Matthew 13:31-35 (click for full reading)
“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 13:35
Yeast and Mustard
(Click on the title above to listen to the sermon)
We are at the end of our three weeks in Matthew 13 – as Jesus talks to a group of followers and his disciples about the Kingdom of God. It’s easy to read these parable and think they are only about plants and gardens, but it’s important to keep the Kingdom of God at the front of our minds.
Jesus is telling those listening (and us) that the Kingdom of God doesn’t always work the way we think it should. We hear two parables about small things making a big difference.
This is the usual, and not incorrect, way of reading this text. BUT – there are some points to note about mustard and yeast.
Mustard was illegal to plant in Israel in the time of Jesus. ILLEGAL! It spread like wildfire and was persistent and difficult to remove. In my sermon Sunday, I equated it with milfoil in MN lakes. Illegal, persistent, difficult to get rid of. This seems like a bad thing, calling the Kingdom of God milfoil. But Jesus is saying an important thing here: The Kingdom of God is going to take over. It’s going to spread. And once it gets going, there isn’t much we can do to stop it.
Then we hear Jesus compare the Kingdom of God to yeast.
Also something that Israelites didn’t use much. Unleavened bread was their thing. But this woman, she takes and covertly puts a little yeast into a HUGE amount of flour. And while that little detail about hiding it might seem insignificant, I think it’s important. Sometimes we don’t even know the Kingdom of God is there until something starts to happen. AND…
Not only was yeast something not used often, but hearing God compare the Kingdom of God to an ingredient in bread was a big deal. It meant life. To not have bread meant you couldn’t survive. Jesus was reminding the disciples and those listening that he is an active ingredient in that which keeps us alive.
The dough begins to rise. The mustard seed turns into a plant that takes over.
This is what the Kingdom of God is like? Wow. Not what you expected is it? These three weeks have given us a lot to think about. In those moments of thinking, we can realize that this Kingdom of God isn’t comfortable, or easy. And we can wonder where God is.
That’s when we get to the reading from Paul today.
Jesus might tell us what the Kingdom of God is like, and how it will come, but Paul reminds us that when the Kingdom of God comes, God is there. And to Paul, the Kingdom of God is love.
Love that doesn’t fail. Love that doesn’t leave us.
Now that’s a Kingdom I want to be a part of. Don’t you?
Questions to Ponder/Discuss
1. Jesus has used a lot of parables lately to describe the Kingdom of God. How might you describe the Kingdom of God to others? (what parable would you use?)
2. The message of God being in control, planting seeds and taking over combined with Paul’s description of what God is like in Romans 8 is a powerful one. What things might you do if you knew God would have your back? What, if anything, would you change about your life?
3. What are, in your opinion, the greatest needs in our community? What are some small, mustard seed, yeasty things you can do about them?
Read Matthew 13. Take note of all the different parables Jesus used. Then read Romans 8:35-39.
You have the promise with you today that God is with you. What are you going to do with it? What mustard seed will you plant? What yeast will you bring to your community? Go!