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Q&A #159 - Parable of the mustard seed
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
I have recently taken an interest in Jesus' parables, and I came across this e-mail, which I hope still exists, in regards to questions about parables.
My question is about the mustard seed. It was triggered by a conversation with a catholic priest. He said that it is probable that this parable was a parody, and Jesus was in a way making fun of how people believed the church to become a powerful force on earth.
He said that Jesus deliberately mentioned mustard seed (because it really isn't small) and that it grows into a tree (which really grows into a shrub which will topple if a bird tried to nest in it), to make fun of the symbol of the cedar tree which was a representation of the power of the church.
Would this be a possibility, as in the website's other explanations, for the meaning of the mustard seed parable to be given?
Your choosing to explore the parables is a wonderful way to learn of the authentic Good News message of Jesus. His parables were about God's kingdom, which has no walls, no limits. It is much bigger than any church, synagogue, temple, or human empire could ever be. Yet it is much more present than most people realize.
In Luk 17:20-21 (and also echoed in other early non-canonical gospels, including Thomas 3:1-3, Thomas 113, Thomas 51:2, Gospel of Mary 4:4-5, Dialog of the Savior 9:3), we read:
"20 Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. His answer was, The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. 21 No one will say, Look, here it is! or, There it is!; because the Kingdom of God is within you.
The parable of the mustard seed emphasizes that the kingdom includes all, even the unclean, the outcasts, the insignificant, the marginalized. The redemptive and healing works of Jesus, of his disciples, of early Christians, and of Christians today bear witness to this Good News.
For some excellent, newly expanded commentary on this parable and on all of Jesus parables, see:
Copyright 1996-2005 Robert Nguyen Cramer