Luke 13:18–30 ESV
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
A few observations about these two parables that open our reading for today:
1. Seeds contain inestimable possibilities.
2. Jesus’ big point is that a tiny seed is capable of producing something far greater than itself—in this case a great tree.
3. Seeds also reproduce themselves exponentially. Conservatively speaking, one seed of wheat will produce on average 200 seeds of wheat; 200 seeds of wheat will produce on average 40,000 seeds of wheat; 40,000 seeds of wheat will produce on average 8,000,000 seeds of wheat; 8,000,000 seeds of wheat will produce on average 1,600,000,000 seeds of wheat.
4. Approximate number of Christians in the world today: 2,000,000,000. Number of seeds at the beginning: 1. See also John 12:24.
5. To further demonstrate the nature of the kingdom of God, Jesus takes us into the domain of a woman in the first century, her kitchen. That’s way out of the box for the first century to even make such an absurd analogy.
6. Like the mustard seed, yeast has power far disproportionate to its size. In this case, the tiny bit of yeast works through sixty pounds of flour, making enough bread to feed hundreds of people.
The gospel of the kingdom is extraordinary, extravagant, and it excels beyond our wildest imagination. That’s why Paul would later say things like this:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:20–21)
Later Jesus will tell us when our faith is anchored in a gospel like this, it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed itself. We need mercy to have even a smidgen of the capacity it takes to fathom such possibilities as these.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.
What would it mean for you to see and understand yourself as a sower of the kingdom of God? Today?
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