Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Vision (10.3.13): One Life at a Time

Note:  The devotion below is drawn from last Sunday’s sermon on Luke 13:11-21.

“And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?” (Luke 13:20).

Luke tells us that just after Jesus heals the woman who had been bowed down with a “spirit of infirmity” (v. 11) for eighteen years, he begins to teach, using parables to describe the kingdom of God (vv. 18-21).

He uses two analogies.  First in v. 19 he says that the kingdom is like a mustard seed (sinapis nigra).  This seed is as small as dust in one’s hand.  But Jesus says that in spite of its small and insignificant size it produces a great tree (or bush, which they say could grow to 10-12 feet in height) in whose branches the fowl of the air might come to nest.  Most commentators note that the image of birds nesting in branches is drawn from the Old Testament (cf. Ezekiel 17:22-23; 31:6; Daniel 4:12, 21).

So, the kingdom from small and seemingly insignificant beginnings eventually flourishes into a great instrument of blessing for all the nations.

In v. 20 Jesus draws a second analogy, that of leaven (v. 21).  Leaven is of course that element added to bread that makes the whole to rise.  Leaven often has a negative symbolism in Christ’s teaching.  He urges his disciples to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1:  “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy”).  Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 5:6 that a little leaven of self-glorifying can leaven the whole lump.  Here, however, Jesus uses the figure positively.  He describes a woman who mixes a little leaven into three measures of meal till the whole is leavened.  The point is that a very little can have an impact out of all proportion to its size and seeming lack of significance.

It has sometimes been pointed out that for the leaven to have its influence it must be worked into the whole mass. It cannot do its work from outside, but it must be mixed within.  So, believers cannot escape to the monastery or cloister or compound but must be in the world but not of it.

Do you see how the kingdom works?  It comes in small ways like a mustard seed and like leaven, but it has an influence out of all proportion to its relative small size and significance.  This should spur us on and encourage us not to be discouraged.  Zechariah 4:10:  “For who hath despised the day of small things?”

 What do we learn if we meditate on these parables coming just after the healing of this woman?  God had worked supernaturally in gloriously liberating one woman from spiritual darkness.  What is one person in the vast sea of all humanity?  One bent over woman is as small as a seed, as insignificant to the eye as leaven. But this is how the kingdom is built.  The Christian movement (the kingdom of God) does not grow by the sword, by mass conversions of whole populaces.  It comes through one broken life being mended at a time.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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