18 So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
20 And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
I have no intelligent thoughts of my own on these verses, so I'm going to ask our friend John MacArthur for some assistance. The Increasing Influence of the Kingdom
Seed, spermain the Greek, in every New Testament usage is a word used to describe a planted herb, vegetable, something you put in a garden. He's talking in the category of seeds sown by farmers. Of all the seeds that were ever agriculturally sown, this was the smallest. He was really using a Proverb. Because the Jews used the mustard seed to refer to something that was small.
Jesus then was speaking in the vernacular. He was using terminology that they used every day. You remember our Lord used that very same analogy in another context in Matthew 17:20 He said to them, "If you have faith the size of," what, "a mustard seed you consider that mountain be removed." And what He was simply saying was something very familiar to them. He was referring to small faith. If you just had small faith and that was the way they spoke of something small.
And it grew to be a tree it says, it's not a timber tree, but a large shrub is in view here. In fact, this thing is so large it says that birds of the air nested in its branches. And the word nested here is permanent dwelling. They set up their home, they put their nests there. It's branches were big enough and broad enough to build permanent nests in. A little unusual for a garden plant. That's the picture. They get so big and so sturdy and so strong that the birds find it a good place to put their permanent home. We're not talking about lighting on it and flying away. We're talking about building a nest and staying.
You say well, what's the point? The point here is about, listen to this, the external growth of the kingdom. Okay? External is the operative word there. The external growth of the kingdom. The kingdom, let's talk about that, we'll start small, from the external viewpoint looking at it and it's virtually invisible.
It's not going to be visible nor will they say look here it is or there it is, for behold the kingdom of God is, what? It's within you.
It's in your midst. It's here. It's inside. It's the sphere of salvation. It's the redeemed who are under their king. You can't see it. There aren't going to be any marching armies. There aren't going to be any trumpets blown. There isn't going to be any loud music. There aren't going to be any palaces right now, but it's here. It's a small tiny little seed hidden, small beginning, but it's not going to stay that way.
And sometimes folks, you know, you look at the world and you look at the way things are going and you say to yourself, you know, we're not making any headway in Washington. We're not making any headway at the United Nations. We're not making any headway in the Hague. We're not making any headway in all the great capitals of Europe. We're not making any headway at the university level. And you hear people say oh we need to get more Christians in politics. We need to get more Christians in the Presidents of universities. We need to get more Christians in secular faculty positions. I'm not against that. But let me tell you something, the advancement of the kingdom is hidden and it works it powerful transforming work through your lives, person to person to person to person.
It transforms society by its hidden influence. And when you think about it it's amazing. It really is amazing. I read recently that 95% of the world's population presently have part of the Bible or all of the Bible in their language. It's working. Ninety percent of all tribes have had an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. You think about Ethiopia, claims to have something around 35 million "Christians." Talk about 50 million plus Christians in China. Did you know Cuba has 50 Christian denominations operating there under Fidel Castro? Somebody estimated that about 65,000 people profess to give their lives to Christ daily somewhere in the world.
And about 1,500 new churches start ever week. We don't need the political power. We don't need the military power. Christians through the years have gotten that very confused. It happens through influence. And Jesus put it this way, "I will build," what, "my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." And some day He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords. And at that time, let me tell you folks, every eye will see Him as King of kings and Lord of lords and we will be revealed as the glorious manifestation of the children of God becomes evident to the whole world, and we'll reign with Him in glory for 1,000 years and then on into eternity forever.
Anybody else encouraged by this? Just because we can't always see the results, it doesn't mean there aren't any. Our sovereign God can use any small deed, any small word, any small interaction between people to further His purposes. We may not know all the branches and leaves of the shrub, or where the nests and the birds are, but we can have faith that they are there and that God is in control until the day when the visible kingdom comes.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 13:22-30.