"A KINGDOM FOR ALL"
Matthew 13.31???33, 44???52??
31He put before them another parable: ???The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.??? 33He told them another parable: ???The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.?????
44???The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45???Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47???Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.??
51???Have you understood all this???? They answered, ???Yes.??? 52And he said to them, ???Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."??
Today, I may be teaching more than preaching. When dealing with parables, it is important that we see them as opportunities to learn lessons. When can rest in the fact that there really is a moral to the story or a ???take home??? point. Last week we talked about tending the soil of our hearts and making way for fruit. God???s intention is that each of our lives would bear fruit, that our lives would provide for others. In Jesus??? first parable today, we see just exactly that. Let???s look at the mustard seed image.??
THE MUSTARD SEED??
It is obvious that Jesus wants His listeners to understand that the kingdom of heaven is like a tiny, tiny mustard seed. But the question is why? Those who know some things about mustard plants know that they do not grow to be incredibly large. Mustard plants are actually large shrubs. They do not compare to mighty oaks and pines; they grow to around 12 feet high at the most. So the point here isn???t in how a small seed grows into a large plant. The point is rather that from the least of seeds comes the most helpful plant. If you look at the parable, what is it that the tree accomplishes? Is it largeness? No, but its accomplishment is the provision for the birds of the air. The mustard plant has given over its branches to provide for those who need a home and protection. The tree is a shelter.??
Jesus??? message through this parable is that the kingdom of heaven grows from something small, something seemingly insignificant and grows to be a great provider. The kingdom of heaven is a kingdom that gives its branches to those who need shelter, in whatever form it takes. Within God???s house there are many rooms, many dwelling places, as Jesus says in John 14.2. Do not miss the message here and think that God???s kingdom, that the Church and all its many ministries are supposed to be as big as oaks. Some may be, but this is not what is required. What is true about God???s kingdom here is that our hearts be open to provide for others, lending our branches for them to come and nest. God???s kingdom is a kingdom for all.??
This parable, too, is a picture of the Church. Remember that the Church is God???s chosen vehicle through which He does His work within the world. The flour is the world and the yeast is the Church. Through the Holy Spirit, the Church is kneaded into the world, like yeast into flour. The world is big and so is the 3 measures of flour, as mentioned in the text. All it takes i
s a little bit of the Spirit-filled Church to make the world rise.??
The trick is for us as Christians, as the Church, to be worked into the world. This is almost impossible if we completely alienate ourselves from them. But in order for the dough to rise, like in the parable, the yeast has to function as yeast, the ingredient that causes the rising. Listen closely and understand that the yeast isn???t affected by the flour, rather it is the flour that is affected by the yeast. The Church is the one that has the affect on the world. If it is the other way around, then we are not serving our functions correctly. Our function is for us to be worked into the world, so that the grace of God begins to spill over into the lives of those who need His touch, His healing, His grace. The Church…is the kingdom of heaven on earth and the kingdom is a kingdom for all.??
THE TREASURE & THE FIELD / THE PEARL
In the parable of the treasure and the field, we see that the man who has found the treasure, this great and wonderful treasure, cares about all that surrounds it. If it was only about the treasure, he could have dug it up and gone about his way. But because the treasure was buried in the field, the entire field was worth having. The treasure and its dwelling place made the ground holy.??
In the same way, we understand that the life that God is offering us in Jesus Christ is one that is lived out here on earth. Eternal life starts here and now with faith in Jesus Christ. God could have simply taken us away and separated us very quickly, like we learned in the parable of the wheat and the weeds. But instead, God has given us eternal life and He has placed that life within our reach, here in the field we call earth.??
For the parable of the pearl, the great question we must ask is Will I put God first? Will I see God as the only thing worth having? If having God required me to give up all that I have, would I do it? We understand that we do not have to give up everything in order to have Christ. If we have possessions, if we have resources, then we must re-orient those things towards glorifying God. We can ask ourselves How can I use all that I have to be loving and giving toward others for God???s glory? How can I use what I have for God instead of for myself? Through all this, we can reach out to those around us and show the world that the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom for all.??
THE NET & THE FISH??
And for this last image, we may remember back to last week, to the wheat and the weeds. Jesus again is reminding those who are listening that all kinds will be gathered together. The net of a fisherman in Jesus??? time was a large dragnet, one that would be able to catch a large load. Because God is reaching out to all, we see that His kingdom is for all. Again, the good will be separated from the bad. But don???t miss the message of the other parables.??
Those that are good are those that can conform to this way of life. Jesus reminds us in John that if we love Him we'll obey His commands. Living as Jesus lived and truly learning from these parables means seeking God first. As the scripture says in Matthew 6,??
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.??
Jesus is inviting each of us on a journey. Going on a journey isn???t an easy thing. The trip is hard and long; having the right tools is necessary. There is a certain ???prepared-ness??? that is crucial to traveling the spiritual path well. Yet, it is through these parables that we can be prepared. We have before us the opportunity to see into our own lives through these parables and ask important questions from them.??
- Are my branches extended for others to find shelter???
- Am I being worked into the world in a way that raises it up rather than tears it down???
- Have I found the treasure of Christ and purchased the field to make the world a holy place???
- Will I give of what I have and put God at the center???
- Will I be found as a fish worth keeping in God???s net of grace???
May God strengthen our longing for Him this day. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.??
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