We are going to start a little backwards today. We are going to skip to the last two verses of our reading, then go back and address the two parables on growth Jesus talks about today. Jesus is continuing to teach the people in parables. We are not told where Jesus is teaching currently or what kind of crowd His is addressing; just that He is using parables to do so. He is addressing them with parables for a very specific reason. Jesus told His disciples why earlier in this chapter; in verses 10-17. We addressed Jesus’ remarks in an earlier lesson too. Jesus spoke to the people in parables so they would have to dig in and find the meaning that was hidden from them. The casual listener would miss the whole point of His message.
Matthew reminds us today in versed 34-35 that Jesus was teaching this way as part of prophecy. Jesus had to fulfill ALL the prophecies of the Old Testament. This was a requirement for the Messiah, and was how Israel was to recognize her Messiah when He came. Sad thing is though, Jesus fulfilled each and every single one of them and they still didn’t believe Him. As a nation, they are still waiting today.
Now we are going to back up to the beginning and look at the parable of the mustard seed. Next we will look at the parable of the leaven.
Jesus starts out by likening the Kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed. It started out tiny and began to grow. It grew and it grew and it grew, until it was bigger than any of the other plants in the garden. Jesus said that by the time it was fully grown, birds could nest in its branches.
I was curious about what a mustard seed, mustard plants, and full grown mustard trees would look like. I turned, of course, to Google to give me some pictures. I came up with a LOT of pictures but I was not sure I was looking at what I really wanted to see. The pictures of mustard seeds certainly demonstrated that the mustard seed is SMALL. I also got to see a lot of fields planted with mustard. These plants didn’t look like trees to me. There was also no way they would hold a bird, nest or no nest. I was also shown some trees, purporting to be mustard trees. The problem there was that they didn’t look like they were the same variety of tree, so they couldn’t all be mustard trees. I also went to Plants of the Bible site to get a botanist’s opinion on the issue. I found this site a bit confusing and very lengthy, but I will let you be the judge of that. What it did say, that I liked, was that mustard plants can grow very large, their branches can become wood like, and they can actually grow larger than the trees of the region where Jesus lived.
When I was contemplating this information, I got a different picture of what Jesus may have been meaning. The Kingdom of Heaven started here on Earth with the birth of a little baby. The smallest of human forms. That baby grew and grew and grew, until He was ready to expose His fruits to the world. In His adult form He began holding the cares of all those around Him on His shoulders. He reached untold amounts of people in His short ministry. His ministry was so far beyond what anyone else has ever done that it is still spoken of today. He went even farther though. He was cut down and planted again for new growth to happen. From His seed, buried in the ground, He rose again and the branches of His Kingdom and influence span the entire world and history itself. Here the weary birds can find rest and build their new homes. From that little seed of a baby, comes a Kingdom so great. That Kingdom is still growing today. In the end ALL government will rests upon His shoulders.
The second parable in today’s reading is about a woman baking bread. Jesus says she took some leaven and hid the leaven in three measures of flour, until all the flour was leavened. She will use this flour when she is baking her bread to make it rise. Any good baker knows a little goes a long way with leaven. Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like the leaven.
My picture from this parable brings me back to the baby again. He was one small measure of humanity that had a very special characteristic; He was God too. That “special ingredient” changed the human condition forever. Israel has been attempting to get close to the “special ingredient” throughout its entire history, but its bread kept falling flat. Their attempts had no life giving power in them. Once that ingredient was added, life became possible. Jesus’ earthly life was spent working His Kingdom leaven into the people around Him, especially His disciples. It wasn’t easy and it took Him dying and rising again to complete the process.
When leaven is added to something, it changes the character of what it is added to. It cannot be separated out again. The flour that the leaven was worked into would impact everything else made with it. Jesus’ message was worked into man’s understanding of God Himself. From that moment on, whenever Jesus’ teachings were used, the leaven of His life would have an impact for the Kingdom of Heaven. That is what Jesus did with His disciples. His disciples continued that process with the early church. And that same leaven is used today throughout the whole world, bringing life for the ever growing Kingdom of Heaven.
Father God, getting a picture of these parables was a bit harder because Jesus never sat down and explained them directly to His disciples. I pray that what I have seen, and shared, is true to Jesus’ message and meaning. I feel like You keep bringing me back to the point of a little seed grew to create Your enormous Kingdom. I know You would like Your Kingdom to include everyone, but You know that is not going to happen. There will come a time when all will be part; in the new Heaven and new Earth. But until then, there will be those who refuse to build their nests in Your protective tree. They will refuse the life giving properties available for baking their daily bread. For those who refuse, I am truly sorry.
Thank You for letting me be a part of Your Kingdom. I pray I pass on the leaven You hid in it to my family and anyone else I come in contact with.