31 He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. 32 It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough.”
“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”
You’ve probably heard this saying before, which reminds us that even the mightiest, most impressive endeavors were once tiny and fragile – their eventual success completely uncertain. We tell these stories about great companies that began in someone’s garage or basement. We hear them in relationship to prestigious universities, as they recount the stories of enrolling their first students.
We can even draw on this logic in thinking about people – all of us began as a single-celled embryo. At first, the process of growth was very slow, as one cell became two, two became four, and so on. But as time went on, the rate of growth increased exponentially, allowing you to become the person you are.
I think Jesus’ point in telling these parables of the kingdom is threefold.
First, we should remember that everything has a starting point: even faith, the work of God in the world. In every life, we hope for a moment of realization when we begin to recognize that God created us and loves us, and we commit ourselves to live in response to that love. This is what Jesus means when he speaks of the kingdom: people living, loving, and serving each other according to the teaching and the blessing we’ve found in him. All of us enter into the kingdom already in progress, as it has been since the time of Christ.
Second, Jesus is reminding us that the growth of the kingdom is something that doesn’t come from us, it comes from God. Have you ever planted a garden and marveled at how a seed, when added to dirt, water, air, and sunlight, can produce delicious fruits and vegetables we can feed to our families? When you step back from it, it truly seems like a miracle. The parables make clear that this growth is not our doing, it’s God’s doing.
Third, Jesus wants us to know that these blessings are not just for us – but for all people. They are meant to be shared and not hoarded. The tree that grows becomes a gift for the birds who find a home there. The kingdom of God is meant to provide a place of blessedness and protection for everyone, not just some.
These are some of my favorite parables because they speak to the hope of heaven on earth, and the reality that humans, try as we might, really can’t mess it up. Our “success,” though it may seem slow at times, is never uncertain, because ultimately, the kingdom belongs to God and not to us!
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Have you ever been part of an effort that had a slow, unimpressive start, but which blossomed into something mighty and awesome? What lessons did you learn from that experience? How did you manage to find the faith to keep going on days that seemed difficult?
Prayer: Blessed Lord Jesus, you walked on this earth to call us to live as though we already occupied heaven. You call us to live today as you promise we will all live one day with you. Help us not to lose faith, but to trust that the good works you have given us to do will endure and persevere unto eternity. Amen.