… So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. …Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. ~ Mark 4:26-32, KJV
Most teaching parables are similar to illustrated sermons about the Gospel, and the Gospel is that which announces Father God’s GOOD NEWS about His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, who is gathering believers in Him (in His Body), and these believers will spend eternity with Father God. However, even though Kingdom parables also teach about this same GOOD NEWS, Kingdom parables’ narratives conceal the Gospel’s Divine Truths. In other words, for the purpose of drawing out GENUINE seekers who desire to know God’s secrets/mysteries that are hidden in the Gospel, seekers of the Gospel’s Divine Truths must first solve the Kingdom parables’ riddles before they can understand the mysterious ways of God.
For those individuals who are not GENUINE seekers of the Gospel’s Divine Truths, Kingdom parables are viewed as merely unexciting anemic stories. As a result, the insincere (pretend) seekers will not dig any deeper or try any harder to uncover God’s Divine Truths. They instead will treat His Kingdom parables as jokes, or as impenetrable riddles, or as incongruities (absurdities), or as mere short stories, and so forth.
For example, on the surface, the Growing Seed mini-parable (Mark 4:26-29) seems to be a very succinct short story about a man who properly prepares the soil into which he plants a seed. He tills the soil, plants the seed in the soil, then possibly applies nutrients to the soil, and possibly waters the soil, but after that he forgets about the seed. Then too, this very concise short story clearly points out this seed sower’s lack of influence over the growth process of his seed, which is why this man’s day-by-day routines don’t educate him about how his sown seed develops into a green leaf that rapidly changes into a full-grown plant, which then produces much grain. Furthermore, this short story seems to be about a man who, though ignorant about how grain grows, as well as a bit unconcerned about the seed’s needs, is still very aware when the grain is ripe. In fact, it is apparent that he anticipates reaping a harvest!
Therefore, the only understanding (truth) to gain from this mini-parable seems to be that the best part of this man’s initial labor is yet to come, now that the plant is ripe. The truth is that once his grain crop is harvested, this man will have plenty food to eat and/or he will make money from the sales of his grain!
A closer analysis, however, will reveal that the Kingdom of God is HERE NOW within every born again, redeemed, justified, being sanctified believer, and this Kingdom of God appears, expands, and reproduces itself by way of the intrinsic POWER that not only is within the planted seed but also within the One who cultivates the seed. For this reason, the mysterious growth of the mini-parable’s seed represents the secret ways in which God plants and increases the Kingdom of God in believers’ “hearts.”
In several Scriptures, both Jesus the Christ and the Apostle Paul make it clear that the Kingdom of God is NOT the realm of God but rather the reign or rule of God in believers’ lives. The Apostle Paul writes:
…the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 14:17, AMP
Based on the apostle’s above Kingdom of God definition, this Kingdom IS anywhere and everywhere in this world where the fruit of the Kingdom of God is ruling in the “hearts” of mankind. That fruit is God’s righteousness (goodness), love, justice, peace, and joy. It should be understood here that “heart” means the center or seat of everything that is moral and spiritual—the seat of humans’ affections, desires, conscience, determination, intellect, emotions, thoughts, perceptions, understanding, reasoning powers, imagination, grief, happiness, joy, and faith.
Furthermore, since the reign or rule of God is in believers’ lives, then in Romans 14:17, the Apostle Paul also is making this salient point, which is that the Kingdom of God that is now in born again humans first was placed in God’s Holy Spirit. For this reason, spiritual or inner growth is not the result of human effort! This Divine Truth also means that the harvest mentioned in Mark 4:29, which results from this independent spiritual growth (inner growth not caused by humans), is both a gift given directly to God and a miracle. Indeed, this harvest is a type of New Testament “firstfruits,” and “firstfruits” in the New Testament is used as a metaphor for something given in advance of something anticipated to come that will be of a greater benefit or will bring a larger “harvest.”
Like the Growing Seed mini-parable’s man, who cannot explain the mystery behind the rapid growth and development of the seed he plants, likewise, NO ONE can explain precisely how God through Jesus the Christ gets the seed planted in receptive humans’ “hearts” to produce Kingdom of God fruit, specifically, the fruit of righteousness (goodness), love, justice, peace, and joy. This fruit mainly grows within believers, mysteriously and very swiftly, but it also manifests itself right in front of believers and unbelievers’ eyes, when the children of God do the many great works that please God. Even so, just as the plant in the Growing Seed mini-parable is capable of “…bringeth forth fruit of herself…” by reproducing itself through the seed, the seed in this mini-parable also is symbolic of one of the means by which spiritual growth can be advanced.
The answer to the Kingdom of God’s growing mystery, then, is the POWER of the planted seed and the POWER of the indwelling and infilling Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the One who is inside believers applying the spiritual nutrients and pouring the Living Water in their “hearts” (the soil), the place where the seed (the Living Word of God . . . Jesus the Christ) already has been planted. Working in tandem, the Power of the seed (Living Word) and the Power of the Holy Spirit (Living Water) cause Body of Christ believers to live a lifestyle that reflects their child of God or Kingdom of God identity.
The bottom line is this: Father God is the all-important factor in this mini-parable. He is the One who makes the Kingdom of God’s spiritual growth happen, because it is His Power that is in His seed and in His Holy Spirit! For sure, it even takes the work of God’s Holy Spirit for people to have ears to hear (understand) what thus saith the Lord!
Let there be no doubt about it. Though God uses mankind to sow the Gospel seed in this mini-parable, it is God, through His Son, His Word, and His Spirit, who causes the spiritual growth! Believers, however, are sowing the seed (spreading the Gospel), when they hand out tracts in the streets, when they have a one-on-one Gospel sharing session with an unbeliever, when they witness to lost souls about their own faith in God and in Jesus the Christ, when they publish their Christian articles online, or post relevant comments about their faith on various websites, or stream their sermons over the Internet, and so forth.
Furthermore, it is evident that Jesus the Christ will return soon for His Bride . . . His CHURCH . . . His Body of Believers . . . the gathering up of those in Him (the Rapture or Harvest of every believer in Jesus the Christ who ever lived on Earth so that each one of them can spend the seven-year Tribulation AND eternity with God). That’s why the duty of everyone who has the Kingdom of God growing within him or her is to spread/advance the Kingdom of God throughout the present world. This duty is accomplished primarily by evangelizing lost souls (leading others to Jesus the Christ) and discipling the saved souls (encouraging and edifying others in the Lord so they will remain sold out for their Lord, while they spiritually mature—ripen).
While the Growing Seed mini-parable is about God being the Power being ALL of the spiritual growth in the Kingdom of God, the Mustard Seed mini-parable is about the extent to which the Kingdom of God has been designed by God to grow. Thus, in the second mini-parable (Mark 4:30-32), the Lord paints a different picture. Here, He uses the imagery of the mustard seed. The Lord declares how in a very small and virtually invisible way the mustard seed is, generally speaking, the very tiniest of seeds planted in gardens, yet it grows into one of the largest trees on Earth (cf. Matthew 13:31-32).
The Lord then compares the growth of the tiny mustard seed to the Kingdom of God’s growth. Similarly, just as the sown extremely small mustard seed ends up becoming one of the biggest bushes (or biggest trees) in any garden—becomes a huge bush or a colossal tree with large but rigid branches that often serve as a shelter for EVERY kind of bird—the Kingdom of God also grows from essentially a small dot into a mammoth-sized realm.
Now, to the people who are NOT looking to find any deeper meanings in this Kingdom parable, this second narrative only seems to be just another familiar story about those big outcomes that result from small beginnings. However, Mark’s second mini-parable is not just about big outcomes from small beginnings. This mustard seed’s insignificant, humble beginnings that result in something gigantic not only is comparable to the growth of the Messiah’s Kingdom during Jesus the Christ’s millennial reign, but also comparable to the growth of His Body of Believers—to their outward and inward growth.
Outwardly speaking, Jesus the Christ’s initial handful of believers, 12 disciples, grows to an enormous number in the few months that followed the Lord’s death. For example, the 120 disciples on the Day of Pentecost increase to 3,000 on that same day (cf. Acts 2:41-42). Moreover, each one of the believing followers of Jesus the Christ has an unbelievable amount of influence—some even had a supernatural and natural influence. Thus, the Mustard Seed mini-parable in Mark 4:30-32 not only describes the rapid growth of worldwide Christianity as an outward sign recognized by the vast number of “physical” churches (the institutional church), but also the Mustard Seed mini-parable describes the inner spiritual growth that happens in the life of each Body of Christ member who has God’s Kingdom in him or her.
In the natural, the literal mustard seed grows independently, on its own, and depending on where it is planted and how it is cultivated it can reach ten, sometimes fifteen feet in height. However, even though a child of God’s spiritual growth also is independent, aside from the supernaturally manifested miracles, signs, and wonders that many believers are able to perform (an outward sign of inward growth), human beings really cannot correctly measure the spiritual growth that is happening in every true believer. The reason why this spiritual growth cannot be measured correctly is because this kind of growth happens inwardly via the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s mighty workings.
Furthermore, unlike the seed that can grow, expand, and reproduce itself, the Kingdom of God cannot make itself grow, expand, and/or reproduce itself. It takes other agents to grow, expand, and/or reproduce the Kingdom of God, and those other agents, once again, are the seed (Living Word) and the Holy Spirit (Living Water). Nevertheless, what is true about the mustard seed’s small beginnings leading to gigantic ends also is not only true about the growth of Christianity but also true about each individual believer’s initial start and final finish, spiritually speaking.
Concerning the phenomenal growth of the institutional church, the early Way grew from small numbers into an exceedingly great Body of Christian believers, despite the fact that most believers weren’t demonstrating any immediate “major” visible (outward) changes. Now, even though many of the early Way observers could not visibly see another believer’s NEW NATURE, which makes it difficult to measure how much someone has grown from his or her very small beginnings, this fact didn’t stop many of these observers from concluding that so-and-so wasn’t “spiritual” enough. This misjudging is still true today. Many contemporary believers in Jesus the Christ who are observing someone they consider to be the least likely to change, are looking for immediate “major” visible (outward) changes. When this person doesn’t show any “major” outward changes, his or her observers will consider this person’s New Man conversion to be doubtful.
The irony here is that nothing delights Jesus more than to take people who seem most unlikely to be able to represent Him and then transform them into people who are so saturated by His influence that they become powerful witnesses of His transformable power. Thus, it is a very big deal when people finally astound their critics with a great outward show of their spiritual development. Until then, though, many family members in the Household of faith might not accept as a child of God those believers whose New Man conversion is considered doubtful.
Be that as it may, once the institutional church reached the size that it is today, there have been many believers in their local churches who often have thought that the Kingdom of God, which is represented as the mustard seed’s full-grown tree, certainly must be a wonderful blessing to all who find shelter (safety and harmony) in its “branches.” However, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Divine Truth is that the mustard plant has the tendency to intrude and mix with other plants, which is why the mustard seed should not be planted in a garden. Rather, it should be planted in a large field where it can be carefully tended to, individually.
Here’s the spiritual reason why the mustard seed should be sown in a large field. The mustard seed generally produces a plant or bush, but because the mustard plant has mixed with other plants it ends up growing beyond its originally designed sized. Therefore, now that it has become a tree with large rigid branches, it really is not a place where safety and harmony can be found, for the reference to birds (cf. Mark 4:32) signifies demons. That’s right! The mustard tree (institutional church) is an unnatural home for demons, because “the fowls of the air” imagery that is used in v. 32 is a metaphor for Satan and his imps, who, although attracted to the seed and the shade, really perch on the mustard tree’s “branches” (church pews) because they are there to devour the seed (Word of God) [cf. The Parable of the Sower, specifically Matthew 13:19] !
This Divine Truth about the mustard plant changing into something it never was meant to be, which is a tree, is supported by prophetic eschatology. God declares that at end of the age, when there will be a great harvest, before the Messiah’s millennial reign can begin there first will be the separating of the wheat from the tares, of the sheep from the goats, and of Israel’s friends from her enemies (cf. Joel 3:11-14; Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-42; Matthew 25:31-46; and Revelation 14:15-16 and 14:17-20).
This mustard tree, thus, represents a revival of all that was evil about Nebuchadnezzar’s tree (cf. Daniel 4:19-27). The mustard tree also symbolizes today’s institutional church that has grown beyond its originally designed limits. Furthermore, by adopting the ancient Babylonians’ false systems and those systems’ false doctrines, the institutional church has opened its doors to demonic spirits, who are sitting on pews right beside true believers.
The mustard seed’s modern day spiritual implication is as follows: Although the Gospel message has endured the test of time, too much of the unadulterated Word of God has been compromised. Secular humanism, the revival of ancient Babylonian spiritism (the belief that the dead communicate with the living; also spiritism refers to astrology, self-help, New Age, and other alternative belief systems that emphasize the spiritual aspect of life), world religions’ false doctrines, and so forth, have been mixed with the Word of God. As a result of the institutional church becoming too secular because it has grown too large (beyond its intended size), churches today also have become the breeding grounds for the “false church” . . . the apostate church!
For these reasons, it is difficult NOW for many saved and unsaved people to tell the difference between a genuine believer (a genuine sheep, or genuine wheat) and a fake believer, a pretender (a goat, or a tare). Therefore, it is easy to see why Jesus the Christ doesn’t let church “laborers” separate the wheat from the tares before the end of the age (cf. Matthew 13:28-30)!
Furthermore, those sheep and wheat who are separated at the end of the age are Tribulation Period’s survivors who have not accepted the Mark of the Beast. They are the Left Behinders who are converted by the Book of Revelation’s 144,000 Jewish evangelists, two Jewish witnesses, and the angel who is flying through the air preaching the Gospel.
Concerning the growth of the Lord’s Kingdom, when it starts, the numbers of Tribulation believers will be small compared to the huge number of believers that will be around at the end of the Lord’s millennial reign. The bottom line is this: The Lord’s Kingdom will increase swiftly, which means that the quick growth of the mustard seed not only represents spiritual growth but also represents the fast increase in population. For sure, the Messiah’s physical Kingdom will grow by leaps and bounds, naturally and spiritually.
Finally, in the Scriptures cited at the beginning of this article, it is clear to GENUINE seekers that in the mini-parable of the Growing Seed (vv. 26-29), which ONLY appears in The Gospel According to Saint Mark, that Jesus the Christ is speaking about the Kingdom of God’s growth within every born again and redeemed child of God, which is the Kingdom of God that is presently here on Earth. It also is clear to GENUINE seekers that in the mini-parable of the Mustard Seed (vv. 30-32), Jesus the Christ not only is speaking about the Kingdom of God that is presently here on Earth but also He is speaking about the Kingdom of God’s growth that happens during the Lord’s millennial reign—the Kingdom that is yet to come!
In both mini-parables, the Kingdom of God begins small but then rapidly gets bigger. The deeper message of these mini-parables, however, is that regardless of their background, believers in Jesus the Christ can become great spiritual men and women in His CHURCH and great spiritual men and women in His Kingdom, but only if they let God’s Word and Holy Spirit do His work in them!