Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Teaching With Illustrations
JESUS is apparently in Capernaum when he rebukes the Pharisees. Later that day he leaves the house and walks to the nearby Sea of Galilee, where crowds of people gather. There he boards a boat, pulls away, and begins teaching the people on the shore about the Kingdom of the heavens. He does so by means of a series of parables, or illustrations, each with a setting familiar to the people.
First, Jesus tells of a sower who sows seed. Some seed falls on the roadside and is eaten by birds. Other seed falls on soil with an underlying rock-mass. Since the roots lack depth, the new plants wither under the scorching sun. Still other seed falls among thorns, which choke the plants when they come up. Finally, some seed falls on good soil and produces a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold.
In another illustration, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is as when a man sows seed. As the days go by, while the man sleeps and when he is awake, the seed grows. The man does not know how. It grows all by itself and produces grain. When the grain ripens, the man harvests it.
Jesus tells a third illustration about a man who sows the right kind of seed, but while he is sleeping, an enemy comes and sows weeds in among the wheat. The man’s servants ask if they should pull out the weeds. But he replies: ‘No, you will uproot some of the wheat if you do. Let them both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the reapers to sort out the weeds and burn them and put the wheat in the barn.’
Continuing his speech to the crowds on the shore, Jesus provides two more illustrations. He explains that “the kingdom of the heavens” is like a mustard grain that a man plants. Though it is the tiniest of all seeds, he says, it grows into the largest of all vegetables. It becomes a tree to which birds come, finding shelter among its branches.
Some today object that there are tinier seeds than mustard seeds. But Jesus is not giving a lesson in botany. Of the seeds that Galileans of his day are familiar with, the mustard seed really is the tiniest. So they appreciate the matter of phenomenal growth that Jesus is illustrating.
Finally, Jesus compares “the kingdom of the heavens” to leaven that a woman takes and mixes into three large measures of flour. In time, he says, it permeates every part of the dough.
After giving these five illustrations, Jesus dismisses the crowds and returns to the house where he is staying. Soon his 12 apostles and others come to him there. Matthew 13:1-9, 24-36; Mark 4:1-9, 26-32; Luke 8:1-8.
◆ When and where did Jesus speak with illustrations to the crowds?
◆ What five illustrations did Jesus tell the crowds?
◆ Why did Jesus say the mustard seed is the tiniest of all seeds?