I love the Parable of the Mustard Seed. My students and I study how Jesus refers to the humble beginnings of the Kingdom of God and how the preaching of the Word spread this Good News into a worldwide influence. We also talk on an individual level–although each of us is only one person, our reach and influence can greatly affect the expanse of the Kingdom of God. This parable is such an encouragement to go and share the story of Jesus.
26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
This parable is told in the middle of other parables related to listening with ears to hear and how the kingdom of God will grow. In this parable Jesus is telling his audience that if they truly seek to understand who Jesus is and believe Him they become good soil in which He can produce a harvest.
The lost sheep. The Jewish community needed to know that Jesus was keeping his eye out for the gentiles who needed to hear the good news and be shepherded. This parable reminds me to look for people on the margins who may need love and support, rather than only sticking in with the flock.
I absolutely love Jesus’ parables and it is so difficult to pick my favorite! The first one that came to my mind at the moment of deciding which one to study further is that off The Parable of the Sower. It has always had a lasting effect on me and I wanted to dig deeper into the background and lessons of the parable. This parable is found in 3 of the gospels, specifically Mathew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15. All 3 written accounts are very similar with minor differences in terms of setting the scene. Matthew indicates that the crows were very large and so Jesus got into a boat in the lake and spoke from there. Mark echoes Matthew’s account. Luke echoes them both but does indicate that the people that came were coming from “town after town.” I believe this to be an important additional detail as towns would vary in their cultural practices and beliefs. It provides greater context to the crowd Jesus was speaking to. In terms of what he was trying to tell the 1st century Jewish people, what is important to note with these passages is that, when the disciples were alone with him after he shared the parable with the crowd, they probed him to find out why he chose to speak in these parables. Jesus explains the vitality that while the kingdom of God has been given to them, He must speak in these parables to all others so that the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9-10 can be fulfilled, which states, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” He then goes on to break down the meaning of the parable to his disciples. He is imploring them to have ears to hear! For me in present day, this parable and the following exchange Jesus has with his disciples is extremely convicting. Am I just hearing the message from Jesus or really listening to it with an open ear and heart? Also, I think about the parable itself in terms of my own soil as it were. How is is my soil? Is it healthy and rich so that the seeds of the knowledge of the kingdom of God will grow well? Is it tended to regularly? This parable never ceases to daily question my resolve to know God more.
As I read the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke, what struck me as new was the three parables in a row: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Prodigal Son. While I have read all of these parables before, I hadn’t before made this obvious connection. The Parable of the Lost Son is a favorite of many, because it showcases the ultimate, unconditional love of the Father toward the Son. The son takes his inheritance and runs off to live a life of drinking, partying and indulgence. He spends his money and goes to work for a man with pigs. Further, a famine is occurring in the land, and he realizes that he is in such a pitiful state as to desire to eat what the filthy pigs eat. In a Jewish context, this is especially bad, since pigs are not even eaten (even today) in Jewish homes. He returns home, hoping his father will take him back again, and his father not only accepts his son’s confession and forgives, but he prepares a banquet for him! (Not pork but a fattened calf!) He gets a ring and sandals and a robe. The father is so happy he gives his best offering to the son.
I interpret this to be the nation of Israel and God. The Israelites had an inheritance from God since Abraham. Yet, many times they squander their wealth, were idolatrous and made the Jewish faith something of their own design. They didn’t see the signs and wonders of Jesus, and didn’t want to see to the Old Testament scriptures as signs and prophecies of Jesus’ life. I think Jesus told this parable to the Pharisees and Jewish people to explain that nothing can separate you from the Father’s love. He is wanting a reunion with every believer, to welcome us into the family. God loves his people and desires for every man, woman and child to repent and confess their belief in Him.
We also see in verse 25, the older brother is jealous of the younger son’s treatment. The Father explains, everything that I have is yours. This is the Jewish man being frustrated and upset because salvation is coming to the gentiles. God wishes for all to enter the kingdom, whether he is righteous or a sinner.