Luke 13.18-21 — The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Two wee little parables about wee little things: a mustard seed, and a pinch of yeast. In the passages leading up to this we’ve been learning how God is at work in the world, and it’s not as people imagine (Lk. 13.1-17). It takes a trained eye (Lk. 12.54-59), but not so much so that anybody can’t do it. As long as you’re not blind, you’ll be able to pick up on enough of it. Jesus is here to knit people and families together, but each person has to choose, and it doesn’t always work out that way (Lk. 12.49-53). Anyway, you get the flow.

But what is the kingdom of God like? There are lots of answers to that question, but to serve his purposes here, it’s itty-bitty things that grow humonstrous. Symbolic? Of course. Trees in the desert-like environments of Palestine were treasures. Other cultures considered them sacred, and even the Israelites used them for prayer. They were a link to God. They were also symbols, therefore, of greatness, majesty, and life, and kings at times used trees to symbolize the greatness of their power and rule.

But why does it make sense here that Jesus is emphasizing “tiny now, powerful later”? He’s a nobody in a dirty corner of the empire. He’s heading towards a humiliating death and a destruction of all he has stood for and lived for. Even the disciples will say, “Hm, we were figuring it was headed somewhere different than this.” Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot sprout up and bear fruit. It is reassurance to them that their expectations will not die with him. He will come back, with power, and all nations will be blessed through him.

What follows the establishment of the kingdom by Christ’s resurrection is the inner transformation of the Word and the Spirit that will change people’s lives and the world. It’s undeniable that Christianity has transformed art, music, philosophy, literature, law, philosophy, and history. And it is by his death that this has taken place.

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