“Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven” illuminates the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven in its initial stages. These parables, taught by Jesus, diverge from prevailing notions about the Kingdom’s realization during His time. Some advocated “political fanaticism,” believing the Kingdom would be achieved through conflict, while others held “religious fanaticism,” expecting a sudden, miraculous descent of the Kingdom by the Almighty.
However, Jesus presents a different perspective through these parables. In the “Parable of the Mustard Seed,” He manifests the Kingdom’s inception from a small, seemingly insignificant beginning, offering the understanding that the Kingdom starts from a minute seed. Similarly, the “Parable of the Leaven” redefines leaven as representing the transformative power of the Word of God. While initially associated with worldly teachings, Jesus portrays the Kingdom’s effect as leaven spreading through three measures of flour, symbolizing comprehensive change.
Both parables emphasize the Kingdom’s modest beginnings, with the mustard seed signifying vitality and growth, providing shelter for birds, and the leaven symbolizing the pervasive and transformative nature of the Word of God. Ultimately, these parables highlight the Kingdom’s modest yet powerful beginnings and its transformative potential.
After the initial set of four parables earlier in chapter 13, the subsequent three parables seem deliberately placed at the back, offering a deeper, more confidential insight. Matthew 13 is a collection of the Word of God that Jesus delivered on multiple occasions. Just like the Sermon of Mountain consists of the Word delivered by Jesus across several occasions like a retreat, I assume that Matthew 13 must have been collected in that way too.
In the “Parable of the Hidden Treasure,” Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to treasure concealed in a field, pointing directly to Christ. The lesson here is to prioritize the Kingdom above all else like Peter, Andrew, John and James abandoning their previous lives to become His disciples. The ”Parable of the Pearl” portrays a merchant selling all possessions for a pearl of immense value, akin to discovering Christ through a radical commitment. Each life sold out for Him is etched in the Kingdom of God, not in vain but as a profound confession.
The final “Parable of the Net” delves into judgment. Just as Jesus’s first disciples forsook their nets, they were equipped with a new net—the Word of God. The Greek concept of ”sin” signifies missing the target. The disciples, though abandoning their initial nets, gain the authority, power, right to discern between good and bad fishes—powerful indeed. A good church mirrors this experience, where listeners attentively heed the preacher’s explication of God’s Word, having a fear of the shepherd who guides them.
In reflecting upon these seven parables, let us be encouraged to move forward with a sense of conviction of history, believing “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”