August 25th, 2019
Main idea: Though it begins in obscurity, God will expand his Kingdom far and wide through ordinary, unlikely means.
I. The Unimpressive Beginning of the Kingdom (13:31-32a, 33a,)
Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to:
A grain of a mustard seed (13:31-32), “the smallest of all seeds” that is planted in the ground.
Leaven (13:33), which is mixed into dough in order to make bread rise.
These two illustrations are teaching the same truth: the Kingdom of Heaven is initially not much to look at. It is seemingly insignificant. It is not impressive and many will not pay any attention to it.
Luke 17:20–21: Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
This seemingly obscure and insignificant beginning to the Kingdom fits the picture we have of:
Jesus (Isa. 53:2-3): Jesus’ ordinary life, humble appearance, and unlikely crowning moment of glory (crucifixion & resurrection) were unexpected by those hearing about the Kingdom.
The Disciples & God’s People (Acts 4:13; Deut. 7:7): They were “uneducated” and “common men” who had no pedigree to lead a revolution.
Us (1 Cor. 1:26-29): God purposely chooses what is small & insignificant in the world to make his glory & kingdom known.
II. The Unstoppable Growth of the Kingdom (13:32b, 33b)
Revisiting the two images in the parables reveals that despite small and insignificant starting points, massive growth occurs.
The mustard seed grows into a tree that is taller than all the other garden plants so that the birds find shelter in its branches.
The leaven mixes in with “three measures” of flour (~50 pounds) and yields enough bread to feed close to 100 people.
Jesus says this is exactly how the Kingdom of Heaven works; although it is unimpressive to begin with, God will cause it to grow far and wide and it will be a pervasive influence in all the world. The “birds” in the Old Testament represent the nations being welcomed into God’s people, while the massive yield of bread points to provision made available for many.
Ultimately, all of this growth really has nothing to do with us. Jesus has promised that he will build his church (Matt. 16:18), and that nothing will prevail against it. This is precisely what has happened since the resurrection and even into our world today (cf. Acts 1:6-8). Do we trust him to carry out his promise?
“If we were designing a movement to take over the world and claim dominion over the universe, you would not come up with Christianity.” ~ Jared Wilson
III. The Upside-Down Life of the Kingdom (13:34-35)
How do we live within this unlikely and unstoppable kingdom? 3 implications for us to consider:
1. Embrace Obscurity
This is not about hiding the gospel but rather the posture of our own souls. We crave big, fast, and famous, all of which can pull us away from the Kingdom described in these parables which grows slowly and steadily.
We should not “despise the small things” (Zech. 4:10), but instead realize that we tap into the true power of the gospel when we are “small” (John 3:30).
2. Find Beauty in the Ordinary
The work of planting seed and baking bread is incredibly ordinary. Farming and baking were some of the most common tasks for men and women respectively in this time period. Jesus is intentionally using the ordinary to draw our attention to the beauty that is found there.
"A sign hangs on the wall in a New Monastic Christian community house: 'Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.’ I was, & remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new & whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can't get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes. The kind of spiritual life & disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it's in the dailiness of the Christian faith - the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small --that God's transformation takes root and grows.” ~ Tish Warren
Finding beauty in the ordinary means a commitment to the means of grace that the Lord has given us, including reading Scripture, praying, corporate worship, and living in community. Though these are “quiet, repetitive, and ordinary,” God uses them to reveal himself and to transform us.
3. Live with Gospel Intentionality
While there are moments of revival throughout church history (and it is not inappropriate to pray for this to occur), the normative way the Kingdom grows is through God changing the world one person at a time.
“The bedrock of gospel ministry is low-key, ordinary, day-to-day work that often goes unseen. Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality.” ~ Tim Chester & Steve Timmis
How would our lives look if we really lived as if Jesus was king over it all - the big and the small? Would anything change if we viewed all of life as an opportunity to declare and display the gospel?
Jesus taught in parables in order to reveal what has been “hidden since the foundation of the world” (Ps. 78:2). Though the Kingdom began in obscurity, it has expanded far and wide. What had been “hidden” was Christ, and he now has been revealed and invites us to trust him and to turn to him as the King who was and is to come.