The Matthew Series 30. Starting Small
Matthew 13:31-35 New International Version (NIV) The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast 31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 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.”[b]
If you would take a casual look through popular culture today; scroll through the social media platforms and check what people at large thought of Christianity what do you think their response would be? In other words, what would be the “popular opinion of Christianity?
I would suggest it would be quite negative. We are called, holier-than-thou, biggots, ignorant etc. In fact because of this many of us have adopted the idea that our religion is for our private life; we don’t want to be too open about it; because it just makes everything awkward, and uncomfortable. I mean what generally happens when people bring up religion at a family gathering; especially if someone is a non-believer. It gets very awkward very quickly.
The problem with this is that the modern world and all that it holds dear is a direct result of Christianity. In fact, as the world abandons the belief system that underpins its ideas so it will find it harder and harder to hold those ideals as sacrosanct.
I’ll give you an example; let’s take the common and universally accepted idea of Human Rights. Where do they come from? Well it comes from the statement that all people are created equal and have “inalienable right”. In other words, a human is valuable and needs to be protected simply because they are human. Now this idea doesn’t come out of no-where; it comes out as a logical conclusion (and in fact the people who penned the original rights slogan, actually included this idea) it comes from Christianity; from the Bible. It comes from the fact that man is made in the image of God so therefore is valuable.
Now, as a society globally, we do not recognise the fact that human rights are connected to the idea of God and so we have human rights for human rights sake. This becomes a big problem.
Now, I say this because as Jesus makes clear the kingdom of God will move through it will benefit and it will permeate. Essentially; what we are going to look at tonight is that the gospel changes things! Deeply!
So, let’s dive in; 1. It is small but influences much
The nature of the kingdom of God, of the Gospel is that, as Jesus states, it starts small. But grows into a great plant that the birds benefit from. This reality is true on a personal level as well as a societal level.
Think about it. on a personal level, it takes a small amount of faith; simply believe in the finishes work of God, it is small, but this small act, the child like trust will end up growing to affect every aspect of your life. And the same applies to society at large.
You see if you are affected by the gospel, it becomes good news to you your life is affected, but it doesn’t stop there; the gospel changes us from the inside out we become better not because we have to but because we are made new and so have new desires, this means that we become better people, which has an impact on the people around us. We become better and so because of that internal change things around us improve for others.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his criticism of the Russian Soviet regime commented how absolutely idiotic it was that the Socialists came after Christianity. He comments and says these people are self-motivated and self-controlled to be honest and good, and yet the people that Socialists left were all corrupt or corruptible they had no inner governing Law.
The reality is many of the ideas today that promise a hope for the future, such as economic emancipation, educational reform, or political reform, all assume that man is good and so if we can remove the barriers to his desires then we will have a perfect society; the Atheist experiments of the 20th century of Communism have proven this not only wrong but completely the opposite.
The crisis of humanity is a crisis of heart ; in our core we want what is contrary to our actual good; we want instant gratification, we want permanent rest and entertainment, we want to be happy. Now, you are all saying what is wrong with these especially wanting to be happy; well without the right context without a good heart these become absolutely destructive.
Instant gratification leads to poverty; in fact the single greatest marker to wealth is the ability to delay gratification. Rest and entertainment lead to laziness and a corrupt soul and the desire for happiness actually robs a person of joy, because we are unwilling to endure that which is hard to arrive at the joy beyond it.
We desire big changes, however it is the small one that we need, we need the mustard seed of faith to really change us in the inner most being. So the gospel starts small but influences much, secondly
2. It is small but permeates thoroughly
Next, Jesus jumps to the illustration of yeast, which is also tiny by permeates completely. This again has a personal and societal implication. On a personal level, again this tiny act of trust, when you get it starts to affect absolutely everything in your life. It starts small, like you start to realise that God loved you while you were a sinner therefore you must forgive others, this makes your relationships more gracious. It moves on to your general disposition in life; next you find yourself realising that God is with you always and so little short cuts are not acceptable, and you find yourself whether in word or deed doing everything as if it is done for God! Inevitably the gospel permeates your life!
Now this has happened within history as well. The gospel spread out from Israel and moved into Europe, starting among the poor and disenfranchised in the Roman world. However, it slowly and inevitably worked its way through every aspect of European life, it changed the way that Europeans saw the world and how they saw themselves.
This permeating affect was so deep that even now as Europe has abandoned the faith that formed it, the ideals remain. Ideals of human value, of honest, of respecting others, are all the direct result of Christianity on Europe.
In fact the world would not have the technology, hospitals, schools, universities that we have if it was not for the permeating effect of Christianity.
The irony is that the world that despises the gospel is the direct result of the permeating effect of the gospel. The wonder of the text tonight is that I do not have to defend it; or justify it I simply have to believe it and share it; it is the gospel that does the work not me!
Which leads me to my final point;
3. It has been hidden since the creation of the World
Jesus finishes with this statement on why he speaks in parables, 35 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.”[b]
Christian’s have this almost militant stance about the gospel where we believe it is up to us to change the world; it is our role to ensure that we have a “Christian country” or we must make sure people understand our message, or I must have all the answers so that if I am challenged I can defend the mission.
The problem with all this is that it places all the power in you and not in message; I believe that as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, “…Always be prepared to give a defence to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope you possess…” The hope you have is that the Gospel saves, it is the power of God unto salvation. We need to trust the message of the gospel and not our capacity to defend it as the power of God unto salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:22-25 puts it so well where Paul says; 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
The gospel is foolishness and a stumbling block to people; it goes against their ideals; but we need to trust it as the power of God to save.
You see it was as Jesus “foolishly” died for sinners that the wisdom of God was shown, and it was as Christ “in weakness” lay his life down that he showed that he was powerful enough to bring us to his eternal life.
The gospel is not a message of strength it is of weakness, but it is in our weakness that God is shown powerful, it is as I lay my agenda down that I see His power is sufficient in my weakness. It is when I realise that I cannot do it; that I cannot save myself, that I am not good enough that I realise that He has done it all, that He was able to, and that He is mighty to save.
You see church it is the gospel that bears fruit not our goodness, it is the gospel that changes us and society not us. We cannot change the hearts of people but the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and it’s by faith from first to last so that no one might boast!
The simple almost dismissible message of Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of which I am chief, is the tiny seed, the invisible yeast that grows and permeates our lives. It is this wonderful reality that should guide our lives and it is this which we should meditate on and let permeate us; for this tiny seed of a message can literally change us and the world. It IS the power of God unto salvation for all who believe it?
Do you believe it? Let it grow in your life, and the life of those around you let it permeate every aspect of your life!