READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l Jesus was a master storyteller. His stories captured the hearts of hearers, provoking them to probe for deeper truths. He told parables to teach about the Kingdom of God and the character of God. These parables remain current and applicable thousands of years after they were first told. Jesus explained why parables are used. To those who believe in Him, the parables are a means to gain deeper insight into God’s Kingdom. Conversely, to those whose hearts are not open to the Gospel, the parables serve to hide the truth (Mark 4:11-12).
The parables of the mustard seed and hidden leaven are twin parables. As explained by Klyne Snodgrass, such twins may not be identical, but they are similar. Combined, they reveal truths that neither has individually.
The mustard seed is the smallest seed of the plants commonly grown in Israel. It is 15 times smaller than a grain of rice. However, unlike a rice plant, the mustard seed grows into a tree large enough to shelter birds. It is a fast-growing plant.
Leaven is fermented dough, which when mixed with fresh dough, activates the rest of the mixture. Though the word “leaven” is sometimes used in a negative sense to symbolise sin and corruption, it is used in a positive sense in this parable to illustrate the potent power of God’s kingdom.
Both parables convey extensive growth and intensive transformation in God’s kingdom and depict something small which has a very large effect. Two spiritual truths from this pair of parables are:
1. God’s kingdom starts small but grows surprisingly large in time. Jesus’ life and death did not appear to stir the ancient world. However, there was an explosive growth of Christianity to become the largest religion in the world. Do not be discouraged by small or slow beginnings. Well known preachers such as Billy Graham and DL Moody all started from insignificant circumstances. God surprises the people He uses by doing amazing things through them.
2. God’s kingdom is hidden and transforms intensively from within. The twelve disciples were ordinary people with flaws and were unschooled slow learners. Yet, in Acts 4, we see them transformed into wise and courageous men. They could not stop proclaiming the Risen Christ in spite of threats from the Jewish leaders. God does not seek the bright and the best but ordinary people like you and me. Zech. 4:6 reminds us that it is His Holy Spirit who empowers us. Paul encouraged the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:26-28) to recall that God uses the foolish to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong. God will do for us what He did for the Corinthians. His kingdom will continue to spread silently but powerfully.
The second twin parables are found in Matt. 13:44-46. In one, a poor worker finds treasure in a field. He joyfully sold all he had to buy the field. In the other, a rich merchant has been searching for a pearl and when he finds it, he used all his wealth to buy the pearl. Both the poor and rich men laid aside everything for their invaluable find. The kingdom of God is therefore the finest treasure, worthy of any sacrifice. Whether found ‘accidentally’ or through a long search, it is ultimately immensely worthwhile to be in His kingdom.
3. God’s kingdom is worth more than everything we have, and more valuable than anything on earth. Unlike the early disciples who gave up their lives for the kingdom, we may not face such dangers. However, what are we willing to give up for Jesus and His kingdom?
Give up your treasure to be part of the ever-growing kingdom of God.
(Sermon notes by Angela Goh)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. “God’s kingdom starts small but grows surprisingly large over time.” – Give an example from your life of how a small event grew to be something spiritually significant for you.
- View the people around you through a kingdom lens. What little steps can you take to share the gospel of the kingdom with them?
2. “God’s kingdom is hidden and transforms intensively from within.”
- When did the gospel of the kingdom of God take root in you?
- How will seeing yourself as a “work in progress” change your perspective of your transformation into Christlikeness?
3. Are you struggling with a situation which is showing slow and insignificant progress? How will you apply the twin parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven to what is happening?
4. “God’s kingdom is worth more than everything we have, and more valuable than anything on earth.”
- How is the above statement true for you? How is it not?
- Remember a situation in the past when you had to make a sacrifice to gain something better. What was your experience like?
5. Are you debating on giving up something valuable for the sake of God’s kingdom? How will the twin parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Value challenge or encourage you?