Sunday, 3 January 2016

Kingdom of heaven : Parable of the mustard seed, Parable of leaven

We have seen that kingdom of God is already established in the world. Luke 17:21, Pharisees asked when God’s kingdom comes and Jesus replies it is there in your midst. The complete establishment of the kingdom will be at the second coming of Jesus Christ. 

We also saw that Jesus explained about the kingdom of God through parables. Each parable is talking about some aspects of the kingdom of God. 

1st Parable: Parable of the sower: It talks how the kingdom of God is established in the world and how people can be part of that kingdom eternally. 

2nd Parable: Parable of the wheat and weeds: This parable talks about how evil enters into this kingdom of God, when and how God will separate the weeds from the wheat. 

Today we will look into the 3rd and 4th parable about the kingdom of heaven from Matthew chapter 13. They are parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven. 

These two parables which we are discussing today are very short parables compared to the other ones and unlike other ones we don’t see any explanation from Jesus Christ about these parables. He might have explained it to the disciples but we don't see their explanation in any of the 4 gospels. Because of that we see so many different explanations of these parables by different commentators. Anyway, let’s read the parables.

From these two parables, I would like to share three things
o   Nature of the beginning of the kingdom of God
o   Nature of the growth of the kingdom of God
o   How the kingdom attains this extra ordinary growth?

1.     Nature of the beginning of the kingdom of God (Parable of the mustard seed v31)

It all started with a tiny mustard seed. The mustard seed is known for its small size. It was a common usage at that time - "As small as mustard seed", "faith like a grain of mustard seed". 

The kingdom of God which is seen today had a very small beginning. It started with a man called Jesus Christ born in a small town, brought up in a small town, not known till the age of 30, not learnt under any well known scholars or philosophers and finally died a shameful death on the cross.

When the Pharisees and high priests finally sealed the tomb they thought it is the end but it was only the beginning. 
Then came the apostles and his early disciples. Not the elite class of the society. But rather common men, fishermen, not learned and well educated a few people, handful of them. They were people who were afraid, people who had disbelief, they were weak. The Christian faith started with them. Humanly speaking, a very small beginning. 

When someone is building a kingdom, they will chose the best men and delegate the responsibilities. Nobody will chose people who are weak, people who uneducated for helping them in building the kingdom. Do you think Alexander the great will appoint weak, uneducated and untrained people as his commanders and chiefs? They will all take the best men, best warriors, geniuses to aid them. But here look at beginning of the kingdom of God, with weak people - people who were least of all. Not too much in numbers. 

God's way of choosing the team: It’s a unique way of selection throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, the Minor Prophets, selection of apostles. If you observe God's way of selection we see it’s unique. Instead of selecting the best people, he selects the weak and the foolish and makes them strong. The weak Joseph became strong; Moses became strong, look at David. He selects the weak vessels, moulds them into stronger vessels. If he selects the strong, he makes sure that he will breaks it, makes it humble and remold it to strong. Eg: Paul.

1 Co 1:27-29: God chose the foolish things that nobody can glory in God’s presence.

It’s a very comforting thought to us that we can be used by God. God can efficiently use us. We just need to be available for him to use. 

2.     Nature of the growth of the kingdom (Parable of the mustard seed v32)

We were seeing the nature of the beginning, the small and the tiny seed. It began with the weak people. Now let’s look at the nature of the growth. 

The parable says the tiny mustard seed grew and became a tree greater than the other garden plants. 
What do we see about the nature of growth of the mustard plant? It was not a kind of growth according to the proportions of the size of the seed. It was not a kind of growth expected out of it. It grew and became larger than other garden plants. 

As I mentioned, this is a parable prophetic in nature. At the time of writing, the kingdom was small, few handful of people and the Jesus says that it will become bigger than all the others. Today look at Christianity, it has indeed become greater than all others. 30 % of the world today is Christians and second is Islam with 23 %. I am including all the people who profess to be Christians. The present kingdom of God includes all people who profess to be Christians both true and the false ones. We get this idea from the previous parable. Devil has come and added the false ones along with the wheat and only at the end of times, good ones and bad ones will be separated. Also there is one parable which coming next, which says the current kingdom of God, includes the good fishes and bad fishes and at the end of ages, he will separate good and bad. 
So thinking from that point of view, the kingdom of God has become greater than all other religious systems from a very small beginning.
Unfavorable conditions for growth: Another thing which we can find about the nature of the growth is that it grew under very unfavorable circumstances. When you plant a seed, it also requires favorable circumstances to grow. But we see the growth of Christianity, under very bad conditions, right from the birth, even now its suffering and getting persecuted. 

Nobody thought Christian faith will survive 100 years, Romans tried to destroy Christianity, Nero in whose time, Peter and Paul were killed, thought Christianity will end with that. But Christianity didn't perish under persecutions and it thrived under persecutions. 

Rest for other external elements (V32): Not only that it has grown, but grown to an extent to give protection and shelter for the birds, those which are external. What does this mean? People who are not part of the kingdom are also enjoying the shelter and blessings of God’s kingdom?  Today from where the most of the children are getting educated from? Christian schools. The college which was started to train pastors is now known as Harvard University (from where Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates are from). The college once started to teach theology and mathematics is now known as Cambridge university (Issac Newton and Stephen Hawkings(atheist)). Many people enjoy the benefits of many of the modern day inventions. Christian scientists like Issac Newton, Micheal Faraday and Thomas Alva Edison are behind them. Today, where most of the patients are treated? Christian Hospitals. It’s the Christian gospel which changed the uncivilized, barbarians in Africa to normal people through David Livingstone. The society, who is not part of this kingdom, is also enjoying the benefits of this kingdom. They are the birds which found shelter in that mustard tree. When you look at God’s kingdom today you see this prophetic parable literally fulfilled.

3.     How did it have such a kind of growth?

  We have seen the nature of the beginning of God’s kingdom and the nature of the growth of God’s kingdom. We may wonder, how did it grow in such an extra ordinary manner?
The answer to this question lies in the name of the kingdom. It’s called the kingdom of God.

·         It is God’s kingdom and he is the builder and the architect
·         God is building his kingdom not apart from us but through us (involving us)

God is the builder and architect: Firstly, it is God's kingdom and he is building it. God is the architect and the builder and he is using us to build His kingdom. All credits goes to Him because he is the architect. Just like the wonderful buildings, Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, the pyramids of Egypt. When you see those buildings, nobody credits or glorifies the laborers who put the individual stones and lay it in the position which architect tells. While building he will not know why I am keeping the stone in this manner, only after building he will know, this is the reason why I was asked to build like this. And in the end, you will all glorify the architect behind it for the beauty. Similarly God is the architect of his kingdom, we are his workers. Being his laborers, we cannot build according to our design but need to adhere to the master design and plan by God. That's why we see certain building instructions from the architect that nobody builds with perishable things like gold or silver. Clear instructions not to touch the foundations again etc. That’s the reason why this kingdom still exists.

Even in unfavorable circumstances, the architect makes sure that construction still goes on. The only reason for the extra-ordinary growth of this kingdom even though the workers are very weak is because of God. Even though we need to do our work, its God who makes things grow.

Mt 16:18 – I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail
1 Co 3:6 –Paul planted, Apollos watered but its God who makes things grow

It is God who directs which part needs more attention, it is he who decides which area to be built first, it is God who directs the workers where to lay the stones. 

We see Holy Spirit leading Philip to the Eunuch, leading Paul to Cornelius. Even now, we go to places for missions based on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

God is building his kingdom through us (How are we to act in this kingdom): The beauty of it is that He is building through us and not apart from us. So that we can be part of the program of God. It does not matter whether you are weak or capable; we just need to be available.

Firstly, I talked about the aspect of God, now about our role in building his kingdom. I will explain it through the next parable.

Parable of the leaven

This has to be thought along with the previous parable. This parable describes how the kingdom of God grows and influences the entire world. This parable explains how the kingdom of God attains this growth. This parable says how the kingdom of God grows is similar to a process called fermentation.

Leaven (Yeast): It is the small mustard seed or the small and weak people of the kingdom of God.
Flour: Represents the world. 
Process happening: The little yeast is fermenting the entire flour.

Small yeast can leaven the entire dough: As we have seen in the beginning of the kingdom of God. It’s the small amount of yeast which is influencing the complete flour. The small number of true Christians in the kingdom of God will influence the entire world. Yeast is a small microscopic organism. You can’t see it from outside. But that small organism grows by itself and works through the entire dough and leavens the entire flour. When yeast works, it reproduces and grows and works through the dough and leaven it. It is this bulk growth of this organism called yeast which leavens the flour. It’s a chain process. One person after hearing gospel he believes gets transformed. This new believer shares gospel with another person, it works in him, he gets transformed and he in turn shares with another and so on. This is a chain reaction and goes on till the whole amount is leavened. 

Daniel 2:35 Habakkuk 2:14 : Don’t know when it will be fulfilled but hints the comprehensive transformation.

Agents of change: In the process of fermentation, the change is happening within the yeast. One microorganism doubles into two and then so on. Similarly a person who has accepted the gospel changes within. The gospel of grace transforms his heart and external actions flows from him.

The nature of yeast is to grow and to change whatever it contacts. When we accept Christ, His grace grows in our hearts and changes us from the inside out. As the gospel transforms lives, it exerts a pervasive influence in the world at large. As we “reflect the Lord's glory, [we] are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

4.     Conclusion

So we were discussing a new aspect of the kingdom of God regarding how it begins, and the nature of its growth (from the parable of the mustard seed), how this kingdom will exhibit the extra ordinary growth (from the parable of the leaven). The most important truth of this is that God is building his kingdom through weaker elements like us. It does not matter how weak you are, how small you begin. It is God who is going to complete the good works in us. God being the architect of this kingdom is building his kingdom not apart from us but through us. Every believer have unique place in his kingdom and to contribute to the growth of the kingdom. Are we like the leavening agents in this world? Transformed from within first and being the agents of change to whatever we touch? Are we being available for our Builder to finish his construction? Dear brothers and sisters, the whole world, is in front of us, lot of potential and opportunities. Or do we want to limit our Christian faith to these four walls. We are God’s hands and feet. Let me conclude with a poem by a Catholic nun (Teresa).

Christ has no body no but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassionately on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours…

This is my question to you and me. Are we available to labor for his kingdom? Are we the hands and feet and the eyes of Jesus?

May God help us. 

Kingdom of Heaven: Wheat and Tares

Continuation of "Kingdom of God : Entrance..."

Why studying about the kingdom of God is important? Because we are living in the kingdom of God now. It clearly talks how God is working in this time period where we live. He will mediate his kingdom through believers. It represents the church age now. I am definitely sure that many of us have questions about this time? Don’t you?

a)Why so many people are rejecting the gospel? b) Why people don’t understand when I share gospel with them? c) He was a very enthusiastic believer now he is showing no interest. What happened to him? d) Why is this brother not involving in church activities more?

These are not answer-less questions but Jesus is giving answer to all of them from the first parable. He who has ear, let him hear. A) Only ¼ accept gospel and ¾ reject B) The seed in roadside C) Seed on a rocky surface D) Seed is in a thorny surface.

Questions do not end there. Why is there so much evil in this world? Why God is not removing the evil ones? Why we have to live with this evil people? When will God end this? Oh this person is causing split in the church, why is it so? He was a good believer, how did he backslide and became a sinner like this?

The answers to these questions we can find in the second parable. The parable of the wheat and tares. Mt 13:24-30: The parable.  Mt 13:36-43: Explanation of the parable.

The field – The world where gospel is shared.
Sower – Son of man.
Enemy – Devil who planted weeds.
Good seeds – Sons of the kingdom.
Weeds – Sons of the evil one.
Harvest – End of the age.
Harvesters – Angels

The parable is about the things that are happening in one person’s field.

Understanding 1: Where kingdom established and our role being part of this kingdom?

The kingdom of God has already commenced. From where do we find it?(v12:28). Jesus casting out demons with the spirit is the proof that the kingdom of God has already come. This is what is happening now, not future events but the present age.  
V13:37,38 – This talks about the who is sowing the seed, where he is sowing the seed and his intention of sowing the seed.
Where? V38 – He is sowing the seeds in the field. What is the field representing? Field is representing the world. Who is the owner of the field? Son of Man. The world is his field. He is sowing seeds in his field. Jesus is still the owner of the field not the devil. Devil is intruding into his field.
The kingdom of heaven is established in this world. It’s not something which is going to start in heaven, or it is not something which will be established in a secluded place away from the world and its influences. Entire world is his field and he is sowing the good seeds in this world. God has spread out the seeds throughout the world. Don’t interpret it as church. The seeds need to grow in the midst of all influences and it should become the wheat. He doesn’t want us to live a secluded life.
1 Peter 5:10: To be matured by the troubles of the world, to make us strong in this world.
John 16:33: Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
James also says it is to mature us.  That’s why we are planted in this world.
Why? What’s our role being part of the kingdom? (v38)
We are planted here in the world by the Son of Man. We are the children of the kingdom. We are his subject. He is sowing the good seeds in the field with the intention to cultivate wheat in the entire field. He is planting seeds with a purpose. Its not that we fell here somehow. But we are planted here. That the seed should get into the soil. It should not perish there but it should sprout, grow up to become wheat. That’s the intention and purpose of the owner to cultivate wheat in his field. He wants the field to be filled with the wheat.
Growth of every believer is compared to that of a seed. Seed is not supposed to be remain as a seed. It grows from the state of a seed with time. It reaches some amount of growth by time. It does not stay as it is. From seed, first the roots come, these roots will anchor the seed and get the nutrients from the soil. Then it produces stem and start growing upwards, it produces leaves, again grows upwards and after sometime it produces fruit (wheat in this case) and then the harvest comes. He has planted us here so that we fill field and not letting the weeds to grow and fill the field.
Application: How is our growth? Are we remaining in the seed state? Do we exhibit growth with time? Did the roots go down and anchored us? Did the stem come up? Is it producing leaves? Is it producing fruit? Are we influencing the weeds?

Understanding 2: Attack on this kingdom

Jesus is establishing the kingdom of heaven in this world and the devil has intruded into his field and put his sons (sons of evil one) to disrupt the establishment of kingdom of heaven. The tactics that the enemy is using to destroy the kingdom is by preventing its members from growing finally it leads to death.
How does the weeds impact the wheat? When weeds are their in the field they also compete for the nutrients from the soil, sunlight, moisture and space. These weeds will outgrow the wheat and finally the wheat plants are choked and finally it is destroyed. That’s how weeds impact the growth of wheat.
That’s how kingdom of heaven will be affected. If the sons of the evil one are there in the midst they will outgrow us, they will prevent us from getting the nutrients and essentials and finally choke us. These sons of evil one can use the social media like facebook, whatsapp, entertainment industry. They are smart enough they can create interesting groups and keep us engaged and we spent time in those things. We will not get the essential nutrients from the Bible, we fail to spent time in prayer. That’s how these sons of evil one can choke us to death. That’s how his kingdom will suffer.
The next major question is how can you identify these weeds? They can be identified by their activities. Their activities are mentioned in the v41. The angels will weed out his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. These are the ones who do evil and causes sin or influence others to sin. If you open your eyes and look around you can easily find those evil ones. Look to your classrooms, to your offices and you will see these kinds of weeds.
If we are living our Christian life without this knowledge that there are sons of the evil ones around you then you are going to be in great trouble. One of the biggest mistakes that today’s Christian youth or adults makes is that they tend to believe their secular friends and classmates than the Christian friends or leaders. Not only youth but every believer who have stronger bonding with the unbelieving friends than with Christian friends. If you does not realize the fact that devil has planted weeds in this world with the purpose to influence the sons of the kingdom, then you are going to be in a big trouble. Never seek counsels or advises about anything from your unbelieving friends or classmates because they are the sons of evil one.
We see there are only two categories in this field either sons of kingdom or sons of the evil one. If you are not in the first group then you are in the second group. No in between group, its true that there is relative evil. One is more evil and other is less. But they are all children of disobedience. This we can see in other parts. Either vessels of mercy or vessels of wrath. Eph 2:2- You are working under devil.

He plant these weeds amoung the wheat(v25). It means that Devil plants the evil one amongst us. Devil will always love to plant the weeds close to where good seeds are. So sons of the evil one will be planted near to the sons of the kingdom. That’s the church. He can plant these evil ones in the church also.

This kind of situation has happened ever since the beginning of the kingdom in the first century churches.
Corinthian church weeds: People with immorality
Roman church weeds: People who supports law based living rather than grace.
Galatians church weeds: Judaizers, works more important than salvation.
Colossian church weeds: Gnostic people, mysterious knowledge more important than Christ
Thessalonians church weeds: Idle people who want to eat without working.

Understanding 3: Motivation and the appointed harvest (v28, 29)

We may think why can’t God immediately pluck those weeds, or is God not aware of the situation? But the parable says, that the owner of the field is aware that the enemy is doing and even his servants are ready to clean out those weeds but the owner of the field fixes and appointed time of harvest. We also often wonder why God is not destroying them? This is the question that many unbelievers ask. Where is God and what is God doing? Why don’t you wipe out the unbelieving world?
The owner of the field or Christ purposefully delays the harvest to an appointed time for the good of the sons of the kingdom or wheat. In the initial stages it is little difficult to identify the weeds from the wheat. After it grows to some stage and produce leaves then only we can clearly identify between the wheat and weeds. Here we see (v27,28) when it just sprouted and formed heads, the servants are asking to pluck out the weeds. But the owner reply – Hold on – (v29,30), while plucking out you may pull out the wheat also, because both may look similar now. Wait till harvest then you can collect the weeds first. Because at the time of harvest, both will be grown and formed the leaves now it will be clearly distinguishable. Then we will separate. God is giving time, He is being patient by not destroying anything which looks like a weed in the early stages. This is an age of grace and actions are taken at the time of harvest.
He knows that if you pluck out the tares whenever it comes up there are chances that the wheat also may come up with that. It can happen some point in our lives we get tangled with this tares, and after some time we realize that this is not good and get separated from that. At somepoint in our Christian life or growth we will not be clearly distinguishable, but will be exhibiting the characteristics of weed itself.  If God decided to pluck those tares early, the sons of the kingdom who were tangled up with the wheat at that time, will also get destroyed that’s why we see God giving time for everyone. He appoints a time for harvest. Only then he will come and separate between wheat and tares. It’s a warning for us to change. Be clearly separated from the weeds.
Our lifestyle, our words and deeds is it exhibiting the characteristics of weed or wheat?
Our motivation and our destiny: All these toils and struggle is not going to be wasted. (v30) At the harvest, the weeds will be first collected and burned and the wheat to his barn. Explanation of that comes in (V42,43). Sons of the evil one are punished in the hell where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Fire is the word used everywhere in Bible for hell. Dying by fire is one of the most terrible thing that can happen. That’s how it is going to be in hell.
Sons of kingdom the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Jesus says wait, hold on, live together now, be patient with the evil ones, after the harvest the glory will come. You will shine like stars in his kingdom. Still the kingdom of Father is continuing and we will be there in the kingdom. That will be the final consummation of the kingdom. Till that point of time, the kingdom will be mixed with the evil ones. And we have to live among them.

Application of this parable

The application of the parable can be seen in v43. He, who has ears, let him hear. That’s the application. Listen and understand this truth, understand this reality of the kingdom of heaven and live. Are you a weed in the kingdom? Then you are going to be plucked out and burnt in the furnace of fire. Are you a wheat? Then you are asked to co-exist in the world. You are asked to be separated from the weeds, You are asked to grow like a seed and become its final form that’s wheat. You are asked to patient till the time of harvest and not judging others before that. May God help us to understand this reality of the kingdom of heaven and live. 

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