Red Letter Year: 4/17

Matthew 13:31-43

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.”

36 Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”

37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels. 40 Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”


We  have two mini-parables here that parallel each other. Both seek to help understand a few key characteristics about the kindgom of heaven. First, the kingdom has small beginnings. This was true initially and it remains true. Don’t despise small beginnings, the kingdom must begin this way. We want to short circuit the hard work it takes to achieve critical mass, but how you build matters. Here Jesus tells us that we build the kingdom by starting small. Second, the kingdom has an inherent propensity to grow. Both seeds and yeast have within them the power of expansion. Just as we should not despise small beginnings, we should not despise growth. Growth is a key characteristic of the kingdom. Where growth is absent, something is wrong. Figure out what that is, fix it, do the hard work to heal and relay the foundation (small beginning do-over) and then expect, plan for, push for the growth that comes with kingdom building. Third, the kingdom of heaven provides shade, protection, and nourishment – it exists for the benefit of the people, both those who are active participants and everyone they come in contact with. This is essential. If the community in question is not doing this, then what has been built is something other than the kingdom of heaven. Fiefdoms may or may not begin small, may or may not experience incredible growth, but fiefdoms always make serfs out of most of the people. When the kingdom of heaven is built, the king gains many brothers and sisters, many friends, many partners. And no serfs.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.