The Mustard Seed & The Yeast
March 04, 2018 A.D.
by Pastor Ben Willis

April 19th, 2018 by mdevita


31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

33 Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

34 Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, He never spoke to them without using such parables. 35 This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet:

“I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”


Since the season of Lent began on February 14th I’ve been preaching and teaching through different parables the Lord Jesus used to describe God’s Kingdom, what Jesus often called “the Kingdom of Heaven”.

During our first Fast-Breaking Prayer Service I taught through the Parable of the Lamp. The first Sunday of Lent I preached the Parable of the Soils. Our next Prayer Service got “stormed-out”, so last Sunday – the second Sunday of Lent – I preached the Parable of the Fig Tree and the Parable of the Rich Fool. This past Fast-Breaking I taught through the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl. And today – this third Sunday of Lent – we have the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Yeast. Let’s start with the Mustard Seed…

To be helped by this parable we need to correctly understand its key symbols: The mustard seed; the field; the tree that grew from the mustard seed; and, the birds that made nests in its branches.

So, the mustard seed was the smallest of the well-known seeds in Palestine at that time. While it becomes more of a shrub than a tree, it can reach 10-15 feet high! And the mustard seed represents the gospel: The good news that the resurrection-of-Jesus-of-Nazareth-from-the-dead proved that Jesus was not just an ordinary man and that His death was not just an ordinary crucifixion; but that Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice for the sins of all who would receive it, and that His death paid the penalty that our sins deserved, opening the way for all who believe to live in close-relationship with Almighty God! Comparing that good news with a mustard seed means that it would start very small but then grow to reach millions throughout the world who will inherit God’s Kingdom.

The field in which the mustard seed is planted represents all the people of the earth to whom the gospel is shared: You; me; those across the Tri-State area; across the United States; to the ends of the earth!

And yet, there remains a vast difference between even a huge bush and a tree. That the mustard seed grows far beyond its natural-capacity-to-become-a-bush and miraculously-grows into a full-fledged tree makes clear that God’s power is at work in the seed, at work in the gospel. So, the success of the gospel – the good news about Jesus Christ – is a supernatural phenomenon: The Church – the visible expression of the Kingdom of God from every nation, tribe, people, and language – will not grow on account of human strivings and human achievements. No. God will grow His Church and provide the growth miraculously, against all odds, obstacles, and reason!

A tree, whose many and large branches offer shelter and security for birds was a symbol often used by the Old Testament prophets for a mighty

Kingdom that would give shelter to the nations. So, the birds are the nations of the earth. The tiny mustard seed, supernaturally-growing to be a mustard tree, symbolizing Jesus’ offer of security and everlasting life in God’s Kingdom.

Now let’s look at the Parable of the Yeast…

First, picture with me your Easter trees, okay? I mean, everybody’s got their Easter trees up, right? We’ve gone out to the tree lots and bought our favorites, or gone out and cut down our own, and brought them home and decorated them with lights, tinsel, and ornaments, put our empty tomb scene underneath and our angel announcing that Christ is risen at the top, right? …

Are you wondering what the heck I’m talking about? Yeah. Well, that’s how, I think, the Lord Jesus’ hearers would have heard this parable about the yeast. Because, we don’t have Easter trees, right? We have Christmas trees! In the same way, yeast was not seen as a good thing! Yeast is mentioned 88 times in different places across the Bible, including this one. In all the other 87 places where yeast is talked about it is representative of sin or something bad.

So, when the Lord Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven being like “the yeast a woman used in making bread”, I think His hearers would have heard Him describing something sinful and bad, and, as a good Jewish man Himself, I think the Lord Jesus would have intended something sinful and bad, as well!

So, when Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like “the yeast a woman used in making bread”, I think He’s addressing the issue of unbelievers being a part of Christ’s Church here on the earth. And when He goes on to say that, “Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough,” I think the Lord is making the point that the presence of unbelievers and the ongoing sinful actions of even genuine believers will impact the entire church. And we must not be surprised by this nor shaken during those times when it becomes obvious to us.

For example: I know a man who went to church, but because people in that church sometimes talked about each other in gossip-y ways and sometimes didn’t tell the truth in order to make themselves look good and sometimes were clique-y together, he decided not to go to church anymore, if that’s what Christians were like.

Then, a couple years before he died, he came here to our church and, although we (I’m sure) had unbelievers and not-yet-sanctified things going on amongst us – just like his first church – he was so starved for Christian fellowship and worship with others and the challenges and encouragement that comes from Bible Studies and opportunities to serve… he was so starved for it all that he saw past any of the bad stuff here and spent his final year or two lamenting all he’d missed out on because he’d judged Christ’s Bride.

And, of course, don’t we all know so many people who call themselves “Christians” (and I hope they truly are) who aren’t a part of church-life because of this or that sad thing that happened to them when they were part of a church at some other time in their lives.

How sad for them. Jesus told the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Yeast together for their sakes: Because Christ’s Church is going to grow – it’s going to grow supernaturally! and it’s going to turn the world upside down! – but there are going to be unbelievers hidden within her, as well, and because even sincere Christians will continue to sin their whole lives long – though, with God’s help, in lesser and lesser ways – hurts will happen and disappointments will occur as long as the Church is in the world, until Jesus Christ comes to make all things new!

But the hurts and disappointments will all be worth it because of the fellowship, and the fullness and fulfillment that come from worshiping with others, and the growth and thrill that come from studying and serving with others…

Yes, the Kingdom of Heaven will begin small – twelve apostles gathered in an upper room – but by the power of the Holy Spirit it will grow to become a world-wide Church made up of every nation, tribe, people, and language, a worldwide community finding rest for their souls in the Prince of Peace. Even so, sin and sinners, genuine believers and those just pretending, will always be a part of it – all mixed-up together – while it’s here on this earth.

And the Lord Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds not to worry about figuring out who is who and which is which, and in the Sermon on the Mount He warns His followers not to judge another believer’s faith (whether genuine or not). There are going to be believers and unbelievers in the church; there are going to be times when some genuine and lasting believers have times of weakness and fall into sin and seasons of sin, just as there will be times when seemingly-genuine but soon-to-fall-away believers will appear so steadfast and unmovable in the faith!

Don’t worry about it. Don’t judge their love for Christ or their salvation. The Father’s power and sovereignty are such that even the presence and influence of unbelievers and even the presence and influence of our sinfulness will work together to accomplish His world-shaking and all-things-being-made-new purposes! Let’s simpley rejoice in the our salvation! And let’s praise Him that even as we seek to leave our sinfulness behind that He’s not cast us off but continues to call us His Own!

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