Mat 13:31-32 Who does the man represent who sows the mustard seed in his field? What are the characteristics of the mustard seed described by Jesus that are significant to the parable’s meaning? See Mat 13:32; cf. 17:20. Is the size of a plant determined by the size of the seed from which it grows, or from the inner qualities of that seed? How is that like the kingdom of heaven, and what is the parable meant to teach us about the kingdom of heaven? Cf. Deut 7:7, Jdg 6:15, 1Sa 9:21. What encouragement would this parable have had for the early disciples whose expectations for a conquering Messiah to establish an earthly kingdom were unrealized? What encouragement should this parable give us about the small seeds we are able to plant in our own quiet little way? Should we be concerned that the seeds we sow seem small and insignificant compared to the apparent size of the seeds sown by others? What is the inner quality of the seeds we sow? What is the significance that the mustard seed in the parable grows far beyond an ordinary garden plant to become a tree, “so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches”? See Eze 17:22-24, 31:3-6, Dan 4:10-12, 20-22; cf. Isa 2:2, Dan 2:34-35, Eze 47:1-5. What does this parable teach us about our need for faith in regard to the great things that can come from humble beginnings? What does it teach us about our need to be patient and remain faithful to nurture the small seeds we sow? See Gal 6:9, Jam 5:7-8.
Mat 13:33 In what way is this parable similar to the parable of the mustard seed? Is the leaven in the parable just meant to represent the small beginnings of the gospel that will eventually permeate the entire dough of God’s loaf? Is it significant that throughout scripture in every other instance leaven is used negatively to represent the permeating influence of sin or false doctrine? See Exo 12:15, 23:18, 34:25, Lev 2:11, Mat 16:6-12, Luk 12:1, 1Co 5:6-8, Gal 5:9. Is it also significant that the Greek word for “hid in” used of the leaven is also only used negatively the few times it is used in Scripture? See Jos 7:21-22, Hos 13:12 (NASB stored up = LXX hidden). In this light, in what way is this parable, when considered together with the parable of the mustard seed, similar to the parables of the sower and the tares? Think: in what way do all describe both the true and the false, or what is true in substance and what is only apparently true? Cf. Mar 4:13 which indicates the related nature of all the parables and consider again what Jesus is revealing through the parables about the kingdom He came to establish and how it is different from people’s expectations. If the man who sows the seed in the parable of the mustard seed represents Jesus, who might the woman who hides the leaven in the meal represent? Think: in what way has she who is to be the bride of Christ taken leaven and hidden it in the meal of God’s truth so that it has come to permeate the whole loaf? Note: The peck or measure (Greek sa,ta) described is quite large, about 3 gallons, so that the total amount described would be about 9 gallons; what is the significance that the woman hid the leaven in three of these measures of the meal? Think: historically, how many large “containers” have there been of God’s truth that was ground from the seed of His word to provide sustenance for His children, but that has become leavened by the slow and imperceptible advance of sin? Think Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant.
Mat 13:34-35 How does Matthew say that Jesus always spoke to the multitudes? Cf. Mar 4:34. Why did he speak cryptically to them? See Mat 13:11-15, Joh 2:23-24, 6:14-15. In what way would this explain to those who had come to accept Jesus as their Messiah why He was not more widely received by the entire nation? In spite of the nation’s expectations to the contrary, in what way did Jesus’ veiled ministry to the masses fulfill what God had foretold concerning the Messiah? See Mat 13:35. What apologetic value would this have had at the time of Matthew’s writing when many of these were in danger of falling away because of the increased persecution by the unbelieving Jews? In what way is Matthew’s quote from Psa 78:2 a fitting description of Jesus’ ministry of concealment to the masses, but revelation to those who seek truth?