper" bushes grow on year after year, into tall shrubs, and the "castor-bean" line the brooks about Damascus like the willows and the poplars, I can readily credit the existence of mustard-trees large enough to meet all the demands of our Lord's parable. - "The Land and the Book," vol. ii. p. 101.

Young converts often suppose they have much religion. It is not so. They are, indeed, in a new world. Their hearts glow with new affections. They have an elevation, an ecstasy of emotion, which they may not have afterward like a blind man suddenly restored to sight. The sensation is new and especially vivid, yet little is seen distinctly. His impressions are indeed more vivid and cheering than those of him who has long seen and to whom objects are familiar. In a little time, too, the young convert will see more distinctly, will judge more intelligently, will love more strongly, though not with so much "new emotion," and will be prepared to make more sacrifices for the cause of Christ.

31. Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; See Poole on "Matthew 13:33".

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying,.... As the former parable sets forth the condition of the Gospel church state until the end of the world; this expresses the small beginnings of it, and the large increase and growth of it, and its great usefulness to the saints,

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: by "the kingdom of heaven" is meant, as before, the Gospel dispensation, or the Gospel church state, and the ministry of the word, and the administration of ordinances in it: by the grain of mustard seed, either the Gospel, or the people of God, or the grace of God in them; and by the man that took and sowed it, the Lord Jesus Christ; and by his field, in which he sowed it, the world, or his church throughout the world.

{5} Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:

(5) God begins his kingdom with very small beginnings so that by its growing (even though men neither hope nor expect it to) his mighty power and working may be displayed all the more.

Matthew 13:31. Σίναπι] a herbaceous plant that, in the East, sometimes attains to the height of a small tree; Celsii Hierob. II. p. 250 ff. In Attic Greek it is called νᾶπυ, Phrynichus, ed. Lobeck, p. 228. Inasmuch as the plant belongs (Matthew 13:32) to the order of the λαχάνα, it is unnecessary to suppose, with Ewald (Jahrb. II. p. 32 f.), that it is the mustard-tree (Salvadora Persica, Linnaeus) that is intended; comp. in preference the expression δενδρολάχανα (Theophrastus, h. pl. i. 3. 4).

λαβών] an instance of the usual circumstantiality (comp. Matthew 13:33), but not intended to convey the idea of the care with which so tiny a seed is taken into the hand (Lange).

Matthew 13:31-35. The Mustard Seed and the Leaven (Luke 13:18-21 (both); Mark 4:30-32 (Mustard Seed)). A couplet of brief parables of brighter tone than the two already considered, predicting great extensive and intensive development of the Kingdom of God; from Luke’s narrative (Matthew 13:10), apparently part of a synagogue discourse. It is intrinsically probable that Jesus in all His addresses in the synagogue and to the people used more or less the parabolic method. To this extent it may be literally true that “without a parable spake He not unto them” (Matthew 13:34).

31. which a man took, and sowed] “Which when it is sown,” St Mark, who thus does not name an agent, the planter of the seed.

in his field] “into his (own) garden,” St Luke, with special reference to the land of Israel.

31–33. (1) The Parable of the Mustard Seed. (2) The Parable of the Leaven which leavened the Meal.

-1Mark 4:30-32. (1) and (2) Luke 13:18-21The “mystery” or secret of the future contained in these two parables has reference to the growth of the Church; the first regards the growth in its external aspect, the second in its inner working.

Matthew 13:31. Ἄνθρωπος, a man) The similitude is here taken from a man, as in Matthew 13:33, from a woman; cf. Luke 15:4; Luke 15:8.

Verses 31, 32. - The parable of the mustard seed. Parallel passages: Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18, 19. The central thought of the parable is the growth of the kingdom of heaven considered externally. Although it has small beginnings, it is to have a marvellous expansion, so that even those who naturally are outside it are glad to avail themselves of its protection. Observe that we have no right to limit its growth either to the reputation of its principles alone or to the power of its organization; both are included. Regarded as a prophecy, the parable is partially fulfilled every time that a heathen nation places itself under the protection of a Christian nation, and more truly fulfilled whenever a nation accepts Christianity as its own religion. It is parodied when a nation or a collection of nations submits its political freedom to the dictates of claimants to spiritual superiority, whether these claim to have received such superiority as an inheritance from the past, or to have acquired it in the present. Verse 31. - Another parable put he forth unto them (ver. 24, note), saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto (ver. 24, note; also Matthew 11:16, note) a grain of mustard seed. "The Common Mustard of Palestine is Sinapis nigra, of the order Cruciferae, the Black Mustard, which is found abundantly in a wild state, and is also cultivated in the gardens for its seed. It is the same as our own Mustard, but grows especially in the richer soils of the Jordan valley to a much greater size than in this country. We noticed its great height on the banks of the Jordan, as have several other travellers; and Dr. Thomson remarks that in the Plain of Acre he has seen it as tall as a horse and its rider" (Tristram, 'Nat. Hist. of Bible,' p. 472, edit. 1889). Which a man took. The insertion of λαβών is probably to exclude the idea of a chance sowing. True that the seed might, under certain circumstances, then grow as well, but the reality which is being described was the result of long and deliberate purpose (Titus 1:3; 1 Peter 1:20). And sowed in his field. "His garden" (Luke) suggests a piece of ground that was at once smaller and more cared for. Matthew 13:31
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