“It’s All How We Do It”
July 27, 2008 – Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

It’s an interesting collection of parables we’ve heard this morning. First was the mustard seed, then the yeast, a treasure in a field, a pearl salesman, and finally a fishing net. What an interesting collection of stories Jesus has laid before us, and after several weeks where he gave explanations, with these parables we do not get the same courtesy it seems.

The parable of the mustard seed is well known to many of us. Many of us have heard it before, and probably remember it. The mustard seed is a very small seed that grows into a large bush with many, many branches. The other thing about mustard bushes is that they are very weed like. Once you plant them, you cannot get rid of them very easily. We might compare it to rhubarb in that way. How hard is it to get rid of a rhubarb plant? Is it something you plant in your garden? Probably not, because it spreads. This is what the mustard bush is like. When it drops these little seeds, they begin to germinate as soon as they hit the ground, soon you will have more mustard bushes, which will eventually take over your garden, not leaving you any space to plant other food. So you want to be careful with your mustard seeds!

It’s a similar story with the yeast. How much yeast does it take to make a loaf of bread? Not very much at all is it? Just a little bit of yeast goes a long way, use too much and you’ll have a mess on your hands, a loaf of bread that doesn’t look right, nor tastes right either.

Then we come to the two treasure type stories, the pearl and the treasure in the field. Two tiny little things that cause people to sell everything they have so they can have these little treasures. Treasures they see as greater worth than anything they already have. Today it might be like the owners of DeBoers selling their entire diamond empire worth billions to obtain one perfect diamond.

Then there is also the net cast into the water, and the sorting of the fish. Those we want to keep and eat, and those we throw back into the water.

There are actually two settings in which these parables are told. The mustard seed and the yeast parables are Jesus tells on the side of a lake with a huge crowd around him. The rest of the parables are told in a house to his disciples.

Since these series of parables are split into two locations, it makes sense to look at them separately. So we’ll first look at the two parables told to the large crowd on the lake shore.

Jesus tells them the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast. What is common about these two parables? Well, they are both talking about small things that grow into larger things. The tiny seed grows into the bush and the yeast to make the bread.

An interesting thing to point out is this, Jesus did not compare the Kingdom of heaven to the objects themselves, but rather he compared them to the usage of those objects. Jesus does not just say, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” or “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast”. Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field” and “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour”.

I think this is a key difference. What can a mustard seed or yeast do on it’s own? Nothing. The seed needs to be planted and cared for, the yeast needs to be mixed in with the flour then they are being used to their potential.

When the seed is sowed, it grows into a bush which has many, many branches, that provides protection and shelter to animals and birds. But remember what else it does, and Jesus’ audience would know this, the bush quickly spreads, creating more and more bushes slowly taking over the field.

A tiny bit of yeast mixed into the flour spreads throughout the dough and in the end you get a lighter, larger loaf of bread than without.

These two objects, when put into use spread. The kingdom of heaven then can also be spread when the little bit we have hear with us is shared with others around us. The kingdom of heaven is to be put into action and shared, it is not meant to be held onto, hidden from others. We are the seeds, we are the yeast. We are children of the kingdom. We are the objects that Jesus is calling to be put into use.

So what of the treasures? The final parables of the two treasures and the fishing net are told to his disciples in a house.

The parable of the treasure in a field and the parable of the merchant in search of pearls are both examples of small things that are of greater worth than the people who find them can imagine. But once again, what is it Jesus is comparing?

Does Jesus say, “The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl” or “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure”? No, Jesus says, “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls” and The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid”. Again it’s not the treasures themselves which are the symbol of the kingdom, but rather the actions associated with them. In this case, people were looking for them. When they found them, they were so overjoyed they sold everything they had to have them.

The kingdom of God is so great a treasure that people give up all they have to get it. Isn’t that fantastic imagery? Is it true for us today?

Why is Jesus telling his disciples these parables?  Jesus is the treasure, the source of the seeds and yeast, that’s why. People who hear his messages and understand them become those who find the treasures.

If we look at chapter 13 as a whole we see a trend emerging. Jesus shares with the people at the lake the parables of the wheat and the weeds that we looked at last week, the parable of the sower who plants seeds in various types of soils which was two weeks ago if you talked about it here, and the first two parables form this morning. Little things used in different ways to teach those who hear about the kingdom of heaven and how we are to act as followers of Jesus Christ. Basics of faith in many ways. Seek God through Jesus Christ, learn from him and be cared for, just as we care for others in the same way, in the name of Jesus Christ.

People who get this message become part of the kingdom of heaven, helping bring the kingdom down to earth. Being part of God’s plan for creation, being active in the world as messengers of God and His love. We are followers of Jesus Christ, and as his people we will be with God forever in the kingdom of heaven.

We have found the treasure. A treasure greater than any other. Nothing we have, nothing we can buy, nothing we can see here on earth can match the glorious treasure of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven.

We should be excited. We should value this greater than anything else in the world as we seek to follow Jesus Christ because the parable of the net shows us that not everyone gets into the kingdom. The net is cast, and we all will be brought ashore, but not all who are caught in the net will kept. The fish that are not wanted or desired are thrown away.

Jesus explains this parable by saying the angels will come and seperate the good fish from the bad. The bad fish are destroyed, the evil are separated from the righteous. Only God and the angels will know who are good and who are evil. But if we have found and celebrate the treasure of being God’s chosen people, by coming to faith in Jesus Christ, by following Jesus’ teachings and examples about living and serving others, we are God’s chosen people. We can be the fish being kept.