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Parables Bible Study 3: The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

Title: Parables Bible Study 3: The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

Subject: The Kingdom of Heaven

Age: 13+ years

Location: Matthew 13:31-33

Handout for taking notes: Bible Study Worksheet

Begin the Bible Study with a prayer. Read the passages, and then allow time for quiet reflection. Share the following notes on the parables.

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and of the Leaven are two of the seven parables located in Matthew chapter 13. These two very short parables, the second made up of just one verse, are found in between the parable of the wheat and tares and its explanation. The parable of the Mustard Seed can also be found in Luke 13:19 and Mark 4:30-32. The Leaven can also be located in Luke 13:20-21.

The placement of these two parables is neither arbitrary nor accidental. Like the Church Fathers we see a meaning and reason behind their placement. Mark chapter 4 follows a similar order, and Luke 13 keeps these parables of the mustard seed and leaven together.

The primary purpose of Jesus in this early stage of his ministry was to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven and to show that the Kingdom is at hand, that it is present in Jesus. Most of His audience, however, expected a very different beginning to the Messianic age. They believed it would be inaugurated with power and a show of force. And that the restoration of Israel's rule would happen while her enemies would be defeated. Moreover, Jesus has just spoken of the Sower and the Tares. In the Sower only one quarter of the seed scattered becomes fruitful. Worse still is that that quarter is infected with weeds. (See St. John Chrysostom, On Matthew, Homily 46).

Thus we get the parable of Matthew 13:31-32 and the parable in Matthew 13:33. First the seed of the Kingdom is small, but once planted it roots, grows, spreads, and even provides shelter. From Daniel 4 and Ezekiel 31, we have borrowed imagery of two evil kingdoms, Nebuchadnezzar's and the Assyrian's. These examples are used to make Jesus point about this. From a humble start and an inconspicuous beginning, the Kingdom will spread and provide true shelter to those who seek it in truth.

The parable of the Leaven: Jesus is the leaven. This parable is a simple point of how this leaven transforms and raises the whole world. Later this was to be applied to Christian apostles. Our leaven has the ability to leaven the whole world. In 1 Corinthians 5, we learn that we must also be careful that we don't use corrupted leaven.

At this time, read the passage once more and allow time for quiet reflection. If there is time, you may have a discussion about this parable.

End the bible study with a prayer.

Prepared by Fr. Evan Armatas

Click the link to return to the Parables Bible Study page or continue to the next Parables Bible Study session: The Treasure, the Pearl, and the Dragnet.