Summary: Jesus uses four analogies to teach truths about the Kingdom of Heaven
The Kingdom of Heaven - Mt. 13:31-33 and 44-52
Jesus uses four different analogies concerning the kingdom of God, in our Gospel reading.
The first analogy is his comparison of the Kingdom of heaven with a mustard seed
The second analogy is his comparison of the Kingdom of heaven with yeast in flour
The third analogy is his comparison of the Kingdom of heaven with Hidden Treasure and a pearl of great worth and
Jesus’ final analogy is the comparison of the Kingdom of heaven with fishing net
1. The first analogy is Jesus’ comparison of the Kingdom of heaven with the Mustard seed
In Jesus’ day, the mustard seed, Sinapis nigra was considered proverbially to be the tiniest of seeds possible. It would be a bit like our saying: “As tiny as a pea.” Yet the marvel of such a small seed is that the resulting plant can grow to as high as 12 ft tall – that is twice my size!
Jesus uses this very apt picture to prophesy the spread of Christianity- from a very small beginning. Yet it has been estimated that as much as a quarter to half the world’s population would call themselves Christian today.
In the Old Testament, the birds of the air was an expression used to depict the Gentiles – often in a negative way.
And so the reference to the birds of the air nesting in the branches of the Mustard plant would have indicated that the Gentiles would be included in the Kingdom of God – something that would have been very unpalatable to a first Century Jew.
The beauty of the Christian Gospel is that the Grace of God is open to anyone whatever race or colour.
2. The second analogy is Jesus’ comparison of the Kingdom of heaven to yeast in flour
It only takes a little yeast to raise the flour completely and make it ready for making bread.
Jesus is saying that the Christian message is not just for Sundays, it will permeate to the core of our society.
We tend to forget how much society today owes to Christianity. Schools, hospitals, prison reform and the social services network all arose from the Christian faith of the early pioneers of these institutions.
Much of our legal system has a Christian foundation and indeed many of the significant breakthroughs in science were made by men with a Christian faith – like Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Lord Kelvin, Clerk Maxwell to name a few.
Jesus is saying in this parable that - like yeast in flour - so the Kingdom of God will permeate the very fabric of society – when we as Christians - put our faith into action.
3. The third analogy is Jesus comparison of the Kingdom of heaven to hidden treasure or a pearl of great worth
In the parable of the Hidden Treasure you might wonder at the ethics of the man who finds the treasure when he is ploughing a filed and buries it again and then goes off to buy the field - note with all he possessed.
Surely this is ethically dubious. Well not according to Jewish law. The rabbis taught that “If a man finds scattered money, it belongs to the finder” (Michael Green’s The Message of Matthew p. 159-160).
In both the parable of the Hidden Treasure and the parable of the Pearl of Great Worth, Jesus is saying here that however we discover Jesus, it is worth sacrificing everything to gain the Kingdom of heaven.
Jim Eliot , a missionary who was killed in South America in the 1950’s said:
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”
4. Jesus final analogy is the comparison of the Kingdom of heaven with the net
This final Parable is a challenge to persevere in our Christian lives. Good works do have a place in the Christian life:
St Paul puts it like this in Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves it is the gift of God – 9 not by works so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The church, like society as a whole will be made up of those who are committed to the cause of Christ and those who aren’t. It isn’t our job to judge others – that’s God’s and the angels’ business.
But Jesus leaves us with the challenge – to test our own faith. And the proof of our faith will come out in the way we live our lives. Amen