How bold would I be to say that it is one of hope?
Jesus, in seeing joy manifested in the lives of the people He is talking to felt justified to giving two parables describing the glimpses of hope that comes on behalf of kingdom – the mustard seed and yeast.
If you’re like me, sometimes you get discouraged. What you’ve worked so hard to do seems so small and insignificant — so futile, so hopeless, so tiny. The disciples may have felt that way about the Kingdom of God. Here’s an itinerant carpenter-preacher speaking in villages in a minor Roman province. Not very impressive when you look at the big picture.
This was not the first time Jesus used the mustard seed as an illustration – in fact, both illustrations dealt with hope – He used the image to express the hope that He has on the disciples because with a minimum amount of faith – “faith like a mustard seed” – they could accomplish so much.
This parable of the mustard seed is about one being planted in a garden. The tiny seed eventually grew into a sizeable bush so that the birds were able to make their nests in it. When these words were written the Church, the agent of Jesus’ mission, was still tiny but it had already begun to grow considerably from its beginnings with a handful of Jesus’ disciples. There is an air of hope and confidence that it will continue to grow in spite of the persecutions and setbacks it is facing and will continue to face. Within a single generation after Christ’s death, Christianity had spread all over the Roman empire and beyond, to India in the East, Ethiopia to the South, and Britannia to the West. How amazed would those Christians be to know that the seed since has grown not into a shrub but into a huge tree! In our own time, we need to keep fresh the hope and confidence of this parable.
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” – Luke 13:18-21