Luke 13:18 21


You will like these parables. They are meant to build confidence. Most
of us need to have our confidence bolstered. What Jesus was saying did not
seem to match what was happening. Jesus must have sensed the doubt that
threatened His disciples. In response to their unspoken question, Jesus gave
this insight into the very nature of the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of which Jesus speaks is the dynamic rule of God. Jesus raises the rhetorical question, "to what can
I liken the kingdom of God?" "Is there something that can be compared to the rule of God?" In response to the
question, He gives us two likenesses. One is in the realm of nature and the other is in the kitchen. Both were very

Both of these little parables set forth the same truth. But they apply the truth to a different realm. The truth set
forth in both parables is the ultimate victory of the rule of God. Never was a greater truth set forth in so few
words. Our Lord demonstrates His power and effectiveness as a teacher in these brief parables. Let us look at
the parables separately to see this truth better.

Jesus chose a familiar item to set forth this truth. The mustard plant was grown by farmers all across Palestine.
Even though it was the smallest seed planted by the farmer, it would grow up to be the tallest plant in his garden.
It would commonly grow to a height of ten feet, and sometimes to even fifteen feet. As it matured, it would be like
a tree in which birds could even roost. Because they liked the small seeds of the plant, they would do this quite
often. Two things about the mustard plant made it a picture of the rule of God in the world.

First, there was the insignificant beginning. Luke does not include it, but in both Matthew and Mark, Jesus called
attention to the smallness of the mustard seed. When held in the hand, it would be hard to see if you did not have
good eyesight. It did not look very promising.

This is the way the rule of God began in the world. It broke into history in the life and ministry of a Jewish peasant.
He was born under suspicious circumstances in a small Jewish village. He grew up in a carpenter's home in a
"backwoodsy" part of the country. The first thirty years of His life revealed very little that was different. His ministry
consisted of teaching and helping the sick. The people He collected around His ministry were not impressive.
They were young and inexperienced. They lacked education, position, and wealth. They were slow to grasp the
lessons He taught. You could not see much promise of ever affecting the world very much in Him or in them. This
is the truth emphasized by the parable. Even though Jesus had been speaking of the triumph of the kingdom of
God, the opposition that had been gathering around His work made it appear to be very unlikely.

Second, the little seed becomes a giant plant in the garden. It towers over all of the other plants in the garden. It
dominates everything by its very size. This is the way it will be with the kingdom of God. It will triumph over all.

We must not misunderstand what Jesus says. Some have understood Him to say that the kingdom of God will
gradually grow into an empire through the efforts of man. The emphasis is not upon the gradual growth of the
kingdom, but on the size to which it grows. It is the dominating height and strength of the mustard plant that is
emphasized. We must keep in mind that Jesus is speaking of the "kingdom of God". The kingdom of God is not
the result of what man does for God, but is rather the result of the activity of God HimŽself. God is at work! God
will triumph over all.

There are still times in the world when the kingdom still looks like a mustard seed. The dominating kingdom
seems to be the kingdom of man. it seems to be the communist kingdom in the East and the humanist kingdom in
the West. Both seem to have more influence in the world than does the kingdom of God. But be encouraged. The
little kingdom will yet become the tallest of all. It will yet dominate the whole world. This is the assurance of Jesus
our Lord.

What about the birds in the mustard plant? Was this just an incidental detail added by Jesus for color? Students
have seen significance in this. In the prophecy of Daniel such a figure is used to refer to nations finding refuge in
the rule of God. Maybe we should see it here. If so, it is just another indication of the size and strength to which
the kingdom of God will grow. The parable surely builds confidence in the ultimate fate of the kingdom of God.
Our God will be victorious in His plan for the world.

The second parable sets forth the same truth with a different application. Here we have a woman in her kitchen.
She is preparing to bake bread. She has three measures of flour before her. This means that she has more than
a bushel of flour. This would be enough to bake bread for about one hundred and sixty people. After sifting her
flour, she mixes a small piece of yeast into it, sets it up, and allows the yeast to leaven the whole bushel of flour. it
will do it silently, quietly, slowly, but surely. She will come back later to find the whole thing leavened. Jesus
indicates that this is the way the kingdom of God triumphs.

I probably need to take a moment to discuss another interpretation of this parable. There are some who teach
that leaven always represents evil in the Bible. Therefore, they contend that Jesus is presenting the introduction
of a foreign, evil principle into the earthly manifestation of the kingdom of God. You will find this view in most of
the study Bibles that set forth a premillennial view of the second coming of Christ. Let me suggest that such an
interpretation is not an essential part of the premillennial interpretation of Scripture. Nor is it right to contend that
a figure can only be used one way in the Scripture. For instance, both Jesus and Satan are described as a lion.
My contention is that you would never come up with such an interpretaŽtion on your own. The natural
interpretation seems to be that which I have set forth. What can we learn from it?

First, you will notice that the leaven is introduced from without. The leaven is not native to the flour. So it is with
the kingdom of God. While the heart of man has a capacity to receive the kingdom of God, it is not native to the
human heart. Rather, the rule of God must be introduced to the human heart. It is something that comes from

Second, the leaven has the power to change the flour. The flour cannot change itself, but once the leaven is
introduced, it will never be the same. So it is with the kingdom of God. The human heart is powerless to change
itself, but when the kingdom of God is received from without, change will happen. Things will never be the same.

Third, the change takes place mysteriously. If you stood and watched the batch of flour that had the leaven in it,
you will not see the process that was going on. You would see the result of it in the rising of the bread, but not the
process. So it is with the kingdom of God. You cannot understand or always observe the change, but it has
obviously taken place. The rule of God in a life or a group will work a change that cannot be explained.

Fourth, the change will be complete. This is the thing that Jesus is emphasizing. The little piece of leaven
ultimately affects the whole batch of flour. So it is with the rule of God. The reception of the rule of God into a
human life settles it. Ultimately everything in the life will be changed. The rule of God in the human heart will
triumph. The leaven of the kingdom will stops its penetration until every thought has brought under the rule of

Do you ever get discouraged with your Christian life? Let me be honest with you  I do. Sometimes it comes from
the demands of discipleship. As I measure my progress against the demands of the Lord, I could almost despair.
At other times it comes from a deeper knowledge of my own heart. The more I know of myself, the more
discouraged I become about ever becoming what God wants me to be. Here is a word of hope. The rule of God
will not fail in my life. Regardless of what may seem to be the state of affairs, God will triumph in all that He has

Jesus would have us become more aware of the activity of God. We have focused too much upon ourselves and
what we are doing. Hope comes when we become aware of God, who He is, and what He has purposed to do. He
will not fail.