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§ 211. Parables of the Mustard Seed and of the Leaven. (Luke, xiii. 18-21.)—Points of Agreement and Difference.—Compared with the Parable of the Ripening Grain. (Mark, iv., 26.)

Christ recognized in the little circle that gathered around him the germ of a community which was to embrace all nations. Piercing the veil which obscured the future from ordinary eyes, he saw the spiritual life of mankind in all its relations revolutionized by the power of his word. A total change in the disciples’ mode of thinking was in preparation; the truth they had received was to be freed from the many foreign elements that yet encumbered it. Thus the Divine word was to work both extensively and intensively. These forms of its operation he illustrated by the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven.572572   Luke gives these parables in the connexion we have assigned to them. In Matthew they are placed along with others of a very different character, only agreeing in the one point of general bearing upon the kingdom of God. On the arrangement of the parables. cf. p. 108.


The point in which the two parables agree is, the designating of the power with which the kingdom of God, where the truth has once been received, developes itself outwardly from within; the greatest results proceeding from apparently the most insignificant beginnings. The point in which they differ is, that the developement illustrated in the parable of the mustard seed is more extensive, in that of the leaven more intensive; in the former is shown the power with which the Church, so feeble in its beginning, spreads over all the earth; in the latter, the principle of Divine life in Christianity renews human nature, in all its parts and powers, after its own image, to become its own organ; thus illustrating the growth of religion not only in the race, but also in individual men.

Here we notice, also, a parable573573   This parable bears the undeniable stamp of originality both in its matter and form; so that we cannot consider it as a variation of one of the other parables of the growing seed. It is worthy of note that, just as in the different narratives of the same discourse given in the first three Gospels, one Evangelist preserves one portion and another another, so in regard to these parables illustrative of the intensive operation of the kingdom of God, Mark alone has preserved the one of the ripening corn, omitting the leaven while Matthew and Luke give the latter, omitting the former. preserved to us by Mark alone (iv., 26). “So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because. the harvest is come.” Christ obviously intended by this parable to impress upon the disciples that their duty was to preach the word [not to make it fruitful]; that where the truth was once implanted in the heart, its growth was independent of human agency; unfolding itself by its own inherent Divine power, it would gradually accomplish the transformation of human nature into that perfection for which God designed it [the full corn in the ear]. The preachers of truth are instruments of a power whose effects they cannot measure. If they only preach the word, and do nothing further to it, it will by its own efficacy produce in men a new creation, which they must behold with amazement (v. 27). No words could have more pointedly opposed the prevalent carnal notions of the Jews in regard to the nature of Messiah’s kingdom, or have more effectually rebuked the tendency to ascribe too much to human agencies and too little to the substantive power of the word itself.

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