Jesus today continues his teaching in Parables and gives us 5 ways to imagine the Kingdom of Heaven: Like a mustard seed; like yeast in flour; like treasure hidden in a field; like a priceless pearl; and like a net that catches all kinds of fish.
These are not just a repeat of each other but each one contains a particular aspect that Jesus wants to highlight.
So how is a mustard seed like the Kingdom of Heaven? The focus here for Jesus is the size. Sometimes we confuse God’s mighty acts with worldly mighty acts. We talk of multi-national corporations and their success – huge companies like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook – the Big 4 banks as they are referred to. God on the other hand shows his might in different ways – strength through weakness, wisdom through foolishness. These include the life and death of Jesus: rejected from birth when Mary was forced to give birth in a manger in a barn, rejected by his religious leaders leading to his arrest, humiliation and death and yet through these God brought about the greatest victory over sin, death and Satan.
So as we look at our own lives we should not be saddened if in our own eyes we feel we don’t shape up to God’s awesomeness. Maybe you don’t read the bible all that often, maybe you don’t pray when you should, maybe you don’t feel like you get anything out of church including Holy Communion. Even St Paul, the example of commitment and dedication to the Christian faith knew that feeling of letting God down but did not despair. Instead he looked to God and wrote: The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to better ourselves in our faith but we should recognise that God doesn’t judge according to worldly standards. When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, he didn’t do that but pointed them to the strength of the faith that they had – again using the example of a mustard seed: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17:6)
Jesus continues on the matter of size but talks about Yeast When making bread you use the tiniest amount of yeast but it makes dramatic changes to the dough. Without it the dough would remain flat – but with it, it rises and changes its appearance totally. So too with faith. Our faith changes us. It permeates every part of our being. It permeates every aspect of our daily living. It changes the way we look at things. We see things through the eyes of faith and it has changes that it makes in us. We turn the other cheek instead of taking revenge. We love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. Sadly our “old Adam” – our sinful nature – still hangs around and tries to influence otherwise but through our Baptism we drown the “Old Adam” and a new self rises each day just as the yeast causes the flattened dough to rise anew.
Jesus then changes his aspect of the Kingdom of God away from our personal qualities to what it is that we are focusing on: a treasure hidden in a field. The treasure of heaven is sadly hidden to so many people. It is hidden behind sin in the world that people don’t see the true meaning of Heaven and the church. It is hidden behind the human failings of Christians and the church that people reject God’s free gift. As Christians we are called to reveal what is hidden. Just as our lives are hidden as St Paul says: your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3,4) When people finally discover what the Kingdom of God is all about they rejoice just like the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents and finds the Kingdom of God (Luke 15:10) So we are called to present the true picture of the Kingdom of God by loving one another as Christ loves us and by this all will know we are his disciples.
The pearl of great value is a similar discovery with a minor difference. The pearl trader is looking for the pearl. It comes as no great surprise but perhaps more of a relief that he has found what he has been looking for. We keep hearing how our world is more and more spiritual but they just don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord. A few of us went along to the Islamic Museum last week and the tour guide was saying that as a Muslim she believes in Jesus Christ. She just doesn’t believe he is the Son of God. Like her there are so many who are searching but have not discovered the true pearl that God has revealed in his Son Jesus Christ. As the body of Christ we have that mission to present the pearl of great value that gem we call Jesus Christ as Saviour. There are people searching; 30% may have ticked the No Religion box but that means 70% have not rejected their spiritual journey. That 70% includes the 52% who ticked the Christian box but how many are struggling in their spiritual walk with God as we don’t see that many in church. We have (Ringwood) over 200 on our membership list and average between 80 and 90 on good Sundays. We have (Knox) around 70 to 80 on our membership list and average around 30 on a good Sunday. Where are the rest? We have a long list of Baptised contacts who do not worship. They are all searching but have yet to discover that Great Pearl. And that’s where the Holy Spirit becomes their helper – their intercessor praying with sighs too deep for words That’s where the Holy Spirit becomes OUR helper as he searches the heart and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
So how is a net that catches all kinds of fish like the Kingdom of Heaven? The final parable is also about the Kingdom of God but it is the reason why we become passionate about sharing the Kingdom with others. Although Jesus died for all sins there are many who reject his grace. The net is spread wide to catch all humanity but there are those who refuse his grace and refuse to repent. This parable reminds us that while God is patient not wanting anyone to perish, while God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, he will and he must deal with sin that is not repented. These are not my words – these are not the words of the Church – these are the very words of Christ himself. As St Peter says:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. The Kingdom of God is a precious gift and it is a gift given to all people. And God wants all people to have the opportunity to hear the good news and he promises that he will not bring about the end until all have had the opportunity to hear it. Jesus says the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. And God assures us that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13)
But Paul also puts the challenge before us: How can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone telling them? 15 And how can anyone tell them unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Those feet bringing the Good News of the Kingdom of God are yours and mine.