Saturday, July 2, 2016

Luke 13:18-21

Luke 13:18-21
Therefore, He was teaching, “What is the kingdom of God like?  And what is like it?  It is like a seed of mustard, which after a man took it he cast it into his garden.  And it grew and became a tree.  And the birds of heaven dwelled in its branches.”  And again He said, “What is the kingdom of God like?  It is like leaven, which after a woman took, she hid into three large measures of flour until it was being mixed into the whole of the dough.”

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

There are many people who prefer to always spin Jesus’ teachings into the happy way.  As an homage to such people, I will talk about these parables in that manner.  As Jesus speaks about the kingdom of heaven, notice that he talks about it in great and vast quantities.  The little seed becomes a tree.  There is a huge amount of flour.  When we look at this parable, there is no need to think about a small kingdom of heaven.  Even when we look at the world around us, we don’t need to look through eyes that see scant amounts and limited effect.  The kingdom of God is huge and massive, reaching all throughout the world.  Our God is a big God.  We would expect Him to have a big reach, too.

Is it easy for you to conceive the full scope of God’s kingdom?  What can make this hard?

Second Thought:

That being said, I personally think that these are negative parables of warning.  Look at these passages in context.  The story before this one – which causes Jesus to teach this parable, note the “therefore” that begins this section – is a story of conflict where his opponents are put to shame.  The section of scripture that we’ll be talking about tomorrow is the teaching about the wide and narrow door.  This passage is surrounded with warnings and conflict.  In that light, let’s look at this mustard seed.  Yes, it grows big.  But is that the point of emphasis that Jesus puts on this teaching?  Of course not.  Jesus tells us the size so that He can talk about the birds.  In parables, birds are most often symbols of the enemy, whom Jesus often calls the evil one.  Think back to the parable of the four soils if you need to and you’ll see what I mean.  So what Jesus is really saying is that the kingdom of heaven is so large that the agents of the enemy can sneak in and appear to make a home within it.  Again, if we think about the story immediately preceding this teaching it makes a ton of sense!  Just because we encounter opposition – even internal opposition – doesn’t mean that we should think we are wrong.  Sometimes the enemy is within.  That’s Jesus’ point.

Have you ever encountered opposition within the church?  How frequently do you think the agents of the enemy make a home within God’s kingdom?

Third Thought:

In this light, let’s look at the passage about the leaven.  Again, remember the negative context that bookends this teaching.  A little leaven goes through the whole dough.  So often we want to make this passage about how just a little faith can affect our whole life.  For the record, I do believe that a little faith can affect our whole life. But I don’t think that is the point of this parable. Leaven is often used in parabolas as a symbol of the deeds of the Pharisees and other opponents of Jesus.  So what is Jesus telling us?  Even though the kingdom of heaven is so vast, we need to be careful.  The work of the opposition can still filter in and work its way through what God is trying to do here in this world.  Because the kingdom of heaven is made up of human beings with free will, even God’s kingdom is not fully immune to the false and corrupt teachings of His opposition.  Yes, God Himself is immune.  And He will be victorious in the end.  But the humanity that makes up God’s kingdom must stay alert against the leaven of the enemy.

Have you ever believed false teaching along the way?  What makes it so easy to believe?  How do you discern between teaching from the Father and teaching from His opposition?


Passage for Tomorrow: Luke 13:22-30
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