THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE A MUSTARD SEED

 

Luke 13:18-35

Key Verse: 13:18-19

 

“Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”

 

In the previous passage Jesus warned us that unless we repent, we too will perish.

So last week’s popular word was “Repent, it is good thing.” Today, Jesus gives us two Kingdom parables and encourages us to make every effort to enter through the narrow door. Then he expresses his sorrow for the fate of Jerusalem. May God bless us to grow as spiritual giants so that we can expand the kingdom of God like a mustard seed and be good influence to our generation like yeast. I pray that we may know Jesus very personally and enter through the narrow door to participate the feast of the kingdom of God.

 

PART I KINGDOM PARABLES: MUSTARD SEED AND YEAST (13:18-21)

 

Look at verse 18-19. “Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.’” Jesus asked it and answered his own question. Jesus explained the nature of the kingdom of God in this parable. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which is the smallest seed. The mustard is like a small dot. But once it was planted, it grew and grew and became a tree. Then the birds of the air perched in its branches. What does this parable mean? The kingdom of God started small but ended large. It will provide resting place for the weary and burdened people. Jesus came as the kingdom of God like a mustard seed. He was born in a manger as a humble baby and he had a blue collar job as a carpenter in the small town in Galilee. He called 12 disciples and trained them to become his followers. His disciples seemed to grow slowly or not to grow at all. But they grew to become spiritual giants who changed the world history. The kingdom of God spread to six continents and five oceans. Today, it covers the whole world. The Jews and the disciples expected that the kingdom of God would come suddenly and gloriously from the beginning by overthrowing the Roman Empire and establishing the Jewish Messianic Kingdom by the political King. But Jesus said that it would grow slowly and eventually would become a place of comfort and shelter under the protective shade of the Almighty God. What a comforting and good news it is.

 

Also the mustard seed is compared to the word of God. The word of God is living and active. (Hebrews 4:12) Once it is planted in our heart, we will grow. How? It is God who will grow the seed. We just make environments like planting and watering and then wait for the seed to grow as a tree. (1 Corinthians 3:6)  We need patience until the seed grows to be a tree. One word can build a person to become a spiritual giant. Genesis 12:1-2 changed Abraham’s life. It took 25 years for him to grow as a father of many nations. Some sheep seem not to grow at all. As long as one tiny word like a mustard seed is planted, they will grow in God’s time. Once I was a selfish and unmovable worldly person. But God changed me once I accepted one word of God John 12:24. Our ministry started small in the apartment called CPT 210 and grew to become a world mission center today. Our fellowship may be small right now like a mustard seed but it may grow to be the largest fellowship raising up many spiritual giants like Billy Graham later. Praise God. The kingdom of God is growing among many YDJ members today.  

 

Look at verses 20-21. “Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.’” The second picture of the kingdom involves another common truth: yeast that is added to the ingredients for making bread and permeates it through and through. Small portion affects the whole dough. The point is that the kingdom will eventually permeate the world. It may be small and insignificant now, but it will eventually grow and be present everywhere. The kingdom of God will penetrate to the ends of the earth covering the whole earth. The effect of the kingdom is so powerful and it will influence the whole world. In the first parable, man planted the seed but in the second parable woman took yeast and mixed it into a large amount of flour. Yeast symbolizes influence. Maybe woman’s influence is so penetrating and powerful. There is a saying, “Man rules the world but woman rules man.” What I mean is that mother’s influence shapes man’s life. Though influence is invisible, it is everything. Bible teaching is more influential than communist doctrine. Christian faith is penetrating to everywhere in China. Many Beijing University students think that Lenin’s communist manifesto is dead but Christian influence is growing everywhere. Living by faith will influence others. Though we cannot change our sheep, our life of faith will influence them to follow Jesus. Our life of faith will influence our children too. They will do what we will do and will become like us good or bad. There is also bad influence. Jesus warned the yeast of the Pharisees which was their hypocrisy. It is important to watch out the bad influence and follow good influence. Adam gave us bad influence of disobedience but Jesus gave us good influence of obedience. In Adam all die but in Christ all will be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:22) Abe Lee gave YDJ good influence of mission life and many other YDJ followed his example of good influence.

 

PART II ENTER THROUGH THE NARROW GATE (13:22-30)

 

In this part Jesus was heading to Jerusalem to become the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. Even though his heart was heavy due to the upcoming suffering on the cross and his death by the criminals, Jesus was teaching the word of God as he made his way to Jerusalem. He delivered the message of repentance and the kingdom of God. Probably not many people repented though he warned them constantly. Jesus’ many warnings finally make an impression on at least one person. Look at verse 23. “Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’” To this man’s estimate, the number of those saved seems to be small. How did Jesus answer his question? Jesus does not describe the number of saved as few, but he shows that people all over the place will attend the heavenly feast. (29) Look at verse 23b-24. “He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.’” Jesus exhorts his audience to make every effort to enter through the narrow door. The idea is not to work hard to earn salvation, but to labor hard at listening and repenting to his message. Our efforts will not get us to heaven. Our merit will not get us to heaven. The only passports to the kingdom are repentance and submission to God. Repentance and submission to God simply mean coming to Jesus for forgiveness of sins. Coming to our Bible study or prayer meeting is our effort to enter through the narrow door. The narrow-door imagery suggests that fewer may enter than expected. Jesus declared in John 10:9, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” Here the door or the gate symbolizes Jesus or his teaching or his cross. But the problem is that the door is narrow and small and only a few find it. (Matt. 7:14) Jesus is the open entry to the kingdom of God. He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6) We realize that Jesus is the only door that leads us to the heavenly banquet. There is no other door. Jesus himself entered through the narrow door and set the example for us to follow. His life was the way of cross. He was falsely accused all the time by the religious leaders. He suffered a lot to take care of God’s flocks. Often times we found him praying to the Father in a solitary place. He denied his own desire and took up the cross of mission. Sinful people nailed him on the cross but God raised him up from the dead and made him our Lord and King and Savior. God honored his name above all names. By taking up the cross Jesus became the door to the kingdom of God.

 

As our Savior and King, Jesus invited us to the kingdom of God. How? Jesus said in Mark 8:34, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” Self-denial and taking up the cross is the narrow door. But it is the way of life and it is the only way that leads us to eternal life. In China it is really a narrow door to follow Jesus. So our missionaries make every effort to enter through the narrow door. As a result, their faith is real and they love cross of Jesus and their spirit is alive and powerful. They seem to be happy and strong though they are not rich. Spiritual power does not come from good human condition but it comes from the cross of Jesus. I remembered 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The more we take up the cross of Jesus, the stronger we become.

 

What is the consequence of not entering through the narrow door? They enter through the wide door and they will be excluded in the feast of the kingdom of God. There is another door that is open wide to them. It is the wide door that many enters through it and leads them to destruction. (Matt. 7:13) They do not need to struggle to enter through the wide door. Majority enter through this door. These days people greet each other, “Man, take easy.” Easy-going life is a highway to destruction. For example, if a student takes easy by playing video games and attending many drinking parties instead of taking up the cross of studying and learning at school, he will be dismissed from school. The door will be closed to him. The other day I was at BWI airport to fly to Orlando for the KIMNET conference. I saw a long line to check in the luggage and wanted to take an easy way without checking in my luggage. But the security confiscated M. Esther’s liquid cosmetics and as a result we missed the airplane. I was helpless seeing the narrow door to the airplane to be closed while waiting for M. Esther.  I learned a painful and costly lesson. Do not take a short cut but do it right in the first place though it may take more time. Many people are interested in the hands of God. They cry out, “O! God, bless me.” They like to receive God’s blessings but they don’t like to take up the cross of mission. God sent us to serve campus mission. Of course, it is not easy to take up God’s mission but it gives meaning and purpose to our life.

 

 Look at verse 25. “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.” The door will be closed unknowingly. Timing is important to enter through the door to join in the heavenly banquet.   It is important to make decision to believe when we are in college. Once we graduate, we will be caught up in the job world to make money and support family. We will have no time to listen to Jesus and believe in his gospel message. S. David said, “If I did not accept Jesus in my college days, I would have missed to believe in Jesus because I would be very busy in surviving this dog-eat-dog world.” Let’s enter through the narrow door of Jesus while the door is still open to us. The door is open now but it will not remain forever.

Once it is shut, it will be bolted. People of Noah’s time the door was closed when the Flood came.

 

Look at verse 25b and 27. “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” Jesus now describes the exclusion of some who had expected to be in the kingdom simply because they observed the ministry. The image is clear, graphic, and painful: weeping and gnashing of teeth. Many in Israel thought that they were in but they were dead wrong. How did they answer to Jesus? Look at verse 26. “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’” Having eating fellowship and attending church service will not guarantee our salvation. Do not assume that because you are exposed to the truth, you have it. You do not have the product simply because you are in the store. You have to buy the product to own it. In the same way, we must know Jesus personally to be admitted to the kingdom of God. Salvation is based on personal faith. We cannot enter the narrow door as a group. Please let me enter the feast because I belong to Cross fellowship or I am a son of powerful missionary. This will not work. We must enter through the narrow door one by one. Each one must know Christ personally to be admitted to the kingdom of God. While meditating this passage I was thinking about why many will try to enter and will not able to. I realized that the door remained the same but I changed. I became too fat to enter through the narrow door. I gained too much due to my sinful life. I no longer fit to the narrow door. I compromised with the world. I loved the world more than Jesus. I could not answer Jesus’ question in John 21:15, “Jacob, son of Lee, do you love me more than these?” Why? I loved the world more than Jesus. I lost my first love. I am too comfortable in this world. I changed too much and Jesus may not recognize me saying, “ I don’t know you.” God gave me a new heart to know Jesus more and have deeper relationship with Jesus.   

 

Look at verse 28. “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out . People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” The fortunes will be changed when the door is closed. Those who entered through the wide gate and had fun and enjoyed sinful life on earth will weep and gnash their teeth but those who entered through the narrow door will enjoy life eternal with Jesus.  In contrast to those who are absent from the kingdom are those who are present. They will come from everywhere: east, west, north, and south. Many Jews were excluded but many unexpected Gentiles were included. These Gentiles will sit down in the blessed banquet table with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets. Jesus warns his Jewish audience about their rejection of his repeated invitation. We need not worry about full attendance at the table, for many others, coming from everywhere, will find a seat. The banquet in the kingdom of God will be glorious because we will see the patriarchs of faith and all the prophets who suffered to enter through the narrow door. The heavenly banquet will be filled with joy and happiness because there will be no more sorrow and sin. We will enter through the pearly gate and will live with Jesus forever. The kingdom of this world will pass away but the kingdom of God will be forever. Our suffering will be less that the future glory. Jesus ended his teaching with another warning in verse 30, “Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Some Gentiles who are distant will end up near, while many Jews will miss the promised kingdom.

 

PART III JESUS’ SORROW FOR JERUSALEM (31-35)

 

    At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."  There is no reason to doubt the intention of the Pharisees. They seem to be sincere in warning Jesus of imminent danger. The threat to Jesus was real. But Jesus was not afraid. Look at verses 32-33. "He replied, ‘Go tell that fox, "I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal." In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day–for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!'" Jesus knew that he must die in Jerusalem as the Lamb of God; it was God's will. Jesus would finish this mission and rise again

on the third day. There was no deviation in Jesus. Nothing will deter Jesus from God’s call for the world salvation. Jesus was sent by God on a mission. He is headed to Jerusalem to die, and the threat of an earthly ruler like Herod will not stop him. He regarded his mission more than his own life. God’s servants must follow Jesus’ example. Apostle Paul knew that his life was in danger if he visited Jerusalem. Many people recommended him not to go. But he said in Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Do you regard your mission more precious than your life? If your answer is “Yes”, God may bless your heart.  

 

     Look at verses 34-35. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in

the name of the Lord.'" It was a great irony that the holy city Jerusalem became the city most hostile to God. It was there that the prophets had been killed. It was there that the Messiah would be rejected and crucified as a criminal. The consequence would be terrible destruction of the city and severe punishment of its residents. Nevertheless, Jesus expressed his shepherd broken heart for them like a mother hen tried to protect her chicks. Do I have such shepherd heart for young people in America who live without God’s love? May God teach us the heart of Jesus’ love.

 

     In this passage we learn that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows to become a great tree. When one word of God is in our hearts and growing, we can become truly great servants of God. The kingdom of God spreads like yeast to each of our campuses and even throughout America and the world. May God help us to make every effort to have one word of God in our hearts. May God help us to grow to maturity as shepherds like our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s read the key verses 18-19