Summary: Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus: Some Characteristics of the Kingdom
Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus:
Some Characteristics of the Kingdom
Last week we saw that Jesus healed a disabled woman as a sign post pointing to the presence of the Kingdom. Jesus exercised Gods authority and rule with the afflicted woman and so this raises issues about authority and rule. Now he shares two parables, which are analogies from life to describe what the kingdom is like.
1. The First Parable: What Seems Insignificant is Unstoppable
His first parable compares the kingdom to a mustard seed that a man took and threw it in his garden, and it grew over time to become a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches. The mustard seed in Jewish thought signified something small and insignificant but depending on the kind, the bush could grow from 10 to 25 feet tall to become a refuge for birds. The seemingly insignificant, unnoticeable seed is like the gospel of the kingdom that in the eyes of the Jewish leaders seemed insignificant yet will grow to become a refuge for Gentiles.
Daniel 4:10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
The birds represent God including Gentiles in his covenant. The Kingdom becomes a haven for Gentiles because Israel rejected her Messiah.
Luke 17:20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."
The Kingdom came not as the Jews leaders expected, as a mighty political or military kingdom, but instead as a King who served, shepherded, and died for his people. It is a Kingdom that expands by changing hearts as God exerts his rule or kingship in their hearts. You may not see it or even notice it at times, but the signposts (demonstrations of kingdom) are reminders that it is here and it is advancing! Do not be discouraged by what you don't see happening as many times what God does is under the surface and it is only as the bush has grown and provides shade and shelter that we see its impact (ie lose heart: Luke 18:1; 2 Cor 4:1, 16; Eph 3:13).
2. The Second Parable: The Kingdom Permeates Everything it Impacts
In this parable, a woman hides yeast in dough until it permeates the whole batch. If you've never baked bread, you may not understand the radical difference yeast makes. You take flour, water, a bit of oil and salt and knead it together with yeast. It is pretty compact at this point, and if you were to bake it at that point the bread would be heavy and hard. But if you let it sit, the yeast begins to metabolize the sugars in the dough, forming carbon dioxide that creates tiny gas pockets all through the dough, making the dough rise. As the loaf bakes, the gas expands even more as the temperature rises, until the dough bakes, holding the shape of those tiny gas pockets, now filled with air. Whatever the Kingdom touches, even in the smallest ways, grows and multiplies until it permeates and impacts the whole. The kingdom is an unstoppable force. Even as Israel tried to stop the Kingdom by killing the King, the Kingdom only multiplied according to His plan. When Jewish leaders tried to squelch the early church, they unwittingly scattered the seeds of the gospel. The Kingdom will not be stopped or threatened by political foes (32ff) or Satan (10-17) or religious opposition.
Mark 11:20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." 22 And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."