31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”
33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
In the first of the two parables presented here in our verses for today, Jesus refers to the kingdom of heaven as a tiny mustard seed of faith planted in the field of the fertile heart. Though the Gospel begins ever so small, its progress and end will demonstrate a powerfully great increase as did the largest tree in the garden which sprung from the smallest of seeds. The Gospel is commonly very weak and tiny in its beginnings – the breaking of the Gospel light is as the dawning of the day. Young converts as small lambs are first “carried” in His arms - close to His heart - as Isaiah so sweetly states:
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)
Yet faith is not to remain small in the heart rather like the mustard seed it is to grow to greatness. The seed itself is small yet within it carries the disposition to grow. Gracious habits confirmed and continued, growing knowledge of the Master, increasing love and ardent zeal all point to the seed sprouting and growing. Indeed, Paul chastises the Corinthians for their lack of spiritual growth – they should have been on meat concerning the Gospel yet remained as babes lapping down milk – to their own harm:
1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. 1 Cor 3:1-3 (NIV)
Peter also adds the following for our enlightenment - encouraging us to persevere in the faith and to grow up into all that God has purposed in advance for us to be and do. The goal of our faith - the salvation of our souls - is to grow up in our salvation becoming ever more like the Master:
1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV)
“The Lord Jesus received is holiness begun, the Lord Jesus cherished is holiness advancing, the Lord Jesus counted upon as never absent would be holiness complete...He is most holy who has most of Christ within, and joys most fully in the finished work. It is defective faith which clogs the feet and causes many a fall.” Hudson Taylor
“The first thing God requires of His child is obedience.” Charles H. Spurgeon
Next, our Lord likens the kingdom of heaven to yeast mixed into much flour until it permeated the dough. Most often in the Bible yeast is compared to sin or of evil but in this instance Jesus uses it as a positive symbol of growth and permeation. He implies that just as the yeast has great impact on the flour – transforming it – so too the kingdom of heaven should advance and permeate the culture.
12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. Matt 11:12 (NIV)
The original disciples had no rule books on Discipleship 101 - they merely followed in Jesus’ footsteps with the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit and they turned their world upside down – on foot by the way. Nothing much has changed since these guys’ dusty sandals walked the earth regarding the responsibilities of our faith – we are still called to walk as Jesus walked in His power. We are to be as cities on hills that cannot be hidden – lights that point others to the Way, the Truth and the Life. So how are we doing in this extraordinary endeavor? Does it even cross our minds as we go out our very “daily” days? Are we more consumed with our own agendas rather than Gods? We rob our own selves when we willingly choose to disregard His purposes for why we are even here.
“God wants us to be victors, not victims...to overcome, not to be overwhelmed.” William Arthur Ward
Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 1 Thess 5:13-24 (NIV)