Sermon #17                                                               Series: Mark


          Title:           The Parable Of The Mustard Seed

          Text:           Mark 4:30-34

          Readings:  Office: Rex Bartley Auditorium: Buddy Daugherty

          Subject:     The Growth of God’s Kingdom in the World

          Date:          Sunday Afternoon - April 6, 1997

          Tape #       T-57




          In our text today, our Savior employs another of his parables to teach us spiritual truth. Remember, parables are common, familiar earthly illustrations of spiritual, heavenly truths. In this case, the parable is drawn from a commonly used proverbial expression during the days of our Lord’s earthly ministry. My subject tonight is The Parable Of The Mustard Seed.


Mark 4:30-34  "And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? (31) 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: (32) 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. (33) And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. (34) But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples."


          Though it is never mentioned in the Old Testament, many varieties of mustard plants grew in abundance in and around Palestine. Some grew in the wild. Others were cultivated for various purposes. In the New Testament it is mentioned only by our Savior. Twice he compares true faith to a grain of mustard seed.


Matthew 17:14-21  "And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, (15) Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is a lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. (16) And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. (17) Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. (18) And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. (19) Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? (20) And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (21) Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."


Luke 17:3-6  "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. (4) And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. (5) And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. (6) And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you."


          In both of these places, our Lord uses mustard seed to illustrate faith. I cannot expound these passages now, or I could not get to my text; but I cannot ignore them, simply because mustard seed is mentioned only five times in the Word of God. When it is used to illustrate faith, as in Matthew 17:20 and Luke 17:6, it teaches us four specific things about the character of true faith.


1.   True, saving faith, begins as a very small thing - A Grain of Mustard Seed.


          The fact is, true believers always recognize that their faith is a small, very small thing. We often look upon our brothers and sisters in Christ as being men and women of great faith; but anyone who thinks he has great faith probably has no faith at all.


2.   It is not the greatness of our faith, but the greatness of our God and Savior, the Object of our faith, that gives it merit, power, and efficacy.


          Far too many have faith in their faith, which is to say they have faith in themselves. We must never imagine that there is some mystical power to faith. The power of our faith is Christ the Object of our faith. It is not our faith that moves the mountain of our sins or plucks up the sycamore tree of trouble; but the blood of Christ and the power of Christ, who is the Object of or faith. The question is not, “How much faith do I have;” but “What is the object of my faith?” Great faith in an idol is as useless as spitting in the wind; but faith even as a grain of mustard seed in the God of glory is mighty, effectual, saving faith.


3.   With God, nothing is impossible; and therefore, “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mk. 9:23).


          Nothing can stand in the way of, hinder, or defeat that man and those people who, being called of God, believe him. It was impossible for Egypt to destroy Israel because Moses believed God. It was impossible for the Red Sea to stop the march of God’s elect because Moses believed God. The walls of Jericho must fall. Joshua believed God. The land of Canaan must be possessed. Caleb believed God. The Philistine giant had to die because David, defending the cause of God’s glory and his people believed God. Jairus’ daughter had to live. He believed God. The centurion’s servant must rise. That centurion believed God. Our Savior was not lying when he said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God.”


4.   Yet, nothing is more abominably wretched than the paralyzing effect of unbelief.


          When the Lord Jesus came into his own land, among his own people, we read, He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief(Matt. 13:58). Just in proportion as we believe God, we experience his power and grace. Just in proportion as believe him, we see his glory. Nothing is as costly as unbelief!


Isaiah 48:16-19  "Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me. (17) Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. (18) O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea: (19) Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me."


“Of all the sad words of tongue and pen,

The saddest are these:

‘What might have been!’”


          Now, I want us to look at our text. In this passage, Mark records the same parable recorded by Matthew (13:31) and Luke (13:19).


Proposition:      The purpose of the parable is to assure us of the certain growth and blessedness of Christ’s church and kingdom in this world.


Divisions:                    As we look at this short prophetic parable, I want to show you five things from it.


1.   The Veracity of Scripture

2.   The Growth of God’s Kingdom

3.   The Sanctifying Influence of the Church

4.   The Mixed Inhabitants of Zion

5.   The Method of Our Lord’s Teaching


I.      The Veracity of Holy Scripture


          Ignorant men who think themselves wise, reprobate men who think themselves spiritual, pass judgment upon the Word of God. They claim to be Christians, claim to be people of faith, and claim to honor Christ, while denying the veracity of the Bible. Just a day or two ago, I heard a man in an interview with ABC News say, “I believe the Bible; but I don’t take it word for word.” A woman, in the same segment said, “I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; but I do not think you have to take it all literally.” Regrettably, those comments fairly well represent the opinions of most who profess to be Christians in our day.


          In this day of spiritual darkness and perversion, there is almost a universal abandonment of belief in the plenary inspiration of God’s holy, inerrant Word. Rejecting the veracity and consequently the authority of Holy Scripture, men and women everywhere are turning to necromancy, astrology, and sorcery for spiritual counsel and aid.


          “Satan assumes the garb of an angel of light and his deceptions in this disguise are deadly.”                John Hazelton


Isaiah 8:19-20  "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? (20) To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."


          You may be thinking, “Pastor, why are you talking about those who deny the veracity of Holy Scripture in the exposition of the parable of the mustard seed?” I am glad you asked.


          Frequently, those who think they are smarter than God point to this parable to show that our Savior was either ignorant or misinformed, because he spoke of the mustard seed as the smallest of all seeds and of the mustard plant as a tree. Those who make such judgments are ignorant and misinformed.


A.  When our Lord said that the mustard seed is “the smallest of all seeds in the earth, he was not talking about all seeds without exception, but all the seeds a man sews in his garden.


B.  Though we usually think of mustard plants as bushy, leafy plants, there is a variety of mustard that grows into a pretty good size tree like plant, sort of like a banana tree in size.


          We must never allow men, with their imaginary proofs of inaccuracies in the Bible shake our faith in the Word of God.


2 Timothy 3:16-17  "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."


II.   The Growth of God’s Kingdom


          Like faith in the heart, the church and kingdom of God in this world began as a very small thing. The expression, as a grain of mustard seed was a common, proverbial saying among the Jews, referring to anything small and insignificant. As a rule, God’s works in the world are always looked upon by men as trivial, insignificant. Certainly, that is the way it was with the Church of the New Testament.


A.  Those who were chosen to be the foundational apostles of Christ’s kingdom were poor, unlettered fishermen.


B.  He who is the Lord and Master of this Church, the King of this Kingdom, was a despised Nazarene, a crucified Jew.


C. The doctrine proclaimed by this Church, the doctrine which they preached everywhere, was the doctrine of grace, life, and eternal salvation by the merit and efficacy of a crucified Substitute.


          In the eyes of men, nothing could have been less likely to be successful, nothing could have been more despicable, nothing could have been more offensive. Yet, this was God’s work, God’s Church, and God’s Kingdom.


D. Once planted, this Church and Kingdom grew into a great Kingdom.


          Our Lord’s parable here was prophetic. He was telling his disciples not to despise the day of small things. Though it appeared a small, despicable thing, like mustard seed, the Lord here prophesied that his Church would become a great, large Kingdom. He said, As the mustard plant grows to be the greatest of all herbs, so shall my church grow to be the greatest of all kingdoms.


          So it has come to pass. It began to grow on the day of Pentecost. 3000 were born into his Kingdom on that day. The Church grew so rapidly that nothing can account for it except the finger of God. A few days after Pentecost, 5000 were added to the Church at once. Wherever God’s servants went preaching the gospel, it proved to be the power of God unto salvation.


Romans 1:14-17  "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (15) So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."


1.   Today the Church of God is the greatest Empire the world has ever known.


2.   It is not done growing yet.


3.   God still employs the same means today as he did in the beginning for the building of his Church.


1 Corinthians 1:21-31  "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence. (30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."


Matthew 16:18  "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."


          “In spite of all the predictions of Voltaire and Payne, in spite of foes without and treachery within, the visible Church progresses, - the mustard plant still grows!”                  J.C. Ryle


E.  That which is true of the Church as a whole is true of each member of it.


          The beginnings of grace in the life of a believer are very small; but where there is life there is growth; and those who are born of God are grown by God. The more they grow, the smaller they appear in their own eyes. Yet, when God is finished with us, we shall at last be transformed into the very likeness of the Son of God!


III. The Sanctifying Influence of The Church


          Though no one in the world knows it, and few in the Kingdom of God realize it, the Church and Kingdom of God has a profoundly sanctifying effect upon the rest of society. That is, at least in part, what is meant by the birds of the air flocking to and nesting in the mustard plant. The Church and Kingdom of God, like a great tree, provides shelter for the world and influences it for good. We have an example of what I am talking about in 1 Corinthians 7.


1 Corinthians 7:14  "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."


          As in a home the unbelieving are sanctified by the believing, in a moral sense, so in the world, the unbelieving are sanctified by the believing. Read your history books. Education did absolutely nothing to improve the moral condition of the Greek and Roman worlds. Plato and Aristotle made absolutely no impact upon society for moral good. That which has improved every society, every culture, every family, and every relationship under its influence is the gospel of Christ.


IV. The Mixed Inhabitants of Zion


          The fowls of the air also represent the mixed multitude in the visible Church and Kingdom of God in this world. The visible Church has always been inhabited by both the clean and the unclean.


          There is no such thing as a perfect Church in this world. Every true Church has within its fold both goats and sheep. It is a nesting place for birds clean and birds unclean. It is not a garden enclosed; but a garden with wheat and tares growing side by side.


          What are we to do about this? Nothing! Do not try to scare off the crows. If you do, you will drive away the red birds. Do not try to pull up the tares. You will pull up wheat very time. Never try to separate sheep from goats. We are not equipped for it.


·        Only the Lord can distinguish the true from the false.

·        It is his work to do the separating.


V.  The Method of Our Lord’s Teaching


Mark 4:33-34  "And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. (34) But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples."


When the Lord Jesus preached, he always preached in the plainest, simplest manner imaginable. He who is the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge never used complicated words and phrases. He never once referred to the original language, or even defined a word. He did not use words that required definition. Instead, he told stories and illustrated the truths he taught by parables.


In contrast with today’s preaching, our Lord’s example of preaching speaks volumes. He preached in such a way that people understood what he preached. He never tried to impress his hearers with how smart a man he was or how much he knew. He did not display knowledge. He taught knowledge. There is a huge difference. Those who follow the Master’s example do not try to impress men. They instruct men.


A.  Our Master taught with plainness and simplicity.


          He did not preach what he could not illustrate; and when he was finished, the people who heard him understood what he had said.


B.  Our Savior taught with knowledge and understanding.


Jeremiah 3:15  "And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."


          He knew exactly what they needed, and what they could bear, and taught them accordingly.


C. The Son of God expounded all things to his disciples.


          He kept back nothing from them. He expounded to them all the Word of God. Faithful men follow his example.




1.   We must never despise the day of small things. God is building his Church, gathering in his elect, and establishing his Kingdom


Isaiah 56:8  "The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him."


          2. Comments About The Lord’s Table