What does Matthew 13:31 mean?
ESV: He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.
NIV: He told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.
NASB: He presented another parable to them, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a person took and sowed in his field;
CSB: He presented another parable to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.
NLT: Here is another illustration Jesus used: 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field.
KJV: Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
NKJV: Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,
Verse Commentary:
Jesus again begins a parable by saying "the kingdom of heaven is like…" These teachings must be understood within the context of Jesus' life and ministry. Some in Israel rejected Jesus because they expected the Messiah to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth immediately, with great power and judgment. They wanted to see Him overthrow the unfaithful and Israel's enemies and restore Israel to power and glory and prosperity. Jesus uses these short stories to explain how God intends to implement the kingdom of heaven, and to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament.

Here, Jesus depicts the tiny seed of the mustard plant planted by a man in his field. The mustard seed was commonly used at this time as an example of smallness (Matthew 13:32). Why would Jesus compare the glorious coming kingdom of God to such a tiny thing? That would not fit with what Israel expected from the kingdom, but the meaning of the parable is profound.
Verse Context:
Matthew 13:31–35 contains two short, closely-related parables about the kingdom of heaven. One refers to a tiny mustard seed which soon outgrows all the garden plants; it becomes like a tree. The other parable describes the leaven a woman puts in flour to make it grow. Both parables show that the kingdom of heaven will be tiny, at first—with just the disciples. Quickly, though, it will grow into something surprisingly large. Matthew quickly reminds his readers that Jesus taught only in parables at this time, fulfilling yet another prophecy.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 13 focuses mainly on a series of parables. Jesus first describes these to a large crowd along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Later, in a house, He explains to the disciples the meanings of the parables of the sower, the weeds, and the fish caught in the net. Jesus then travels to Nazareth, teaches in the synagogue, and is rejected by the people of His original hometown.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 13 follows Jesus from the overcrowded house at the end of the previous chapter to a crowded beach on the Sea of Galilee. He teaches a large crowd in a series of parables, which He doesn't fully explain. However, He reveals their meaning to His disciples inside a nearby house. Jesus pictures the kingdom of heaven as a sower, a sabotaged field of wheat, a mustard seed, and a pearl dealer, among other things. He then travels to His original hometown of Nazareth where He is rejected by the people He grew up with. This leads Matthew back to depictions of Jesus' miracles, after sadly recording John the Baptist's death.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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