Wednesday, March 23
Reader: “What is the Kingdom of God like?”
Response: “How can I illustrate it?”
Scripture: Luke 13:10-21
One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!
But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.”
But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”
This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did.
Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”
He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It 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.”
As always, it is important to understand the context in every passage of Scripture. At this point in Jesus’ ministry his popularity is exploding. The crowds are not in the dozens or hundreds, but in the multiple thousands of those flocking to see this one they have heard so much about and hear his message regarding the Kingdom of God. As he traveled in Galilee he taught first in the village synagogues as visiting rabbis were often invited to teach and make commentary on the Torah. Gradually as hostility toward Jesus increased, he was ostracized from synagogues and so continued teaching in the countryside to increasing crowds of people. In this case, the last instance in Luke’s gospel where Jesus speaks in a synagogue, the Jewish leaders and people had just witnessed a miracle. The Jewish leaders’ concern was that in doing so, Jesus had broken one of their self-designed laws! Never mind the power display they had just seen in instantly healing a woman with an eighteen year illness caused by an evil spirit! Jesus’ popularity was threatening the rabbis’ positions, but their greatest concern was in what he was claiming. It was revolutionary; it was, according to them, blasphemy!
Following this miracle, Jesus told two related parables. Remember, what Jesus is teaching these people is entirely new to them. He is talking about faith and its relationship to the Kingdom of God in a way they have never heard. You’ve read both the mustard seed and the yeast parables. In their interpretation, some commentators have described the birds that land in its branches as people from everywhere becoming part of the Kingdom of God. The large tree represents a place of safety and protection. Others point out the contrast between the size of the seed and the large tree it becomes, relating it to a growing Kingdom of God. And such was the case as the gospel quickly spread throughout the known world all around the Mediterranean Sea.
There is still another thought I believe comes from a slightly different viewpoint. The viewpoint is that Jesus is describing a picture of something very small and seemingly insignificant which has tremendous transforming power. (Jesus himself?) The contrast is not so much the size differential between the seed and the tree as the power inherent in the seed that produces something as grand as a large tree. Secondly, dough without yeast and dough with yeast are entirely different. Yeast in this case, though tiny, is a powerful transforming agent. The Kingdom of God is like that. Jesus’ burial in the tomb was the mustard seed and Pentecost with the advent of the Holy Spirit was the yeast in the dough. There is transforming power that results in a growing Kingdom which permeates the whole world from that day to this. The scope of Christianity is for every part of the world including your part. Being very small, how do you reflect the Kingdom of God today?
Music: “You Can Tell the World About This” arr. Moses Hogan Nathaniel Dett Chorale
Prayer: O Lord, forget what I have been, sanctify what I am; and order what I shall be that your glorious Kingdom may advance throughout the world and transform lives of lost people. I pray specifically for ______, ______, and _______, as I continue to pray for their salvation. In some way may the Seed of salvation be planted in their souls and the Yeast of transformation bring them into your Kingdom. And use me as you will in the process. This I pray through Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen. ―Anonymous, adapted Daniel Sharp from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.160