After two parables about sowers, seeds and fields, Jesus continues with the same imagery for the third parable; and then extends the idea through the fourth. The Parables of the Mustard Seed (Matt 13:31-32) and Leaven (Matt 13:33), communicate one truth: the impact of the Kingdom and how it starts. Let us be reminded that it is not about Christendom nor Church-dom, but Kingdom. More importantly, it is directed at the individual.
Here are the parables, reproduced hereunder for easy reference:
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’ Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.'” Matthew 13:31–33
Using both male and female tasks of the day, the message is clearly directed at both men and women whether in the workplace or at home. For this reason, I believe that these parables should be duly appropriated by the individual with personal and practical application rather than the familiar broad statements about how God’s kingdom will start small and grow exponentially and impact nations. That is of course true, but it must first begin with the individual, every man and every woman.
Drawing from the Parable of the Soils and as explained in A Heart for the Kingdom, it begins with the right heart and posture, one that is deeply desirous of The Mysteries of the Kingdom. The seed that is sown, as we have already established, is “the word of the kingdom” (Matt 13:19), not just some inspirational or motivational message that is prevalent in churches these days.
Now, here’s the big idea:
Regardless of the message, with the right heart and attitude, all it takes is one little word, one small point, one short line – the size of a mustard seed – and the seed of the word of the kingdom of God is lodged in the heart! And if this diligent one would duly tend the ground of his heart, to remove stones and thorns, that little seed of the kingdom will begin to grow, to impact his life, to change his mind, and to influence his decisions. Over time. he will grow into a mighty tree in the kingdom, an oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord (Isaiah 61:3). But don’t stop there for the verse goes on to declare – “that He may be glorified!” How? Read the next verse: “And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:4) In other words, when “birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matt 13:32). It is when individuals are first personally impacted by the word of the kingdom that they will rise up and take their rightful positions in their spheres of influence to establish the kingdom of God. That’s when societies and nations will be reformed and transformed! And God is glorified!
And so it is too with leaven. Here, the emphasis is on the hiddenness of this baking ingredient. Stay-at-home mothers would understand and appreciate this best. Their toils and tears are often hidden, unseen and unappreciated. Kingdom impact is not always about the big things or the bright lights. Once again, all it requires is a ready heart to receive the word of the kingdom, allowing it time and process. Soon, the aroma of fresh bread fills the room and then hungry appetites are satisfied. Those who bake will understand that you don’t need a lot of leaven to bake bread. As it is with the mustard seed, all it takes in one little word of the kingdom to make a great difference for it will take root, grow and begin to impact your marriage, your family and your home and these will smell and taste the kingdom in you! No glitz. No glamour. Just hiddenness. But what an impact! Let it be emphasised again that although what you do at home or in hiddenness may seem meaningless and unproductive at times, with the right heart, it can grow into a great and positive kingdom contribution!
It is a very simple kingdom principle that Jesus is sharing. And yet, I fear that we might have focussed too much on what the end result could be and totally missed the place where it starts – a heart that is ready to receive the word of the kingdom. If we would do our part, God will more than do His.
Stop looking for new and great revelations. Start with that little mustard seed, that little bit of leaven of the word of the kingdom of God! Begin with smallness and hiddenness and see how God can grow the word in and through you to bring about a mighty impact of the kingdom around you.