Day 80: Of mustard seeds and yeast

Day 80: Luke 13:18-21 (AD 29)

Jesus had just ‘humiliated’ his opponents (v.17) through showing the hypocrisy of the synagogue ruler who was trying to prevent people from being healed by Jesus. It was abundantly clear to the crowd in the synagogue that Jesus was on the side of righteousness, and the religious leaders were not. That Jesus could help them, and the religious leaders would not. And yet Jesus was just one man – a carpenter’s son, not even a priest or a Rabbi; not in the Sanhedrin and apparently no kind of insurgent, either. And he was opposed by the most influential people in his own community. So what impact could he possibly have?

Jesus had previously defined his ministry as the coming of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17), so talking about the kingdom of God was talking about himself and his impact. He drew two analogies: a mustard seed, and yeast in an enormous batch of dough. As ever with Jesus’ word pictures, the meaning was straightforward and uncomplicated:

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed: tiny in its beginnings, apparently of no consequence and without any apparent potential for dominance. Mustard seeds are about a millimetre long, and yet from them grow trees typically six to twenty, but up to thirty feet in height, and twenty feet across. To judge their potential on appearance would be understandable, yet foolish.

It’s also easy to underestimate the impact of yeast, which can cause enormous growth in an area many hundreds, even thousands of times the volume of the yeast itself.

That’s what God’s work is like, and that’s what God has been doing all over the world for two millenia. Taking tiny little pieces of almost nothing; a few people, an unpopular ministry, an apparently thankless missionary life…and turning it into into something amazing.

God was doing it then, God is doing it now.

You don’t know whether your work for God is planting a mustard seed or harvesting a thirty-foot high tree. And you don’t need to know. That’s God’s responsibility. Ours is to remember always that that’s what he’s doing, and to do our part. Even when people hate it, sneer at it, or try to prevent it.

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