Friday, March 16, 2007

Mustard Seed and Leaven

On the Jesus and the Gospels course, one of the components is looking at the parables of Jesus. We've just looked at Luke 13 and the parables of the mustard seed and leaven. Contextualising these in first century Palestine is essential, but how to apply them in the present day...? One of our course texts is 'The Challenge of Jesus' Parables' by Richard Longenecker and he identifies seven key themes of these parables (as Luke records them, which is subtly different to Mark and Matthew). Interesting among these is the eschatological imagery of the tree and the inherent potency within the seed and the leaven (check out the 40 litres of flour that's leavened here - that's a lot of bread!). For me there are two (amongst others) very important applications:

1. The Story of the Kingdom. When Jesus told these parables, the kingdom of God (in NT terms) was himself and twelve disciples. He told of a time when that kingdom would have grown in such a way that the gentiles would find a home in it among many nations. Whilst the full glory of the kingdom is yet to come and we look for continued fulfilment in every age, Jesus parable-prophecy has been fulfilled in an amazing way. There's a corrective here to the despondancy that can creep into the church if the navel is gazed upon. Jesus' parable has been and is being fulfilled. A wide-perspective approach to the kingdom is what Jesus had - we should adopt the same.

2. The Inherent Power of the Kingdom. Since the kingdom is Christ's, is God's, it has the power of the king within it. The spirit dwells within the church, the word is living and active, Christ himself is building his church. Again, there is a corrective here to the evangelistic angst that can be exhibited in churches today through headless-activism, which at times seems like a panic-response to the apparent rejection of the Christian message by a secular society. We can try to genetically modify our own seed and leaven, but we forget that where God's authentic kingdom is, there is the power of the seed, the power of the leaven.