Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven Dough

Our parables today, we’re looking at two, are both illustrating the same point, and are found in both Matthew and Luke’s gospel recordings of the life of Jesus the messiah. We’re going to look at these parables from Matthew’s gospel, found in Matthew 13 starting in verse 31.

Jesus is teaching the crowds at this point, he was actually standing in a boat so he could speak to the crowd more clearly because it was such a large crowd, most likely in the thousands.

Jesus is telling several parables in Matthew 12 and 13 referencing seeds, and planting and growing crops, and he had just told the parable of the weeds among the wheat, and so nestled among several different parables talking about how the kingdom of God works, we find our two parables today. Let’s take a look.

From Matthew 13:31-33: He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

What is Jesus talking about? Well, Israel had been hoping and dreaming of the messiah to come, but in their theology, their understanding of scripture, they believed the messiah would come and take military and political control of the nation and the world. That was the dream. They wanted total victory over the nation of Rome which had control of Israel at that point in history.

So when Jesus spoke of the coming of the kingdom of God the crowds assumed that Jesus would lead a rebellion against the roman empire, overthrow them, and begin conquering all the nations of the Earth.

So Jesus is clarifying what the kingdom of God really is. In previous statements and other parables Jesus had said the kingdom of God isn’t something you’ll be able to point to and say there it is, because he said the kingdom of God is within you. And you don’t know where it comes or where it goes, like the wind, you don’t know for certain those who are born again of the Spirit, and who are truly a part of this kingdom of God that has come.

The seed that Jesus planted seemed very small. He had 12 disciples, he had a larger following that were called the 72. He had crowds of hundreds and thousands following Him, but in the grand scheme of Israel and the planet Earth it didn’t seem that large. It was a small seed, and after Jesus was crucified many would depart, the 12 went into hiding, and the early church faced unprecedented persecution and harassment from the Jewish authorities and the roman empire.

Jesus identifies the growth of the kingdom of God as something similar to a mustard seed. The mustard seed is very, very small. Yet it grows very quickly, and can become up to 9 feet tall. So large in fact that birds may come and find shelter under it’s branches.

The mustard tree then provides nutrition to those who feed from it. But the mustard plant is by others viewed as a weed, it grows very very fast, and when it’s seeds drop they germinate and grow immediately. A gardener may have a difficult time getting rid of the mustard plant once it’s growing and releasing it’s seed. So it is as well with the body of Christ, as it spread across the world, many a time, and even to this day countries, peoples and governments try very hard to get rid of it. They try to uproot and destroy the body of Christ, this is common in today’s world in countries like China, Iran, Afghanistan, India, North Korea, Russia, and other nations. The early church was severely persecuted by the roman empire. Yet even when believers were killed for their faith, it would just seem to cause the body of Christ to spread even further.

So two thousand years ago, the body of Christ seemed to be only a tiny, tiny seed, you could say, it began with one man, the God-man, Jesus Christ, who was planted, He was crucified. Jesus himself said in John 12:24, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Jesus our messiah’s death, and his resurrection from the grave, became the seed of the body of believers to this very day. It began with Jesus, one man, one mustard seed, planted, and this one seed became a giant tree over the last two thousand years, to the body of Christ in the world today, about 2.7 billion people on the face of planet Earth claiming Jesus Christ as their savior.

What do the birds symbolize in the parable then? The mustard tree could represent the nation of Israel being gathered unto Christ, and the birds could represent the gentile people across the planet coming to find safety in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Similarly, we see the parable of the leaven, a large amount of flour, 60 lbs., or 3 portions, and a woman takes yeast and mixes it into the flour, making it into a dough. And the yeast mixes throughout the flour and causes the dough to rise.

In tying these two parables together Jesus is speaking to two different occupations, one to a farmer in the fields, a predominantly male profession, and to a cook in the kitchen at the time a predominantly female profession. So he’s speaking to both men and women, addressing it in two different ways as well, so people could understand in plain terms.

So you’ve got the whole world, as a chunk of dough, flat, and the living organisms the yeast work their way through the dough and the dough rises as a result. And this is for me how it is to live in the world today. A non-believer in Jesus seems to me to be flat, empty, sorrowful, afraid, and often quite uninteresting. Yet when someone believes in Jesus and they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they become quite alive, Spirit-filled, alive, and active in the work of the kingdom. So it is with the living organisms the yeast working through the flour, it causes it to rise.

How fitting then that after we die, Jesus promises to raise us from the dead, to eternal life.

So that is how the ancient audience may have viewed these two parables, as speaking of the rapid growth that would take off from the kingdom of God, something that seemed small, with only a handful of disciples led by Jesus, to becoming something that would spread rapidly to many peoples everywhere.

In a moment we’ll talk about how to apply this to our lives today, but first take a look at verse 34-35 which are connected with these two parables.

It says, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” 
-Matthew 13:34-35

Jesus taught the people in parables, and this was a fulfillment of Psalm 78:2. He taught in parables, knowing that some would believe these things, and some would reject these things, the universal truths of the kingdom of God and indeed universal truths about our world today.

So how can we apply this to our lives? Three areas, I want you to consider, personal, body of believers, and world.

Personal application, recognize that the smallest seed that you plant, by sharing the word of God with someone, sharing the gospel with someone, praying with someone, posting something on social media, sending an email to a friend, blessing someone with your good deeds, that tiny little seed can accomplish much more than you realize.

That single moment will become for them a link in a chain that is leading them to salvation in Jesus Christ. When I think back on my salvation journey I can remember each of them, one by one, who tried in various ways to share the message with me. I bet you could look back as well and consider people who shared it with you, and it’s become part of your testimony. So remember that, even something small can make a big difference.

Secondly, body of believers
, specifically let’s just talk about this church, three years ago, we started to work building up this corps. When we first started, there were only a few people who came to dinner church, 5 or 6. There was no morning church service we drove to Flint on Sunday mornings. We didn’t have a bible study, we didn’t have a womens group or a recovery group. Today three years later we have a morning church of about 15 believers. We have a dinner church of about 20 believers. Our groups have 5-10 believers attending them depending on the week. We went from 2 employees to 4 employees. This was all a work of God almighty, all glory goes to Him, I didn’t do anything, we didn’t do anything but obey our master, that’s it. But look at how just a small group of people can make such a big difference in Shiawassee county. God has impacted thousands of lives through you. That’s miraculous. That’s the tiny seed of a small body of believers, surrendered to Christ, and the footprint Christ leaves on a community through them.

Now imagine if we stay faithful and firm to Christ for another three years, or five years or ten years, we’re a little mustard bush now, but we could become a tall mustard tree.

But it’s up to us to be surrendered to God. As many as have stayed with this little church the last three years, just as many have drifted off, fallen away, and abandoned us over the years. The enemy has attacked us severely. Yet we’ve stood the test.

What will your legacy be? To drift off and quit? Or to stand firm? That is the challenge to all of us in Christ today.

Thirdly, world application. We often see things going on in the world, in culture, in politics, in crime, in the economy and feel powerless don’t we? The thing is we’re not powerless. We have incredible authority in Jesus Christ, as His body of believers, to pray to God, and things change on the national and worldwide stage. Do you believe your prayers can change the world? Change the united states? Change the state of Michigan? Or do you think of prayers as well just thoughts and prayers? Wrong! If you pray in Jesus name, God answers, and the world changes. I’ve seen it time and again, what if we as believers united in prayer and said no, in Jesus name, we will not allow this corruption. In Jesus name we will not allow crooked politicians in office. In Jesus name we will not allow Michigan to become an abortion hub of the Midwest, what if we said in Jesus name we disallow false teachings in the church. The whole world would change. Believe in the power of prayer. I dare you to believe that your prayers can change the world in Jesus name. Because they can. I’ve seen it happen. You have authority in Jesus Christ to win the world for Jesus, so pray, and pray, and don’t stop praying.

That prayer may seem like a tiny little mustard seed that couldn’t possibly affect anything in the world. But it actually can. That tiny little mustard seed will become a tree in the spiritual realm as your pray and cry out to God for mercy on this land. So I call you to do that today as a believer in Jesus Christ. Cry out to God, when you see something sad on the news, some corruption, some evil agenda taking root, instead of getting angry stop in that moment and say Lord, In Jesus name over that evil, in Jesus name I stand against that, in Jesus name, may those evil schemes come to nothing. And watch the world change. Amen.