Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Luke 13:18-21

So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Jesus spoke in parables for several reasons. The parables hid the meaning from the crowd at large. In Mark 4:11-12 Jesus tells his disciples that the meaning of parables are hidden from the largely unconverted multitude “that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” You can hardly arrest someone for talking about seeds and yeast. But stories are more memorable than facts, and I believe this is another reason he spoke in this way. His followers would remember the parables and their explanations and pass them on to later believers. Parables also have meanings that transcend time and culture.

In this parable Jesus compares the kingdom of God not to a majestic oak nor the costly cedars of Lebanon, but a mustard tree. A mustard tree is far less noble and glorious. The mustard tree is more like a gnarly weed, an evergreen shrub. It grows large from a small seed, but mostly in an outward direction, covering whole areas of the ground. This is not the plant from which we get the seeds for yellow mustard. The mustard tree grows green or yellow flowers and produces purple fruit. The fruit, seeds, and shoots are edible. Its branches resist bacteria and plaque and can be used as toothbrushes of sorts. People as well as birds can find shade within its branches. If Jesus is referring to black mustard, he is speaking of a weed that Palestinians would grow out in a field - a weed that takes over and is difficult to uproot and eliminate but is useful to make spices. People at the time would use the phrase "like a mustard seed" to describe something literally or figuratively tiny.

He follows by comparing the kingdom of God to a small amount of yeast. Not having the neatly manufactured yeast granules of today, the woman was probably working a piece of fermented dough into a larger batch of plain flour and water. Placed into a large amount of flour, the yeast multiplies as it bubbles and expands, working its way through the entire lump of dough and transforming it. Instead of flat, cracker-like bread, the baker can now bake a nice crusty loaf. The yeast changes the character of the bread.

So how can we compare the kingdom of God to these two things? The kingdom of God began small, revealing itself through Jesus, then his followers, then multiplied rapidly after Pentecost. It provides comfort to those seeking shade from the trials of life, spiritual food for the weary, flavoring to a dying world. The influence of a true Christian will spread into other lives, creating disciples as well as blessing even unbelievers. The kingdom of God within us will transform us, bubbling and working its way through our lives, digging roots into the soil of our souls that are not easily uprooted. Like the sower in the parable, we cast out a tiny seed of the gospel, and through the power of God it multiplies into a field that spreads as far as the eye can see. Many meanings can be found in the parables, and I challenge you to meditate on these today to seek their meaning for your life!

If so much will come out of so little, we are bound to go in for it. Nowadays people want ten percent for their money. Hosts of fools are readily caught by any scheme or speculation or limited liability company that promises to give them immense dividends! I would like to make you wise by inviting you to an investment which is sure. Sow a mustard seed, and grow a tree. Talk of Christ, and save a soul; that soul saved will be a blessing for ages, and a joy to God throughout eternity. Was there ever such an investment as this? Let us go on with it. If on our simple word eternity is hung, let us speak with all our heart. Life, death, and hell, and worlds unknown, hang on the lips of the earnest teacher of the Gospel of Jesus. Let us never cease speaking while we have breath in our body. The Lord bless you! Amen, and Amen. - C.H. Spurgeon

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