Suggested Reading: Matthew 13:31-35
Jesus used many symbols to bring the reality of God’s kingdom home to His listeners. He really wanted them to get this. In these two parables, He uses the symbol of a seed and yeast to describe how God’s multifaceted Kingdom operates.
When Jesus uses a seed to bring across what the Kingdom of God is like, there are many facets to this metaphor. However, the two that stood out for me is the fact that a seed represents a small, invisible start to something big and fruitful. It also represents a dying before there can be life.
Looking at the Kingdom of God as the salvation of a person, we can see how the seed fits in perfectly with what happens. When we are saved, we may be elated, filled with joy and very enthusiastic for the Lord. However, there may still be very few changes in our character flaws and for others, looking in from the outside, it may appear as if nothing has changed initially. However, as time passes and He creates His character in us, our nature reflects the characteristics of Jesus more and more. May this serve as encouragement to those who are often disillusioned after they find that although many of their weaknesses are gone, there are many others that remain and which disappear only with time as we wait on the LORD and remain in His word.
Secondly, a seed has to die in order to bring forth a fruitful life. This is one of the mysteries of nature –how something that appears dead and useless can grow into something as big as mustard tree. Mustard seeds are indeed small. But when they grow they become large mustard trees which provide shelter for animals in nature and shade for weary travellers. Likewise, when the Lord plants the seed of His kingdom in our hearts, we may appear to be without fruit. But as we learn that daily dying to self –unselfishness –we grow into this huge tree that benefits all those around us.
Jesus also used the metaphorical description of yeast to describe the kingdom of God. As we know, there are many places in the Bible where yeast is used to describe sin and hypocrisy. Yet, here we see Jesus use the characteristics of yeast to describe the kingdom. Yeast is a living organism that, given the right conditions, will multiply the size of whatever it is put in. So, if yeast represents something good as it is in the context here where Jesus uses it to explain how God’s kingdom multiply, it can also multiply bad as is the case of sin and hypocrisy. Here, however, Jesus uses yeast to explain that we don’t need a big boo-ha to recognise the growth of God’s kingdom. The word is worked into the dough (the heart) and given the right conditions, that word has multiplied to produce a harvest multiplied. This ties in with the parable of the seed and the different soil on which it lands.
God is known for performing mind-blowing miracles, but many of the times He works in unobtrusive ways and to the untrained spiritual eye, this secret work may be completely missed. If we are forever on the lookout for some kind of big action from God, we may miss His beautiful and gentle work in the everyday affairs of our lives where He grows His kingdom in the most insignificant of ways as He works through us. Perhaps it’s just a kind word we spoke to someone, not realizing how much they needed to hear that today. Or perhaps it’s a smile we gave to a stranger who has had nothing but animosity meeting her the entire day. With these small acts our lights can shine before men and they will be drawn to the light and they will glorify the Father in heaven. Never underestimate the effect that small acts can have in advancing the kingdom of God. The beginning of His work in our hearts may be invisible to others, but God knows that He will complete what He started in us and the end result will not be invisible at all! We are formed into the nature of Christ.
Just a note: When Jesus spoke in parables, it was a fulfillment of a prophecy in Psalm 78:2.