The mustard seed (Lk 13:19-13:19)

“The kingdom of God

Is like

A mustard seed

That someone took.

He sowed it

In his garden.

It grew.

It became a tree.

The birds of the air

Made nests

In its branches.”

 

ὁμοία ἐστὶν κόκκῳ σινάπεως, ὃν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος ἔβαλεν εἰς κῆπον ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ ηὔξησεν καὶ ἐγένετο εἰς δένδρον, καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατεσκήνωσεν ἐν τοῖς κλάδοις αὐτοῦ.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that the kingdom of God was like a mustard seed (ὁμοία ἐστὶν κόκκῳ σινάπεως) that someone took (ὃν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος) and sowed in his garden (ἔβαλεν εἰς κῆπον ἑαυτοῦ).  Then it grew (καὶ ηὔξησεν) and became a tree (καὶ ἐγένετο εἰς δένδρον).  The birds of the air (καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) made nests (κατεσκήνωσεν) in its branches (ἐν τοῖς κλάδοις αὐτοῦ).  Luke did not explicitly say that this mustard seed was the smallest seed, but implied it symbolically.  However, this seed could grow to become a tree or shrub where birds could nest.  There was no explanation of this parable, except the clear indication that the kingdom of God might start out small but would grow to hold many people.  This parable of the mustard seed can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 13:31-32, and Mark, chapter 4:31-32, plus here.  Jesus, via Mark, said that the kingdom of God was like a mustard seed or a grain of mustard.  When planted in the ground, it is the smallest of all seeds on earth.  But when it has grown after being planted, it becomes greater than all the garden plants or shrubs.  It then produced great branches.  Thus, the birds of the air would be able to come and perch or build nests in the shade of its branches.  What started out small can become quite large.  Jesus, via Matthew, explicitly presented them with another short parable.  He said that the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdom of God, was like a mustard seed.  A man planted this seed in his field.  When planted, it was the smallest of all seeds.  But when it was grown, it was the greatest of garden plants or shrubs.  It then became a tree.  Thus, the birds of the air could come and perch or build nests in its branches.  What started out small can become quite large. Do you know something small that became large?

The seeds on good soil (Lk 8:8-8:8)

“Some seeds fell

On good soil.

They grew.

They produced

A hundredfold.

 

καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθήν, καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν ἑκατονταπλασίονα.

 

This sower parable about the seeds on good ground can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, in Matthew, chapter 13:8, Mark, chapter 4:8, and here.  There is a happy ending to this parable with the seeds that fell on the good soil.  Luke indicated that Jesus said that some seeds fell on good soil (καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθήν).  They grew (καὶ φυὲν).  They produced fruit a hundredfold (ἐποίησεν καρπὸν ἑκατονταπλασίονα).  Mark and Matthew also said that these other seeds fell on good soil.  They brought forth or gave good fruitful grain.  These seeds in the good soil grew up and increased.  Some yielded 60-fold, others yielded 30-fold, while still others yielded a 100-fold.  Luke only listed 100 and never mentioned 60 or 30.  How important is being planted in good soil for you?

The seeds among the thorns (Lk 8:7-8:7)

“Some seeds fell

Among thorns.

The thorns

Grew with them.

Thus,

They choked them.”

 

καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν, καὶ συνφυεῖσαι αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό.

 

This sower parable about the seeds among the thorns can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, in Matthew, chapter 13:7, Mark, chapter 4:7, and here, almost word for word.  Luke indicated that Jesus said that some seeds fell in the middle of thorns (καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν).  The thorns grew with them (καὶ συνφυεῖσαι), so that they choked them (αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό).  Matthew and Mark said pretty much the same thing that the final group of unsuccessful seeds fell among the thorns where they were choked by the growing thorns.  Thus, these seeds did not give or yield any fruitful grain.  Have you done things that were unsuccessful?

Jesus grew (Lk 2:40-2:40)

“The child grew.

He became strong.

Filled with wisdom.

The grace of God

Was upon him.”

 

Τὸ δὲ παιδίον ηὔξανεν καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο πληρούμενον σοφίᾳ, καὶ χάρις Θεοῦ ἦν ἐπ’ αὐτό.

 

Interesting enough, Luke has Jesus grow in wisdom in the same way that John had done earlier in chapter 1:80.  Growth implies movement from an inferior stage to a higher stage.  Clearly, this was an important part of showing the human side of Jesus.  Luke said that the child Jesus grew (Τὸ δὲ παιδίον ηὔξανεν).  He became a strong person (καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο), filled with wisdom (πληρούμενον σοφίᾳ), because the grace or favor of God (καὶ χάρις Θεοῦ) was upon him (ἦν ἐπ’ αὐτό).  This also implies that God the Father favored or graced him, showing the distinction between God the Father and God the Son.  Jesus was a special child.

 

Lilies of the field (Mt 6:28-6:28)

“Why do you worry

About clothing?

Consider the lilies

Of the field!

How do they grow?

They do not toil.

They do not spin.”

 

καὶ περὶ ἐνδύματος τί μεριμνᾶτε; καταμάθετε τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ πῶς αὐξάνουσιν· οὐ κοπιῶσιν οὐδὲ νήθουσιν·

 

Once again, Luke, chapter 12:27, has a similar Jesus saying, almost word for word, indicating a common Q source, about the lilies.  Jesus wanted to know why they were worried about their clothes (καὶ περὶ ἐνδύματος τί μεριμνᾶτε).  He wanted them to look and consider the lilies of the field (καταμάθετε τὰ κρίνα τοῦ ἀγροῦ).  This is the only time that the word “καταμάθετε” appears in the New Testament writings.  It means to understand, take in a fact, consider carefully.  These lilies grew without any weary work in the field or any spinning (πῶς αὐξάνουσιν· οὐ κοπιῶσιν οὐδὲ νήθουσιν).  The verb to spin, “νήθουσιν” is unique to Matthew among all the New Testament writings.  Thus, the lilies of the field looked great without any work or cares.

The Early Growth of Christianity

Under the leadership of the apostles Peter and Paul, who both died around the year 64 CE, the early Christian community grew from Jerusalem to Rome, from a Palestinian Jewish sect to a more universal group that included Gentile non-Jewish people, all around the Mediterranean area.  The travels of Paul as found in the Acts of the Apostles and his letters give a glimpse into what was happening back then.  The followers of Jesus Christ began to differentiate themselves from the Rabbinic Judaism that was developing at the same time.

The development of the gospel biblical texts

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, his followers expected him to return at any moment, certainly within their own lifetime.  There was little motivation to write anything down for future generations.  However, as the various eyewitnesses began to die, there was more concern.  The missionary needs of the church grew, so that there was a demand for written versions of the founder’s life and teachings.  The stages of this process included this first oral tradition stage.  Then the stories and sayings of Jesus were passed on largely as separate self-contained units, but not in any order.  There were some written collections of miracle stories, parables, and sayings, with the oral tradition continuing alongside these.  Finally, there were the written proto-gospels that served as the sources for the canonical gospels.  The final gospels were formed by combining proto-gospels, written collections and still-current oral tradition.  All four gospels use the Hebrew Jewish scriptures, by quoting or referencing passages.  They interpreted texts or alluded to various biblical themes.  Their source was the Greek version of the scriptures, called the Septuagint, since they did not seem familiar with the original Hebrew.