18He said therefore, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches."
20And again he said, "To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."
22Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" He said to them, 24"Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then in reply he will say to you, 'I do not know where you come from.' 26Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' 27But he will say, 'I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!' 28There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 29Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. 30Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
Warning: the following devotional is a bit bumpy. My mind is really tired as I write this. But my spirit is good. You'll see why.
The Kingdom of God is small and big and it is narrow and wide.
The small and big is captured by the two simple simile-parables of the mustard seed and the yeast. The mustard seed (a really tiny seed) in time becomes a large tree in which birds build nests. The Kingdom of God thus starts out small, historically speaking, in the ministry of Jesus but will grow and expand and will become a place of rest for countless people (symbolized by birds). The yeast is also small in amount but has a pervasive effect on the entire dough, leavening the whole. Thus the impact of the Kingdom of God will be pervasive as well, eventually "leavening" entire nations and societies.
The narrow and wide comes in the second part of the above passage from the Q and A. The narrow door is principally about the many in Jesus time and ministry who've heard the invitation from Jesus himself but refused to enter. The wide (door) is about those outside of God's original covenant people (people from east and west, from north and south) who will come in great numbers to the feast that will be held in honor of Jesus.
The passage above is a prophetic passage which we read retrospectively. The passage has come true! Rather, the passage is still coming true!
(As some of you know, PW, Jimmy, Tom Guo, and I are now in Bethel for the Leaders Advance Conference. In fact, I'm typing this 11:20pm Pacific Time. We've come back from the evening session with Bill Johnson who spoke on Isaiah 60, I Kings 4, and Psalm 67. The gist of what Bill Johnson shared ties in with the passage above. Let me explain:
How does the Kingdom expand? In other words, how does God's Kingdom get big and wide? Isaiah 60:1 says:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Nations and kings will be attracted to the Glory of the Lord that is on the People of God. The desire to see something good and beautiful will bring others, not threat or fear. Psalm 67:1-2 says:
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
Something similar here too. It is the "face" (same word in Hebrew, "presence") of God shining on God's people that will make known on earth God's ways. Same principle of attraction. The attraction to God's glory and ways will bring others to salvation and the knowledge of God.
We know it is the work of God through the Gospel of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that enlarges God's Kingdom. But that work can also be understood in terms of what draws others unto God. It is nothing less than the Beauty and Glory of God that draws people unto the Triune God. It is nothing less than what their hearts have been seeking all along -- love and meaning, purpose and communion. It is nothing less that how they were created to be, in relationship with the Living God. As a Catholic theologian, Henri de Lubac, aptly coined, there is a "natural desire for the supernatural." Rightly understood, this natural desire touched by God's grace stirs the human heart and mind toward that which only God can fulfill: God Himself.
Let's pray: Father God, we confess that the Kingdom of God is not some religious program we need to market or to campaign for. Your Kingdom is the very thing our entire lives hunger for: your love, grace, beauty, delight, creativity, joy, rest, ecstasy, purpose, exhilaration, security, and life-together with You and others. We thank you that, though the Kingdom starts out almost imperceptible, the Kingdom does indeed expand and grow large, large enough for whole nations and societies and peoples. As Bill Johnson reminded us, may Your Glory rest on us so that nations and kings will come seeking the light of your glory and beauty. In Jesus' Name, Amen.