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This Is For The Birds!
The Parable of the Mustard Seed

For Your Information:

Compare these versions of the parable of the mustard seed.

Matthew 13:31-32 Mark 4:30-32 Luke 13:18-19 Thomas 20
He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air|heaven come and make nests in its branches." He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air|heaven can make nests in its shade." He said therefore, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air|heaven made nests in its branches."
The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like." He said to them, "It is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds. But when it falls on tilled soil, it produces a great plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky."


Mustard is an annual plant whose seeds are indeed among the very smallest. (People in Jesus' time did not know about the orchid whose seed is the smallest.) It was a common plant which grew and spread like a weed in the eastern world. Though it could grow to a height of six feet or more, a mature mustard plant would not normally be described as a "tree." Usually it was described as a shrub or bush.




Thus says the Lord God: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. {23} On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind.

For Your Consideration:

  1. What did Jesus gain by teaching in parables?
  2. In what ways are parables paradoxical?
  3. Look at the listing of Jesus' parables. What observations do you make simply from this list?
  4. According to each version, where is the mustard seed planted? Why is that an important difference?
  5. According to each version, what does the mustard seed become? How might this be significant?
  6. According to each version, what good does the mustard plant provide?
  7. In your own words, what is the point of this parable about the Kingdom of God and a mustard seed?
  8. Which Gospel's version of the parable do you like best? Why?
  9. Does this parable simply offer information? Does it supply any motivation? Does it have any application?

For Later:


Mark Vitalis Hoffman

CrossMarks Christian Resources