If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.- C.S. Lewis
(Gospel Text: Mt 13:31-35)
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'"
He spoke to them another parable.
"The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened."
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.
M.C. Escher was a Dutch artist known for creating prints that were optical illusions. What you first see in an Escher print is seldom all there is to see.
The parables in today’s Gospel reading are like that. By themselves, they describe the profound growth of the kingdom of God. From a seed the size of a period on this page, a mustard tree can grow to be thirteen feet tall. The “large amount” of flour in the second parable probably weighed around six hundred pounds. And yet just a bit of yeast was all that was needed to turn that flour into bread!
These two parables, though, are part of a series of stories Jesus told about the kingdom of God. All are familiar: “A sower went out to sow,” “A man … sowed good seed in his field” (Matthew 13:3, 24). Separately, each relates a unique truth about the kingdom. But taken together, they point out another truth: the kingdom of God may not look like what you imagine.
Jesus wanted his followers to avoid idealizing the kingdom here on earth. He wanted to spare them from being disillusioned when the reality they saw did not match up to their expectation of a perfect, flawless, and problem-free church.
Yes, many seeds will be sown, but not every one will reach maturity. Good seed will be planted, but weeds will contaminate the field. Birds of all feathers will perch in the branches of the kingdom, and some will squawk or fight or make a mess. The “yeast” of worldly philosophies may even contaminate the “flour” of Christianity. But through it all, God is in control. His kingdom may not look as we think it ought to, but neither is his plan thwarted!
“Don’t worry,” Jesus says. “I’ve got things under control. Despite every unpleasant appearance, growth will continue. My Father can deal with everything that shouldn’t be there. Don’t become disillusioned when things start looking different from the way you think they should. Trust in me. Trust in my Father. The kingdom will grow and endure until I come again.”