“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.”’ –Luke 13:18-21

Darius, king of Persia once sent a bag of sesame seeds to Alexander the Great, demonstrating the vast number of his armies. Alex the Great, not to be outdone, sent back a bag of mustard seeds to show how much more numerous and potent his kingdom was. We may be tempted to look at Jesus’ kingdom this way. We expect a huge force of power to overwhelm and trample all enemies, but Jesus’ kingdom does not come in ways we expect. In fact, it comes in ways we often do not like, in very unimpressive and unexpected ways. Jesus’ disciples were probably wondering what’s up with this mustard seed thing? Isn’t God’s kingdom more like a giant redwood tree or something? A mustard seed seems so unimpressive.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He taught them to pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done. This goes to show that God’s kingdom is just not naturally inside any of us. Yes, we are made in God’s image; but since the beginning, we have been bent on enforcing our own will and building our own little kingdoms where we get to “play God” and push the real God Almighty out the door. No human being naturally has God reigning in his or her heart as king. Something has to happen!

God’s kingdom operates from the outside of us. It has to, because what comes from our hearts? Mark 7:21-22 says “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness…” Jeremiah 17:9-10 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind…”’ And in Romans 3:11, “there is no-one who seeks God, not even one.”

Like a child who refuses to eat his veggies, so, too, we naturally resist submitting to God’s rule in our lives. So, like in the parable Jesus taught with the mustard seeds and the leaven, the kingdom of God (that is faith in Jesus Christ) must be planted in us by his Spirit from the outside.

The good news for us is that God does just this! He plants the seed of His promise of forgiveness and mixes in the “yeast” of His kingdom in our lives. It comes entirely from God, because our righteousness is no righteousness at all. Even things we think are “good” are not good in God’s sight unless we are covered with Jesus Christ. His righteousness is the righteousness we need, a perfect righteousness given, planted, by grace, through faith. This is God’s gift to you. He plants His word in your heart and places it in your soul. Romans 3:21-22 says “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been revealed… but it is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe…” That’s why you are here, to have the Word of God planted in you or watered so it can grow, or so you can sow the seed in someone else who needs to be changed from the outside in.

A mustard seed is unimpressive. A pinch of yeast? Unimpressive. But you know what happens over time? The seed grows into a young shoot, then a small tree, then something so large it hovers over the entire garden and is strong enough to support the birds in its branches. Three measures of flour with a pinch of yeast will feed over 100 people. Without the yeast causing the dough to rise, there is only a pile of useless flour. The kingdom of God operates in small and seemingly insignificant ways, and yet, his kingdom is growing. Day by day as we hear God’s word of promise, day by day as we tell other people about this promise, about the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus on the cross – day by day His kingdom is growing. And He’s not done. Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”