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Viewing the Surprise Harvest  Matthew 13:31-32

Viewing the Surprise Harvest

Matthew 13:31-32

Living Commentary Series

Paul J. Bucknell
Explanation of the Parables

Viewing the Surprise Harvest (Matthew 13:31-32) | Video
Observing God’s Mysterious Strategies (Matthew 13:18-23) | Video

Description: Through the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Matthew 13:31-32 we find God’s exciting mission plans to grow a huge worldwide church. We then take a look at how far the Lord has progressed completing these plans in today's modern context.

Our crooked perspectives

From what we hear from the media, the church is about expired. This is what the evil one would want us to believe.

The reason? So we would give up on our faith and especially so that we will not put our efforts in spreading the Gospel. Satan’s deceitful point goes like this, “If people are giving up their faith, then there is something better. So we ought to find out what that better belief is. Certainly it is not Christianity.”

We need a reality check. Let us see what the scriptures actually do teach and what really is happening. We will get a completely different story, one that will motivate us to put our extra energies into His great work!

Unexpected happenings

When we look at what God really is doing around the world, we instead get a perspective that we are at the end of a trail where, as it says in Revelation, millions and millions from all different languages praising the Lord together. This is no longer a prophecy of the future stemming from biblical teaching but happening in our present day!

Abounding growth

The church is abounding in vibrancy. It is hard to keep up with what God is doing. I literally mean this. Did you know that there are 2 Nepali churches in our city?

We will look first at the Biblical (the theoretical - instilling a correct vision) and then the Global (the real) perspectives.

(1) A Biblical Perspective - (theoretical)

The Parables

One of my favorite parts of the Gospels are the parables. I suppose this is because God reveals truths that have been hidden from the foundations of the world.

Scientists have an exciting job of discovering God’s secrets implanted in what He has made. But when the secrets have to do with special knowledge and eternal truths, the excitement level goes up even further. This is exactly what Jesus disclosed to us.

“34 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable, 35 so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world”” (Matthew 13:34-35).1

Only a select number of Jesus’ parables have been recorded for us. Matthew organizes many of them here in Matthew 13 (some later in the book) so that we can better appreciate the special teaching from Jesus’ parables.

The Lord has many insights to pass onto us about the kingdom of heaven, which I will for this message’s purpose define as roughly equivalent to the kingdom of God and the church. I would like us to ponder upon God’s work by looking at the parable of the Mustard Seed, one of the few parables left for our instruction and encouragement. The Parable of the Mustard Seed is meant to provide a broad sweeping view of what God is doing on earth.

The Mustard Seed Parable (Matthew 13:31-32)

The Mustard Seed is short but filled with powerful teachings regarding what God is planning to do through the kingdom of God during this post-resurrection time of Jesus. The church is going to wildly grow to fill the earth.

"31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).

There a number of truths shown here. We will accept the idea that the kingdom of heaven represents the people of God, which we call the church.

1) Starts off small

God compares the beginning work of God’s kingdom as something that starts off small. As we look at the scriptures and church history, this is so true.

Remember that Jesus alone was faithful. He was the seed that was buried in the ground. All His disciples have left Him to die alone. After the resurrection of Jesus there were only a few faithful disciples, later more upstairs praying, numbering 120 (Acts 1:15).

We are astonished to see that lone seed bringing forth a sudden explosive growth of the church in Acts 2. Thousands of people from many nations hear the Gospel and believe. “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4).

Let me suggest, however, that this small beginning is the same wherever the church is being planted. It starts off small but then grows to far beyond what one would ever expect, whether it be India, America, Mongolia or China. There are always some fearless apostles bringing God’s Word to unreached areas.

2) Develops to the full design

God has designed the church to grow to its full design. Just like the mustard seed is designed to reach its full size, so is the church. Every seed has a hidden code inside. We need to wait to seed its full development. The same is true for the church, except here Jesus gives us special insight into God’s amazing plan for the church.

We can get glimpses of this design in several places in the scriptures. We will look at two right now.

a) First we remember that the church was to reach a great size according to the promises of Abraham’s seed.

"And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:5-6).

b) We also see this promise from the final gathering in Revelation 5.

"And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” 11 And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands" (Revelation 5:10-11).

God has great plans for millions to be part of the kingdom of God. One last thing we must look at to fully understand the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

3) God assures the growth

Just as the mystery of life causes the growth from a seed to a plant, so the purpose and power of God assures the growth of the church to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:14-16).

The power of God that makes the growth sure is God. There will not be a question as to if the fantastic growth of the church will take place, but when.

The parable speaks of the growth of the whole church of God from the beginning. The tree has grown and now seeds off the tree are taken and planted all over the world. This is a beautiful picture of what missions is all about. Wherever the seed of the Gospel is planted, God assures that growth will take place.

(2) A Global Perspective (realistic)

Signs of our Age

The global perspective is the picture of the world right now as we see it. The growth of the church has been absolutely phenomenal. When I was in university, some thirty years ago, we could not see the end, but now we can. The end of the age seems upon us. Listen to the words to Daniel. Signs of the end

“But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4).

There are two signs that the Lord gave Daniel (though he would not be there to witness it) of the end of time: great increase of travel and knowledge. I just flew back from Asia, and almost every last seat was taken on this huge plane carrying hundreds of people. Indeed ‘many will go back and forth.” The number of people at these airports is incredible. They are all traveling back and forth.

Knowledge is exponentially increasing. New phone and computer models are coming out not every year but 6 months. Behind each new model is not just a new casing but new processors using improved knowledge.

But even new casings have to do with new knowledge. Apple just bought the privilege of using a new metal for their computer technology. We live in a most exciting age. Not just because of these things but because the mustard tree has almost reached its full size.

There are so many encouraging statistics, that it is hard to share alll the good news.

Christianity is the single fastest growing religion in the world. For example, in AD 100 there were 360 non-believers for every believer. Today, there are only nine non-believers for every believer, and only four of those non-believers are from unreached people groups.

In Brazil one hundred years ago, there were no evangelicals. In 1980 there were about 12 million Protestants. By 1995, that number had increased to more than 40 million, with more than 80,000 churches and 150 Christian radio and TV stations. The number is expected to reach 50 million by the year 2000. 2

Let’s look at a few charts depicting this growth.3 This chart shows the increase of Christianity from 1910 (see blue in small map) to 2010 (see blue in big global map).

NT Biblical resources on our NT LibraryThe material on the web here is only a small portion of the great media-enriched resources that we have both on the OT and NT. Click here or on the picture to look at our New Testament resources. This is just the beginning of our huge library of quality biblical training materials–always filled with many applications.

 

Unprecedented Outreach

Africa church growthAfrica

By 2010 Christians have mushroomed by 40 times to more than 490 million, while Muslims have grown by 10 times to 418 million.

The Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese are the largest people group not only in Asia, but also in the world.

China

The Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese are 10.4% Christian. They rank as the sixth-largest Christian people. Probably about 120 million believers in China.

Nepal

No Christian was officially allowed to live in Nepal until 1960.  Now there is a church in every one of the 75 districts of Nepal with estimates of over half a million believers (Operation World).

In A.D. 100, there were 360 non-Christians for every true believer.  Today the ratio is less than seven to every believer as the Holy Spirit does more than we could ever ask or imagine (Vision 2020).

About 500 Muslims come to faith in Christ every month in Iran--a country ranked among the top ten persecutors of Christians in the world.  Many of the new believers are young, since 70% of Iran is under the age of 30 (Vision 2020).

Are we seeing a Bangladesh "Book of Acts"? A Church leader there wrote to a friend recently: "By your strong prayers the Lord has saved 4,452 people and planted 150 churches from January to June, 2006. Prayer request: Our goal is to plant 300 churches and see 9000 saved in 2006." (Vision 2020). Joshua Project

India

I personally have witnessed the great growth of the church in India. I am still amazed. Although the church is strong in south India, it has only in the last decades started growing wildly in the north. When I go to these places to train pastors and church planters, there are just large numbers.

India church growth

Even in Orissa where the persecution took place, I had 300 church leaders at my meetings. This is remarkable considering the pressure from the Hindu radicals and the recent birth of the church in those areas.

Mongolia

There” were only about 4-5 believers in 1990; there may be as many as 40- 50,000 believers now! Though still small, the church has a breathtaking vision to reach the world; it has already sent missionaries to neighboring countries and people groups!” (personal report).

One brother from West Bengal, India wrote,

“This large people group is complex for many reasons; one being the fact they are both Muslims and Hindus.  That makes developing strategy and engaging the Bengalis very challenging.  But it can be done and will be done because God desires for all peoples to worship and bring glory to his name.  While there are obstacles to overcome, we can see God at work right now among the Bengalis.”

I like his spirit. He feels very responsible to reach all the Bengalis as he is one of the few from the Brahman caste that knows the Lord. He is, like many, doing much with little. He actively leads others to reach the lost and trains them to disciple the Bengalis.

“But it can be done and will be done because God desires for all peoples to worship and bring glory to his name.”

Join God in His work!

We need to both understand God’s passion and join Him in His marvelous work. Nothing compares to the awesome privilege to do our part in expanding God’s kingdom. The challenge

God is growing His kingdom with or without you and me. If we refuse, God will call others. I rather expend myself and my resources to join God in His work.

Thrust ourselves into God’s business. We need to go far beyond what we are doing. We have so much resources but doing so little. Sending our young people for a week or two is nothing. We need to send our best. We need to wisely use our financial resources to get God’s work done.

Consider full-time ministry. There is no greater privilege than to use all our time serving the Lord in the ministry. If God is calling you, respond. If He is sending you, go!

The church surely started off small but already has grown seemingly to full size. Jesus is coming soon. We need to shift our priorities less we find ourselves in last place. Now we have the opportunity to join Him in His global work!