Matthew 13:31-32 (NLT) 31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field.32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
The first thing we learn through this parable is that God’s Kingdom started very small. In fact, it started with the birth of a tiny baby, in a tiny town, in the middle of nowhere. From there it grew to a whopping 12 people. That’s Kingdom Economy.
In fact, Jesus was so concerned about their growth during his ministry that he deployed the worlds worst church growth strategy: He challenged his disciples to (John 6:53) eat his flesh and drink his blood. The outcome was incredible… (v. 66) many disciples turned back.
Jesus made it hard because he knew living in a Kingdom Culture is hard! When you live in a Kingdom Culture you are automatically living Counter Culturally.
The parable also teaches us that like a mustard seed, when the kingdom is planted it will spread. Think about it, does a seed have any other purpose than to spread? This is why Jesus was specific about using this object lesson.
Now you need to understand, the mustard seed is not the smallest seed a farmer uses, in fact, it doesn’t even grow into a tree, it’s more like a shrub, but Jesus wasn’t making a scientific observation here. He was actually sighting the fact that a mustard seed was used to show the smallest of things in the Rabbinic Proverbs.
The cool thing about a mustard shrub is not the fact how large it gets, but rather how fast it grows. A mustard shrub can grow ten to twelve feet in just a few weeks!
There is something to be said about becoming a part of a community and earning the right to be heard, but equally there’s something to be said about getting into a community and being a radical agent of transformation.
Jesus wanted His disciples to know that although they were few, they would become a part of the greatest Kingdom to ever set foot on earth.
Matthew 13:33 (NLT) 33 Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”
In other bible passages, “yeast” is typically used as a symbol of evil or sin, but not here in this passage. In fact, both Paul and Jesus used yeast as an influential agent of change.
While we see the mustard seed growing, Jesus wants to communicate to his disciples that growth is great, but it can’t be without transformation. When yeast is mixed into anything, whatever it gets mixed into is chemically changed. Yeast changes the very substance in which it resides. Once yeast is introduced you cant sort it back out!
One thing that gets lost in this parable is the sheer amount that Jesus is referencing. To us, 60 pounds of flour is a lot, to a first century listener of Jesus’ parable 60 pounds of flour is obnoxious! That amount of dough would serve around 1,000 people. The most common of people would never have made that much bread on a daily or even weekly basis.
So what is Jesus trying to say to us?
- In our cultural reality most growth happens by land acquisition or conquests.
- In God’s Kingdom growth happens from within.
- Living as agents of change in a culture
- Living among, within, through, spreading throughout culture. This is Kingdom Culture.
Without yeast, bread wont rise; and without agents of transformation living out the Kingdom of God, God’s Kingdom won’t rise.