Five and a half years ago, I had the incredible privilege of being in the room when my son was born. It was a wild experience. Born at 31 weeks, Josh weighed just over 3 pounds and spent the first couple months of his life in the NICU of Children’s Hospital in OKC. I remember vividly looking down at this tiny little boy and marveling at how so much potential was contained in such a small package. In those 3 pounds (that fit in the palm of my hand) was a heart, two lungs, a brain, a soul, ten fingers, ten toes, a will, a personality, and a partridge in a pear tree. It was truly amazing.
Over the past five years, it has been a tremendous joy for me to watch that potential develop. As a proud father, I have cheered Josh on as he dove around the soccer field, sang in church programs, meshed well in a new school, and dealt kindly and enthusiastically with almost all who cross his path. He now weighs about 40 pounds (dripping wet) . . . I can’t wait to see what Josh will do and who he will become when he is full grown.
I was thinking about this today as I read Luke 13:18-21 where Jesus tells two parables about the Kingdom of God:
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
Jesus tells this parable to describe how the Kingdom of God begins as small as a seed, but grows to the size of a giant mustard tree! Thinking about Jesus’s words here at Christmas time drives home a powerful word picture. Though Jesus’s life on earth had a small beginning (started as an embryo in conception, eventually born in a manger) it grew to enormous proportions. Not only was the Kingdom of God that Christ was building going to go worldwide (people from every tribe, tongue, and nation) but it was also going to grow out of this world (reconciling mankind to God.) Though it began small, it would soon grow large. I think our Heavenly Father has watched joyously as this Kingdom on earth has matured over time, and we know He has expectantly planned for the full grown revelation of His Kingdom that initiates at the second coming of Christ.
Further, Jesus talks about how the Kingdom of God is like leaven placed in dough. The idea here is two-fold. First of all, the leaven (the change agent) must be placed in the dough from the outside. Second, once the leaven is placed within the dough it becomes hidden, changing the very nature of the bread from the inside out. What Jesus was saying is that it was essential for an “outside” change agent to be introduced into this world to cause the growth we needed. This “leaven” ultimately, I believe, is the Holy Spirit who is sent by God into this world to help us mature and grow in Christ. The Holy Spirit is hidden inside believers in Christ, and sanctifies us from the inside out.
What all this means for us is this: We should never be discouraged about the future of Christ’s church/kingdom. Sometimes we get discouraged based on newscasts, political debates, moral failures, church attendance, etc. We can focus on all the things that look “small” in this world, and think that the Christian future is dark. The reality is that things that look small now, are not unimportant . . . they are just immature – they are seeds that watered by God’s grace will grow to a worldwide Kingdom in Christ! Further, we should be encouraged that the power to effect that kind of change is hidden inside all who have trusted in Christ. The Holy Spirit resides within us prompting change from the inside out.
This Christmas, look at the small child in the manger in your family’s nativity scene. Let the small size of the infant Jesus remind you of the ever-growing Kingdom of God that begins as a seed, but grows to a mighty mustard tree.