30 May 2012

Luke 13:18-30

"What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?" (v. 18)


What do a mustard seed and yeast have in common? They are just two of the very small things that Jesus uses in today's passage to explore the very large concept of the kingdom of God.

What is a kingdom? It could simply be described as a geographical or political territory ruled by a sovereign, or a realm in which there is a dominant leader. Although the word 'kingdom' may not be a commonly used word today, you need look no further than a popular science fiction series or the surge of gang-related activities to see that the concepts are 'kingdom' still are. In today's passage, Jesus would have been aware of what the concept of a 'kingdom' was then too, and proceeded to turn this definition and the perception of it on its head.

When Jesus asks himself the question: what is the kingdom of God like?, it is purely for the benefit of those listening, perhaps voicing a question which may not have wanted to ask out loud, but were keen to know the answer to. So Jesus asks and answers it using two things with which his audiences would have been familiar.

First he says it is like a mustard seed, arguably the smallest seed, which when sown grows into something large enough for birds to nest in. In other words, the kingdom of God is not to be measured by miles or kilometres, but by impact.

Then he says, it is like yeast, an unappetising raising agent that makes bread rise. In other words, the kingdom of God is not to be judged by appearance but by influence.

In a story or conversation, there is something quite powerful about a well-placed simile - comparing something to something else - and there is something deliberate and powerful about Jesus' choice of things to compare the kingdom of God to in this text. Far from belittling the kingdom of God, comparing it to the impact of a tiny mustard seed and the influence of bland-looking yeast makes it seem accessible and achievable. And far from being an advert for a tiny and bland existence without God, Jesus was promoting the opportunity for a fuller and abundant life with God.

To Ponder

What simile or comparison would you use to describe the kingdom of God?

When you pray "your kingdom come", what images come into your mind?

Can you recall something you said or did that had a greater impact than you imagine? What happened?

Bible notes author

The Revd Katei Kirby

The Revd Katei Kirby is currently heading up the Belonging Together project in the Connexional Team. This initiative celebrates the Methodist Church's ethnic diversity, and seeks to embed this at all levels of the Church's life and ministry of the Church.