We Christians talk a lot about the Kingdom of God, but what exactly is it? Just a place people go to in the afterlife? Heaven? Jesus often said things “The Kingdom of God is among you, is near, has come.” What in the world did he mean? The people in his day often seemed confused about the Kingdom of God. I wonder if we are too.
In Luke 13:10-21, Jesus has the perfect opportunity to talk further about the Kingdom. After ticking off the local synagogue ruler for doing a healing on the Sabbath, Jesus tells two super short parables about the Kingdom.
First is the Mustard seed; it’s tiny, but grows huge. I’ve never seen this in real life, so I’m going to take Jesus’ word for it.
The second is about Yeast; again it is tiny, but infects a huge lump of dough. How huge? Massive. The NIV says “large amount of dough”, but Jesus actually uses a specific measurement here. If you’re reading in the Greek, it is 3 satas. A sata was 12-13 liters. So about 36 liters worth of dough. Who can do the math to convert that to gallons? 9.5. You can make a lot of bread with 9.5 gallons of dough. To his main point, Jesus is right. Even a tiny amount of yeast will expand, multiply and spread through that dough. Again, I haven’t worked with yeast before, but some bakers I’ve talked with vouched for this story. They told me that it is amazing to watch work through some dough.
What is the Kingdom of God like? In these two parables Jesus teaches that the Kingdom starts small, but grows and expands with surprising hugeness.
What in the world is Jesus thinking here? Why would he want to tell these two parables at this point?
With the healing having just taken place, and with the interaction about Sabbath, what about this situation caused him to think about the nature of the Kingdom of God? Could it be that he wants to point out to the people how different the Kingdom of God is to the religious system that they are used to?
The Kingdom of God is surprising like the mustard seed. That tiny little seed grows into something huge. The Kingdom of God, like the Yeast, is contagious, it spreads surprisingly fast through even a large group. The Kingdom of God grows and strengthens as it grows. How does this happen? By following the rules and regulations of a man-made religious system? Nope. Instead the Kingdom’s surprising growth happens in us and through us when we follow the way of Jesus who was willing to follow the way of the Kingdom even if it meant not following the man-made rules of the local religious system.
I love how Jesus refers to this in the Lord’s Prayer that we talked about a few weeks ago. You know the phrase “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? Think about the dynamic of that. God wants his kingdom to come into our lives so we are transformed by him. Our lives should be growing, changing as a result of following Jesus. Let the Kingdom of God work its way through your life.
Let the Kingdom of God grow in you. Let’s not be a people who brainlessly follow religious rules, like the synagogue ruler wanted Jesus to. Let us allow God’s Kingdom to fully infect us.
How? How do we allow God’s Kingdom to flow through us? There are at least a couple lessons to learn from this story in Luke 13:10-21:
First, do good, like Jesus did. There are so many ways to apply this. What does being a do-gooder look like for you in your home, in your office, in your school?
Second, practice the principle of Sabbath: rest, don’t work 24-7, worship, be with your family. I’ve been convicted of this lately. Our denomination sets how much vacation time I get. Pastors start with three weeks of vacation each year. Each of those weeks can include one Sunday off. For every ten years of ministry, you get an additional week off, maxing out at five weeks. Each year pastors are also allowed to be away for one Sunday of Ministry or Study Leave, such as when I was away on the mission trip to Kenya. I’ve been with the EC Church for 13 years in full-time ministry, so I now can take four weeks off each year, including four Sundays away.
Frankly, I’ve done a terrible job of taking my vacation. Don’t applaud that. Sometimes employees where it as a badge of honor that they don’t take vacation. There is a great reason for vacation, and no matter your profession it is very wise to take it. I say that based in the principle of Sabbath. As much as you and I should be finding weekly time for rest, family and worship each week, we should also use our vacation time.
I am not trying to impose a new rule, a new Sabbath day, or anything like that. I am saying that we should look at the principle of Sabbath, and we should apply it to our lives. There are some other ways to allow the Kingdom of God to infect you:
- Be disciples who make disciples – watch the Kingdom grow through you.
- Pray for the filling of the Spirit.
- Immerse yourself in the Word of God – Read the Word.
Do you ever think, “What can I do? I am just one insignificant person?” But that’s exactly how the kingdom of God starts. Through one person. Start Small. One little thing. If each person did one thing, imagine the impact. We can too easily think that our one life impact is too small, doesn’t matter. We don’t have to get massive attention, or right away make a radical impact. Our culture loves to highlight the big splashes. But what about all the people who are just faithful in small ways? They never get a news story about them. They never become famous. But they are being faithful. Put together they are a massive impact.
This is one of the reasons why I love that in our school district we have a ministerium that works together in unity. Churches of all shapes and sizes have joined together to promote Christ and share his love to our community. In recent years the ministerium started Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services which features a clothing bank and food bank making a difference in the lives of people in our school district. I’m honored to be a part of that.
Allowing the Kingdom to infect your life might start very small. Like the mustard seed. Like the yeast. But that is okay. Start something!