Dear Student of the Word,
Welcome back to my study of Luke's gospel, in a format that I refer to as a devotional commentary. My goal is to help you not only understand the Word but to apply it to your everyday life as well. I have just completed my commentary on Acts and will send it off to the publisher this week. In the meantime, let's look at this edited version of Luke's commentary that included a prolonged teaching that Jesus gave. I wrote in Part seven of this seven-part study (included in its entirety below):
Study Twenty-One, Part Seven
18 Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches." 20 Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
13:18 – Jesus then returned to His primary ministry theme—the kingdom of God. Jesus did not come to build the synagogue or Judaism. He came to preach the Kingdom. Recently, I have been speaking about the Kingdom. I have said if you preach the Kingdom, the result is the Church, for the King directs people to be part of His church. But when you preach the Church without the Kingdom, you receive religion. That is just what happened when Jesus healed the woman bent over—the religious synagogue ruler, zealous for Judaism but not the Kingdom was offended. The ruler was more interested in building and protecting the synagogue than he was in advancing God’s kingdom.
Jesus then directed the conversation to matters of the Kingdom. As usual, Jesus used analogies from everyday life to help His listeners understand His lesson.
13:19 – We know from other parables that a mustard seed is among the smallest of seeds, yet when mature, it becomes a large bush or tree. This is how the Kingdom of God is; it starts out small but ends up “owning” all the space around it. What does this tell us about the Kingdom?
Our ability and need to respond to God’s rule grows over time.
God’s Kingdom is subtle, not overbearing or harsh.
God is interested in steady growth, not quick fixes or fads.
If it doesn’t grow or last, then it isn’t the kingdom of God.
The Kingdom is powerful and can take care of itself if given proper attention.
13:20&21 – First Jesus used an analogy from nature; then He used one from the kitchen. The Kingdom is like yeast. It only takes a little but the power of yeast then permeates and affects the whole lump of dough. Once yeast is introduced, it will create a chemical reaction that cannot be stopped. Our job is to preach and “introduce” the Kingdom; God can do the rest. If I “leaven” people with church yeast—“join my church, it’s the best, our doctrine is the purest, our outreach the most aggressive”—then that leaven will also spread, just like Judaism did. That particular leaven, however, is harsh and works against the Kingdom.
Ultimately, I must work to put people in right relationship with God and His kingdom. From that, they will become part of a church. If I do it the other way around, I will reap trouble. Does this make sense? What are you more committed to? God’s kingdom or God’s church?
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the daily devotional entitled The Leadership Walk. Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy this study of Luke's gospel from God's word.