God’s Mustard Seed Kingdom: don’t despise small beginnings

“Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.'” (Matthew 13:31-32)

The mustard seed was definitely of small size. Because it was the smallest seed that Jews at the time would regularly plant in their gardens, it was often used in local proverbs, or in parables like this, to represent something which was incredibly small.

The tiny mustard seed can grow into a tree that could become 10-12 feet tall. Okay, this is not a giant redwood or something, but it does point to the reality that something that starts small can grow to become much bigger than one would think.

Based on Jesus’ next, and parallel, parable, the emphasis of the imagery here is external growth. Although the mustard seed is small to the human eye, its growth is visible and moves forward externally beyond expectation.

Near the end of verse 32, Jesus says: “when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

This is a reference from Ezekiel 17:22-24, which says:

22 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. 24 All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. ‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’” (Ezekiel 17:22-24)

The point of Ezekiel’s prophecy, which Jesus weaves into this parable, is that, against all expectation, God will reestablish His people after their exile and, even more unexpectedly, then gather people from all the nations into God’s kingdom.

The kingdom of God is like this.

Most parables have one main point or thrust calling people to action, and this is one of those parables where the main point is abundantly clear: the kingdom of God will eventually grow to proportions given its small beginnings.

Because of this, the early group of Jesus’ followers should be encouraged, even when it seems like things are too small to be significant.

For us today, as well, we should take encouragement as Jesus’ followers. Even if the church seems to be in decline, the kingdom of God is not in decline. Even if the message of Christ has been soiled by hypocrisy and syncretized with ideological idols, God’s kingdom is still growing.

Yes, the church may be called out into the wilderness. Yes, we may be in a time of exile and purification. Such things will come and are necessary for God’s people.

Still, God is not done with us or failing in His mission, even if we falter. As we read in 2 Timothy 2:13:

if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)

So, be encouraged. Be faithful. Walk with the Lord. Keep our kingdom priorities. The kingdom of God may seem small but it’s influence is great.

The Mustard Seed and the Yeast

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our series, “Stories of the Kingdom: Parables of Jesus,” by looking at the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast in Matthew 13:31-33. These two small, parallel parables open up to us some profound realities about God’s kingdom.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.’”  (Matthew 13:31)

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32)

  • The small size of the mustard seed – the smallest seed that Jews at the time would regularly plant in their gardens
  • The external growth of the seed into a tree (10-12 feet tall)
  • The word from Ezekiel 17:22-24 – the nations gathered in

The Parable of the Yeast (Matthew 13:33)

  • The small size of the yeast – hidden on the inside
  • The internal transformation of the dough

Kingdom Perspective

  • Don’t despise small beginnings
  • Don’t rule out unseen possibilities

Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed and the yeast in one or more of the following ways:

  • Journal about one or both of these parables, expressing your thoughts about them, what God is teaching you through them, as well as your prayers to God about them.
  • Draw, paint, or ink the parables as a way of reflecting on what Jesus is saying and praying about your own response to the Lord.
  • Set aside some time this week to make bread with a friend or family member. As you do that, consider the role of the yeast in the dough and what that speaks about the kingdom of God. Give the bread to someone else as a gift.
  • Look up or purchase some mustard seed. Share the parable of the mustard seed with someone and give them a mustard seed or two when you do that.