Three Characteristics of the Mustard Seed Kingdom (Plus Three Implications)

Don’t despise small or be discouraged by slow. God’s ways are not of this world.

Dr. McKay Caston


Of all the topics Jesus addressed in the gospels, the most prominent is the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven.

Considering that emphasis, we can say that the kingdom of God serves as a thematic, theological umbrella under which everything else is to be understood.

When teaching on this umbrella theme, Jesus often used parables. One of these is found in Mark 4:30–32.

30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

Since there are twelve kingdom parables recorded in the gospels, the parable of the mustard seed doesn’t teach us everything there is to know about the kingdom. Nevertheless, in the three verses of Mark 4:30–32, we may glean at least three characteristics of the kingdom that will result in at least three implications for our lives.

Characteristic #1: The Mustard Seed’s Unimpressive Size

A mustard seed is only 1–2 millimeters in diameter (1/10th of an inch). For comparison, a pumpkin seed is 10–15 mm (10–15 times wider).

Jesus is highlighting the fact that the influence of God’s kingdom is often going to be unnoticeable by the world’s standards. If we’re not looking, we could easily miss it.

Granted, there are exceptions. Just like the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2 was a unique, non-normative, redemptive-historical event, larger and more recognizable expressions of the kingdom, such as the late Tim Keller’s ministry in New York City, is…



Dr. McKay Caston

I create resources to help folks tether their lives to the cross of the risen and reigning Jesus |