Internet sermon for 26th July 2020
Matt 13. 31-133 44-52
May I speak in the name of the Father and the Son and the Amen Holy Spirit,
When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, He spoke not only as God’s Son, knowing the Kingdom but also as a Jew with intricate knowledge of the OT and all its gems. Jesus and the kingdom are inextricable because all that Jesus did, said and is, represents God’s kingdom. A kingdom where God’s Sovereignty is acknowledged, where His principles of justice, mercy and compassion reign and where there is forgiveness and redemption. It is a truly wonderful place but not one the people of His day were expecting.
These parables are lovely short stories with punchy messages. Jesus was a wonderful story teller and uses humour and maybe a twinkle in His eye, knowing people will go away, scratching their heads. But He also knows they will have to think about His words, chat about them, and make sense of them, so His desire to bring people into an awareness of the Kingdom has been achieved.
The first two, the mustard seed and the yeast are really quite captivating. The Kingdom may seem small and insignificant at the moment, like a tiny seed or a small piece of leaven. Both are “hidden”, one in the ground and one in a huge quantity of flour. These would have brought knowing smiles. A tiny seed, growing into a tree to offer hospitality to birds and the leaven baking enough bread for about 300 people! How could this be? Trees represent God’s power in the OT and the nesting birds symbolize the people of the nations who have lived under oppression (Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6; Daniel 4:12). In this mustard seed they find welcome and hospitality that supports life rather than destroys it. The mustard seed represents a kingdoms which rules over all, in a way that promises justice and life rather than oppression. But to some, God’s Kingdom or saving presence is invisible.
In the second parable concerning yeast that a woman mixes with flour to leaven the whole batch, Jesus is saying the same. Relative to the larger amount of flour, the yeast is only a small quantity. Yet its small presence has big effects. The woman literally “hides” the leaven in the flour. That which seems to be invisible, is in fact, mysteriously and inevitably, performing its leavening work, pointing to God’s transformative work in the world.
The third and fourth parables -- the treasure hidden in a field and the very valuable pearl -- continue some of these emphases. The element of the relative smallness of the present form of the kingdom continues. It consists of treasure in a much larger field and just one pearl.
There is also the element of hiddenness. The treasure is hidden in the field while the pearl is not initially obvious.
But now, Jesus adds a new emphasis, particularly the interplay of searching, finding, celebrating, and selling all in order to possess something of great value. It changes life and priorities; it requires risk and sacrifice. In these actions, the power of that which has been found is seen to be at work. The treasure and pearl possess the finders and shape their lives. So it is to participate in and be possessed by the Kingdom of heaven; it is worth everything.
The final parable returns to an emphasis on the division of judgment, evident in the weeds and the wheat last week. It turns from farming and trading to fishing to depict the future establishment of God’s reign and its victory over evil. The scope of God’s kingdom is universal (“fish of every kind”). Judgment at the end of the age separates the evil and the righteous who coexist up to this point, including in the church. The scenario reminds readers how important it is to “do the will of my Father in heaven”
Don’t worry too much about the theology of these readings, just know the person of Jesus, know that the Kingdom is present in Him and His people, even it does at times seem invisible or insignificant. Look for it in the small things and then understand the amazing growth it has attained, how there are now thousands of people who continue the mission of Jesus and how God’s love and message of forgiveness is embraced by so peoples of all nations.