He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” Luke 13:18-21
What is Jesus telling us in today’s verses? Taken by themselves these verses seem to be just a couple of short sayings that Luke chose to insert in his Gospel. I have been pondering them for a few days when I reminded myself that when trying to understand God’s word then context can be everything. In this case Jesus had just finished pointing out the hypocrisy of the synagogue leaders. I then turned to the Bible Knowledge Commentary and found that today’s verses may be more negative than positive when it comes the kingdom of God. While the mustard seed my seem positive the use of leaven has had negative connotations in the history of God’s people.
I think Jesus is warning us that like the hypocrisy of the synagogue leaders so the church, the kingdom of God on earth, can and sometime is susceptible to things that cause us to lose touch with what God wants for us. It does not take much, just as a little amount of leaven can contaminate all the dough so wrong teaching can contaminate a church we must always be on guard to ensure that what is taught in our churches conforms to God’s Word. We must always be ready to stand up and confront those who would distort God’s Word but to do so with love.
So what about that mustard seed? Well a mustard seed can grow to a thirty foot plant in one season. Left unchecked false teachings can spread rapidly through a church. Causing that body to lose contact with what God wants for all of us. Yes, most of us want to have good health and have enough money to satisfy all out wants but Jesus never promised us those things. In fact He tells us to take up our crosses and follow Him. Taking up a cross is not a pleasant thing but the rewards for doing so are eternal.
What can we take away from today’s verses? First that we need to be always on guard for false teaching. Second that when a passage of scripture is hard to understand we need to first look at the context but also seek guidance from those more mature in the faith. In today’s essay I availed myself of the Bible Knowledge Commentary but I could have used other sources and asked my pastor for guidance.
One final thought. Our modern translations of the Bible are great and we have a number of translations to choose from. Often it is helpful to compare translations to get a fuller feel for what the writers were telling us. But we need to be aware that the chapters, verses and the helpful heading are add-ons not in the original manuscripts. I know that having chapters makes reading God’s Word easier and of course finding particular parts of scripture is made easier by headings and verse numbers. After all how hard would it be for AWANAs participants to memorize scripture without verses? But when Luke wrote his Gospel he did it as a narrative letter with no chapters and not numbered verses. We run the risk of misunderstanding God when we pluck verses out of context. For what I consider a very good look at this issue take a look at Stand to reason’s Solid Ground issues for January and March at this link. http://www.str.org/explore#&format=Publication
Have a blessed day,