THE MUSTARD SEED
The third parable is the parable of the mustard seed. "Another parable He set before them, saying, The kingdom of the heavens is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; which is indeed smaller than all the seeds, but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and roost in its branches" (vv. 31-32). The seed mentioned here is the seed of life and is signified by a small mustard herb. The mustard is something good for food. This signifies the proper condition of the church. The proper church should come out of the seed of life and, like the mustard plant, be good for food. According to its nature and form, it should be small and good for food. In this parable, however, the small mustard herb changed its form, its nature, and its condition to become a great tree in which the birds of the air could lodge. In the Lord’s own explanation of the first parable, the birds signify the evil one, the Devil (13:19). The Devil is the one who comes to snatch away the word of life from people. The bird in singular number, signifies the Devil, and the birds in plural number, signify the persons, evil spirits, and other things related to the Devil. All the evil spirits and evil persons related to the Devil come into the big tree to lodge.
What is this great tree? According to church history, in A.D. 313 Constantine embraced Christianity as the national religion of the Roman Empire. By this he opened the door to let many unregenerated people come into the church. He both encouraged and rewarded people for becoming Christians. Whoever was baptized received a robe and an amount of silver. Instead of persecuting the church, the Roman Empire began to welcome the church. From that time onward the church became a great tree; it became Christendom. Countless evil birds, evil spirits, and evil persons came to lodge in the branches of that tree. Who can say how many evil persons and evil spirits are lodging in its branches!
There are many false ones in today’s Christendom. Many of these are rational, philosophical people of high attainment and positions. They have helped Christianity to grow out of proportion, not after its kind. They have caused the little mustard herb not to be after its kind but rather to become a great tree. The little herb should produce something for eating but the great tree has simply become a lodging place for the evil one. This is exactly today’s situation in Christianity. There are so many branches which are suitable for the evil persons to lodge in. This is the outward appearance of the kingdom of the heavens.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 35, by Witness Lee)