Parables of Jesus: Mustard Seed and Leaven

Parables of Jesus: Mustard Seed and Leaven

Matthew 13:31-33

The Pastor woke up Sunday morning and realizing it was an
exceptionally beautiful and sunny early spring day, decided
he just had to play golf. So…. he told the associate pastor
that he was feeling sick and convinced him to preach for him
that day. As soon as the associate pastor left the room, the
Pastor headed out of town to a golf course about forty miles
away. This way he knew he wouldn’t accidentally meet
anyone he knew from his church.
Setting up on the first tee, he was alone. After all, it was
Sunday morning and everyone else was in church! At about
this time, Saint Peter leaned over to the Lord while looking
down from heaven and exclaimed,
“You’re not going to let him get away with this, are you?” The
Lord sighed, and said, “No, I guess not.”Just then he hit the
ball and it shot straight towards the pin, dropping just short
of it, rolled up and fell into the hole. IT WAS A 435 YARD
HOLE IN ONE! Saint Peter was astonished. He looked at the
Lord and asked,
“Why did you let him do that?”The Lord smiled and replied,
“Who’s he going to tell?”

Today we are going to look at the two parables Jesus told
between the parable of the wheat and tares and its explanation.
They are the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the
leaven. These two parables have some similarities so we will
look at them together.

Both of these parables discuss the kingdom of heaven and it’s
incredible growth
Both of these parables describe common items; seeds and leaven
Let’s take a look at these two parables.

Matthew 13:31-33

Parable the Mustard Seed

This one starts off almost just like the previous two parables.
The parable of the wheat and tares and the parable of the sower
all start with a man planting a seed in the ground.
But this one is not about many seeds, just one mustard seed
Jesus said this seed was smaller than all other seeds.
We all know that smaller seeds exist, but Jesus was referring to
the seeds that the farmers would have been planting, i.e. wheat,
barley, lentils, beans, etc. Of all of those, the mustard seed was
the smallest.

Some people like to use this text to try to dispute the inerrancy of
Scripture, but they are grasping at straws. You have to read the
Bible in context and you have to understand the original audience.
This seed was compared to the plants that would have been
planted in the garden. Notice how Jesus mentions that it grows
larger than the garden plants. It’s seed was the smallest of the
garden plants and it grows to be the largest of all the plants in the

Humble Beginnings

Some would say that a mustard seed is insignificant.
These same people may have thought the same about Jesus

Think about the humble beginnings of the kingdom of heaven
Jesus was born a tiny baby in a stable in Bethlehem.
His hometown of Nazareth rejected Him.
He entered Jerusalem on a humble donkey.
He washed the feet of His disciples.
He had only 12 followers to start.

The kingdom of heaven had modest beginnings.

The point of this parable is to show how the kingdom of heaven
started off very humbly, but will grow into something incredibly
large and impactful.

Exponential Growth of the Kingdom

Think about this tiny mustard seed becoming a 10-15 foot tall tree
Imagine how long it takes a tree to grow that tall.
We have a Crepe Myrtle in our front yard that we planted several
years ago. We mostly just let God water it. But that thing is not
sturdy enough for a bird to build a nest in. We’ve had that tree for
more than 10 years and it is definitely under 10 feet tall.
Imagine something that birds can build their nests on
A tree of that size would have to be fairly sturdy.
This parable teaches us that the kingdom of heaven grows at
God’s perfect growth rate.

We may see it as slow, but think about it…it started with Jesus
alone. Now, there are over 2.5 Billion Christians on earth!

While we are discussing the mustard seed I think it’s worth
mentioning that Jesus uses it again in Matthew 17:20

This time He chastises them because of their lack of faith. He
tells them. “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will
say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible to you.”

The point being, it only takes a tiny, mustard seed amount of faith
to accomplish great things.
What this helps me understand is the greatness of God.
He is so incredibly more powerful and mighty than I am, but with
faith in Him I am able to do exactly what He desires for me to do.

I know Jesus uses these two mustard seed illustrations differently,
but let’s not miss the truth. God is capable of making much out of
what seems to the world as little. His kingdom is mighty and
started with the birth of a tiny baby.
And He uses broken, hurting people to accomplish His will in His
perfect timing.
Now, let’s take a few minutes to look at the parable of the leaven

Parable of the Leaven

Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was like the leaven that a
woman puts in three pecks of flour. That was probably about 50
lbs of flour, enough to feed around 100 people.
Just a little leaven is enough to make all of the dough rise.

Internal Transforming Power

The leaven is added to the dough and you can’t see it once it is
mixed in. Jesus says the woman hid the leaven in the flour.
But once it goes to work you can see it’s amazing transforming
power changing the bread.

Every year at Christmas we make cinnamon rolls from these
yeast rolls. We put them in a bundt pan with some
cinnamon, brown sugar and butter and butterscotch pudding
and leave them on the stove overnight. When Heather wakes
up in the morning she goes downstairs and puts them in the
oven, but the dough balls that were settled at the bottom of
the pan have risen over the top of the bundt pan. The yeast
has transforming power over the flour.

It’s the same in the kingdom of heaven. God gives believers the
Holy Spirit to come dwell inside of them at the moment of their
salvation. The Holy Spirit makes us into a new creation. The old
nature is gone and we are made into new creations for the
purpose of becoming more like Christ.

Since believers have been transformed, they will begin to make a
huge impact on the world.
Sometimes leaven is used to describe sin. Paul wrote about it in
Galatians. He said a little leaven leavens the whole lump.

But in the context of these parables, it doesn’t make much sense
for Jesus to be talking about sin penetrating the whole kingdom of heaven. Even though there will be obstacles to the gospel, it will
produce much fruit in the world. Just like the seed that fell on the
good ground produces 30,60,100 fold. Just like the mustard seed
that grows into something incredible from such small beginnings.
The kingdom of heaven will transform the world. Remember the
statement. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess in
heaven, and on earth, and under the earth that Jesus Christ is

When Jesus mentions the leaven He’s clearly speaking about the
transforming power of the gospel. You can’t see it working, but
it’s working. When it accomplishes what God sets it out to
accomplish you can look back and realize God was working all
the time.

Total Permeation

Just like the leaven makes it way entirely through the flour and
makes all of the bread rise, the gospel permeates our lives
entirely. Thankfully we don’t just get 10% filled with the Holy
Spirit. He comes to dwell in us. He is there constantly to guide us,
convict us, comfort us so we can glorify the Father.


I found this in a commentary and thought it was a great
application of today’s text.

he nature of yeast is to grow and to change whatever it
contacts. When we accept Christ, His grace grows in our
hearts and changes us from the inside out. As the gospel
transforms lives, it exerts a pervasive influence in the world at large.

As we “reflect the Lord’s glory, [we] are being
transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians

Allow God to Transform us into who He wants us to be.
There is no outside force that can make us better. Only God can
transform us! Romans 12 reminds us not to be conformed to the
pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our
mind. From the inside out!