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Luke 13:18-19

On the Kingdom of God

13:18 Thus Jesus 1  asked, 2  “What is the kingdom of God 3  like? 4  To 5  what should I compare it? 13:19 It is like a mustard seed 6  that a man took and sowed 7  in his garden. It 8  grew and became a tree, 9  and the wild birds 10  nested in its branches.” 11 

1 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 tn Grk “said,” but what follows is a question.

3 sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong. See Luke 6:20; 11:20; 17:20-21.

4 sn What is the kingdom of God like? Unlike Mark 4 or Matt 13, where the kingdom parables tend to be all in one location in the narrative, Luke scatters his examples throughout the Gospel.

5 tn Grk “And to.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

6 sn The mustard seed was noted for its tiny size.

7 tn Grk “threw.”

8 tn Grk “garden, and it.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

9 sn Calling the mustard plant a tree is rhetorical hyperbole, since technically it is not one. This plant could be one of two types of mustard popular in Palestine and would be either 10 or 25 ft (3 or 7.5 m) tall.

10 tn Grk “the birds of the sky” or “the birds of the heaven”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated either “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The idiomatic expression “birds of the sky” refers to wild birds as opposed to domesticated fowl (cf. BDAG 809 s.v. πετεινόν).

11 sn The point of the parable seems to be that while the kingdom of God may appear to have insignificant and unnoticeable beginnings (i.e., in the ministry of Jesus), it will someday (i.e., at the second advent) be great and quite expansive. The kingdom, however, is not to be equated with the church, but rather the church is an expression of the kingdom. Also, there is important OT background in the image of the mustard seed that grew and became a tree: Ezek 17:22-24 pictures the reemergence of the Davidic house where people can find calm and shelter. Like the mustard seed, it would start out small but grow to significant size.

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