In Matthew chapter 13, we find Jesus turning to parables or simple stories to unfold profound spiritual truths. He explains that he does so to reveal to his followers the secrets of the kingdom and hide that same truth from those he does not want to understand.
He first gives the parable of the “four soils” to teach us about the results of sharing the gospel. There will be some seed that falls upon good soil that reaps a harvest, some thirty, some sixty, some one hundredfold.
However, the seed will more often fall upon the hardened path, the rocky soil, or be choked out by the weeds. We should not be discouraged when we experience rejection as we share the good news.
Jesus then gives the parable of the wheat and the tares, teaching that as the good seed of wheat (the gospel) is sown, that satan also sows tares (false believers) among them.
They will always be growing side by side until the day of judgment when Jesus shall have the tares separated away and punished.
So the logical question is, how are we to live as Christians knowing we will experience rejection, knowing we will be living among those who are not for us but against us?
Jesus answers this in the duel parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. The kingdom of heaven, Jesus says, is like a mustard seed.
The smallest of all the garden seeds, it seems to be insignificant but once planted, it grows in one season to a tree typically around 10 feet tall and robust enough for birds to nest in its branches. How is this like the kingdom of heaven?
Well, let’s start with the birth of Christ.Although the Jews expected the Messiah to arrive on the back of a white horse and defeat the Romans, Jesus was born to an average couple and laid in a feed trough.
He was raised in a hometown that many despised and then chose 12 disciples from blue-collar jobs that no one would have expected. But from this humble birth and this core group of followers, the church has grown to impact the entirety of the world. Like the mustard seed, its growth was unexpected, fast and far reaching.
Jesus continues to say that the kingdom of heaven is also like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened. When making bread, you take a piece of the leavened starter, put it in the new mixture of flour, and let it sit.
The leaven’s permeating power begins to work its way through, and then the entire mixture is leavened and ready to be baked. The leaven is the gospel, and as God’s followers live their lives, it is their responsibility to mix in the gospel in all areas of their life.
As they do, the gospel begins to do its permeating work by transforming first the lives of individuals, and then, as a result, it changes cities, nations and the world.
Kris Estep is the pastor at Barberville Baptist Church in Waynesville.