BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 14, Day 2: Matthew 13:31-35

Summary of passage:  Jesus told them a parable of the mustard seed and the yeast where he compared the mustard seed to heaven and although it is the smallest seed it will yield the biggest tree that birds will perch in.  He also said the kingdom of heaven is like yeast mixed into flour and worked throughout the dough.  This fulfilled prophecy in Psalm 78:2.


3a)  The kingdom of heaven

b)  Heaven starts out small inside of you but as you grow so does heaven.  Heaven or the church will grow, sheltering humans in the process.

c)  I would bet there is a significance because all of Jesus’ words hold meaning.  I can’t imagine Jesus just throwing birds in a parable for no reason.  I would say the birds are humans who land in heaven and are sheltered by God.

4a)  Heaven is everywhere and all of heaven is mixed inside of believers.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I don’t see yeast as evil because that would be saying “the kingdom of heaven is like evil”.  I just can’t see comparing heaven to evil and I can’t see Jesus doing so ever.  The only interpretation would be that evil or corruption is spread throughout people and will threaten his kingdom.

Conclusions:  Didn’t like this lesson.  I think the parables are merely saying heaven (or evil or corruption) is everywhere in and amongst us.  These parables aren’t as impactful as others and frankly BSF didn’t do a good job in unpacking their meaning in my opinion.  I left today with the same level of understanding of these as I had before.  It was only when I did read the commentaries that I saw the other interpretation of evil.

Parable of the mustard seed:  Commentaries say the mustard seed represents the church and how it will one day grow and spread throughout the earth and provide refuge for animals.  The other interpretation is that the seed is corruption within the church and that the birds were a symbol of corruption, nesting amongst Christians.  In the previous parables, birds were the devil.  Revelation 18:2 has birds unclean and detestable.

In reality, mustard seeds are not trees but about the size of a bush so whichever interpretation you choose, the seed has grown supernaturally large.

Parable of the yeast:  Again, same basic two interpretations.  One is that yeast or Christianity will be worked throughout the world.  The second is yeast is corruption that will influence the world.  Yeast is typically a picture of sin (Exodus 12:8, 12:15-20) and hence the Jewish emphasis on unleavened bread.

End Note:  I fundamentally disagree with BSF about the use of commentaries during Bible study (always have and always will with this respect).  When I read a passage and have no idea what it is saying, I get help to know what it is saying and at that moment.  Truly, how many of us go back over the passage after lecture?  I don’t in most cases.  I read the notes and move on.  Hence, my belief one should (and definitely shouldn’t be ‘banned’ from reading commentaries) in the midst of study.  Otherwise, the moment will be lost, you won’t remember in a few days what the passage was about or what you originally thought about the passage, and you won’t have the time to re-visit it either when life keeps charging ahead.

The word scholar comes from the Greek “scole” meaning leisure, free time.  These are people who have studied the Bible for years and have a much better grasp of it than me.  I see nothing wrong with using the cumulative knowledge of generations of scholars so I can get a tiny bit more knowledge of God.  The more I know, the better of a person I am.  And whatever helps me in that respect should not be prohibited.


14 thoughts on “BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 14, Day 2: Matthew 13:31-35

  1. I agree with you about using commentaries or any other sources for help. Sometimes the answer is not found in the scriptures but in some historical event of the time. What is distasteful to me is that they say don’t use any commentaries/other sources, yet when we read the notes it is evident the writers have gone elsewhere for information. If they can do it, why can’t we? I think it’s part of the study to dig for the answers and better understanding.


  2. I agree with you in that Bible commentaries founded on true theological doctrine expand your knowledge of the Bible. I have always made use of them when I do not know the answer. Bible scholars lead you the way when lost. I rely on Matthew Henry and others. The historical context in many Bible passages is intertwined with the essence of God’s Word.


  3. Sometimes, God calms the storm. Other times, God allows the storm to rage and He calms His child. For I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me. Addie



  4. I agree wholeheartedly. Sometimes I have to use commentaries or the notes in my study bible to get help understanding the meaning of a passage. I don’t think BSF should discourage it but encourage it. Anytime studying and reflecting on the Word of God is beneficial. I agree that if you don’t research the question that precious moment may be lost. I don’t go back over my questions. I move on.


  5. I certainly agree. There are times when answering the questions, I need insight. The Holy Spirit is working in me to search out opinions and scholars who have read these passages. It is up to me to be discerning. Isn’t this how we learn? I don’t rely on the opinions but gain insight as to the meaning of the passages. All time spent studying the Word of God is beneficial. Isn’t this the point of BSF? I get so involved in my Bible study time and can spend hours on one question. I actually talked on “Live Chat” to a rabbi seeking the meaning of a verse. It helps solidify the answer in my mind. I love BSF, though. It is such an intense study- like nothing else. It really makes me dig and think.


  6. I totally agree with you about using commentaries. I think they are a great help to understand scripture. I use your blog in the same way, not to copy, but to help me better understand. I think it is better to use helps and get the answer than to leave it and not answer it at all. God bless your efforts. Hope you have a blessed Merry Christmas.


  7. Can’t we use outside sources (commentaries, etc.) for challenge questions? I thought we could…if I am wrong please correct me.

    Regarding mustard “trees”, although they are shrubs that usually grown up to about 3 1/2 feet tall, they can grow into “trees” (technically they are still a bush, I guess it is all in the eye of the beholder). As a tree, they can grow up to 20 feet and their branches will reach out to span 20 feet. It is very hardy and can grow even under harsh conditions. If you cut it off and leave just a stump, it will grow back.


  8. I’m a leader in BSF. I totally agree with what some of you have said about the questions being difficult and looking to commentaries or Bible notes for help. It does seem easier to do that. Also, sometimes you gain greater understanding of the passage reading the notes. The reason however they ask you not to look to those while answering questions is that they want you to search for the answers first in the Bible. BSF is a process. First, study on your own. Second, fellowship with others in your group lead by a leader guiding the conversation. Third, lecture. And fourth, the notes. Each layer is made to compliment each other and give you greater understanding as you go through each process. It’s Ok if the answers to the questions are wrong, even way off. What’s important is to be in the Word. As a leader, there have been many times that almost a whole week’s lesson is so difficult and I don’t feel like anything I answer is right, even though I am searching the Bible for answers. That’s what fellowship, lecture, and the notes are for, to give you the answers you’ve been seeking all week for. If you feel discouraged, don’t give up! Do your best to answer the questions with what you find in the Bible and pray God will give you greater understanding. He always will!


  9. are there any specific commentaries that you have found most helpful? I appreciate what you do and the help it gives me. I try to answer first and then check your blog if i need clarification


  10. I just wanted to say that I agree whole heartedly with you about the commentary thing & I read your answers after I had done my questions. It’s so nice to see that someone else does not always “go with the flow” and think that” BSF answers” are 100% correct. I taught the lesson to my 7 year old grandson that the leaven was a good thing before I started my lesson (and I thought I was going to have to go back & retract my teaching on it), but God gave me peace about it. Thank you so much for sharing your opinions……that really helps me!!!! I appreciate you!!!


  11. During a BSF Introduction/Welcome class, the speaker taught that we are to consider what the Holy Spirit is teaching us in each question and as opportunity or time allows, to share that teaching in class. Scholars reached their thoughts the same way and share their insights, as well, with readers. What is more important than consulting the scholars’ insights is hearing what the Spirit is sharing with us in class and BSF’s rigorous and strict attention to time for each question very often prohibits hearing others’ thoughts which grew in the lesson. Commentaries should be permitted in seeking truths, but time is of the essence and can be more productively and effectively managed in the question/answer part of class so seeds sown can grow. Appreciating group leaders is understood, but group leadership skills grow too when leaning toward tending the garden and not erring on the side of legalistic protocol.


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