As a Mustard Seed
Lesson 11

The parable of the sower created questions in many minds. Even though they did not really understand the meaning, they understood enough to conclude that Jesus was not talking about setting up an earthly kingdom of the nature they’d been taught to expect. Seeing their perplexity, Christ used other illustrations to explain the nature of His kingdom while seeking to turn their minds from thoughts of worldly greatness.

1. In another parable, what did Jesus say the kingdom of heaven was likened to?

Matthew 13:24
Matthew 13:24

2. What took place next?

Matthew 13:25
Matthew 13:25

3. Who is represented as the Sower?

Matthew 13:37
Matthew 13:37

4. What is the field?

Matthew 13:38
Matthew 13:38

Note: Though the field represents the world, in a more complete sense, it must represent the church of Christ in the world. The parable is describing the kingdom of God and his work in the salvation of men. This work is accomplished through the church. While it is true that the Holy Spirit has gone into the world, working on the hearts of men, it is in the church that we are to grow and ripen for the harvest.

5. What does the good seed represent?

Matthew 13:38
Matthew 13:38

6. What do the tares represent?

Matthew 13:38
Matthew 13:38

Note: Even in its purest state, there were always those who joined themselves to the church who were not fully converted. Among Jesus’ twelve disciples there was Judas. In the early Christian church there were the covetous Ananias and Sapphira his wife. See Acts 5:1–10. There was Demas who forsook Paul, and who had been counted a true believer. Satan is always active when God is at work for the salvation of souls. In every revival he is ready to bring in those who are unsanctified in heart and unbalanced in mind. When these have accepted some points of truth, and gained a place with believers, he works through them to introduce theories that will deceive and unsettle the faith of as many of the other believers as possible. By bringing into the church those who bear Christ’s name while they remain unconverted at heart, Satan causes that God and the work of salvation are misrepresented to the world.

7. What did the servants propose to do in order to remedy the situation?

Matthew 13:27-28
Matthew 13:27-28

8. What reason did the householder give for waiting till the harvest?

Matthew 13:29
Matthew 13:29

Note: While Christ plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, He has not committed the work of judging character and motive to church members. He knows our nature too well to commit this work to us. Often we regard as hopeless the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Should we try to remove from the church all who we suppose to be false Christians, we would most certainly make mistakes. Man judges by outward appearances but Christ judges the heart. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors never expected to be there and many who think of themselves as Christians will find their claim to a home in heaven is denied by Christ. See Matthew 7:21–23.

As the tares have their roots intertwined with those of the good grain, so false brethren in the church may be closely linked with true disciples. Were they to be separated from the fellowship of the church before their characters are fully revealed, it might be a cause of stumbling to others who but for this would have remained faithful. Jesus’ long forbearance in dealing with Judas is recorded as our example of Christ’s method of dealing with sin among professed believers. He has said that false brethren will be found in the church till the close of time.

9. When did Jesus say the separation will take place?

Matthew 13:30
Matthew 13:30

Note: In the early stages of growth, the tares very closely resemble the wheat. However, as the crop ripens, there is no likeness between the full, ripe heads of grain and the worthless weeds. So it is with sinners who for a time bear the appearance of being Christians but who at heart remain unconverted. But, in the time of harvest there will be no likeness between good and evil. Those who have joined the church, but who are not joined to Christ will be made manifest. See Malachi 3:18,

It is important to notice that it is not until the time of the harvest that the tares are cast into the fire. It is also at that time that the wheat is gathered into the barn. No mention is made of any receiving their reward at any time prior to the time of the harvest.

The Least of Seeds

In the multitude that listened to Jesus teaching there were many Pharisees. They noted with contempt how few acknowledged Him as the Messiah. Lacking riches, power, or honor, they questioned how this humble teacher could exalt Israel to a position of universal dominion. Reading their thoughts, Jesus answered them with another parable.

10. To what did Christ liken the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 13:31
Matthew 13:31

Note: In earthly governments there was nothing that could serve as an example. Turning to the natural world, Christ chose one of the smallest of seeds. As with the mustard seed, so in the beginning the kingdom of Christ was humble and insignificant compared with earthly kingdoms. By the rulers of this world Christ’s claim to be a king was ridiculed. When Christ spoke this parable, there were only a few Galilean peasants to represent the new kingdom. Yet when the kingdoms whose glory then filled the earth should have passed away, the kingdom of Christ would remain, a mighty and far-reaching power.

11. Though small as a seed, what does the plant resemble when grown?

Matthew 13:32
Matthew 13:32

Note: Earthly governments grow and prevail by force. This was in keeping with the expectations of the Jews. They looked for the kingdom of God to be established in the same way as the kingdoms of this world. To promote righteousness they resorted to external measures but Christ implants a principle. By implanting truth and righteousness, He counterworks error and sin.

The Inner Working of the Spirit

Among those who came to listen to the Galilean Prophet speak were men of education and influence.
As they looked around at the multitude that gathered to listen, they saw all classes of society represented. As they gazed upon the strange assembly, they asked themselves, Is the kingdom of God composed of such material as this? Again Christ replied to their unspoken question with another parable.

12. What did Christ next liken the kingdom of heaven to?

Matthew 13:33
Matthew 13:33

Note: As the leaven mixed with the meal works from within to bring about change in the whole, so the renewing of the heart by God’s grace works within to transform the life. This cannot be brought about by efforts to reform the external practices. Many attempt to reform by correcting this or that bad habit but in doing so, they are beginning in the wrong place. The heart must first be converted and sanctified. True obedience is the outworking of a principle within.

Early in His ministry, Nicodemus had a private interview with Jesus during which Jesus opened to him, step by step, the work necessary to be done in the hearts of all who would inherit the kingdom of heaven.

13. To what did Jesus liken the quiet working of the Holy Spirit on the heart?

John 3:8
John 3:8

Note: Like leaven mixed into the meal, the wind, though unseen produces effects that are seen and felt, when the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the life. The change takes place when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye can see creates a new being in the image of God.

“The leaven hidden in the flour works invisibly to bring the whole mass under its leavening process; so the leaven of truth works secretly, silently, steadily, to transform the soul. The natural inclinations are softened and subdued. New thoughts, new feelings, new motives, are implanted. A new standard of character is set up—the life of Christ.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 98-99

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