The Yeast of These
(Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52)
I like to cook. I’m not a great cook and my repertoire is extremely limited. I enjoy cooking breakfast and experimenting to a limited extent. One time I found this recipe for a Farmer’s Casserole that I made for the Trinity Men’s breakfast. I followed the instructions and used the suggested amount of garlic powder and that was about all you could taste when you ate your first bite. Other than the overpowering garlic flavor it was still pretty bland. So, on my next attempt I cut back on the garlic powder and added some ingredients that weren’t suggested like bell peppers and jalapenos. Much better. Sometimes I’ll do a scramble and throw in whatever I can find in the refrigerator. I really like omelets because you are only limited by your imagination. When my son was up earlier this year I thought I’d impress him with one of my omelets. Well the pan I was using didn’t cooperate and we ended up with a pretty ugly scramble. So, for Father’s Day, he surprised me with a specially designed pan for cooking omelets. The pan is hinged and you pour your egg mix in each half. You add your special ingredients to one half and when it looks like the edges are cooking you flip the half that just contains the egg mix over on top of the other half. So far it has been fool proof. Teresa and I have noticed that these omelets taste much better than the other ones I make in a regular frying pan. The difference is butter. When I make omelets in a regular pan I use an olive oil spray. This special pan calls for melted butter. Somehow this melted butter works its way throughout the entire omelet giving it an incredibly buttery flavor like no other omelet you’ve had.
In a way, I think that’s what Jesus is referencing in his parables for today. I think the special ingredient that he works into our hearts is faith. It doesn’t take much but over time it permeates us, grows to an unimaginable height and takes on a value that is incomparable to anything else we consider valuable.
In the first parable, he talks about the mustard seed and how it grows into the largest of all vegetable plants. He tells them that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. Jesus tells them that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds but when it is grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. He goes on to say that it becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches. To me, there is a dual meaning of which we are all aware. The mustard seed also represents our faith that also starts out small and grows as we mature and come to love God above all else. The kingdom of God, in this parable starts out small with very humble beginnings and like faith grows into so much more. During the time of Jesus mustard plants were common and the ones that grew in the region would reach heights of up to twenty feet. Large enough that birds of all kinds could nest in the tree. The birds sought the shade of the tree and the safety of its branches where they could build their nests and raise their young. Jesus doesn’t specify what kinds of birds come to the tree which, to me, indicates that all birds are welcome. The meaning here then is that all people, Gentiles, can come to the tree and find comfort, protection and a place to call home. The kingdom of God is theirs.
In the second parable Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven like a yeast that a woman works into a bushel of wheat flour. They were familiar with the making of bread and the value of kneading yeast into the dough. When baked the yeast would cause the bread to rise resulting in a delicious loaf of bread. The disciples and many of those listening were Jews and remembered back to the Passover when the fleeing Israelites ate unleavened bread because they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise. To make a tasty loaf of bread yeast is the secret ingredient that enhances the flavor and consistency of the loaf. Like yeast, the love of God, from which we draw our faith, needs time to work its way through us and the world before it is ready to be consumed by anyone who hungers for the word of God.
After Jesus has laid the groundwork for describing the growth of the kingdom of heaven and how enriched it is with his love he likens it to a treasure that had been hidden in a field by some unknown person. The person who found it was so filled with joy that he went out, sold everything he had, and bought the entire field. For the man who found the treasure it was free, a gift, he didn’t have to pay anything to get it. In his joy, he sold all he had to buy the field. He had received the full grace of God, the free gift of salvation and, in his joy, he gave up all he had, all that meant anything to him to commit his life to God. Jesus then compares the kingdom of heaven to a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found that one precious pearl he sold all he had to buy it. The kingdom paid the ultimate price to possess the pearl, the price God was willing to pay in order to redeem his lost children.
Jesus closes with the parable of the net. Similar to the parable of the weeds growing amongst the wheat, he describes the kingdom of heaven like a net that people threw into the lake gathering all kinds of fish. The full net was pulled to shore where the fish were sorted out. The good fish were kept and the bad fish were thrown away. Jesus said such was the way it would be at the end of the age when the angels would separate the evil people from the righteous and throw the evil people into a burning furnace. People, he said, would be weeping and grinding their teeth. The point Jesus is trying to make to the religious scholars was that the kingdom is now. They were looking for a future kingdom preceded by the judgment. They were looking for the coming of a Messiah who would fight a great battle and overthrow their oppressors setting up a physical kingdom on earth. Jesus was teaching that the kingdom was now and that the final judgment was at a time known only to God. They were blind to the spiritual significance of the kingdom that Jesus had brought them.
We are so blest. We have made our home in the tree of the kingdom with birds of every species. We have found a home, a safe and secure place where we can grow in love and raise a family for God. We have that yeast within us, that special ingredient called faith that grows in our hearts, enriching our lives and the lives of others. We know and appreciate the free gift of salvation that we have been given. We treasure our relationship with God and his son Jesus Christ and we live for that day when the angels of God will come, separate the evil from the righteous and take us home where we will live in eternity with all the saints who have gone before us.
Please pray with me.
Loving God, how grateful we are that we have been accepted into your kingdom as your beloved children. Like children, we can barely contain our excitement over our lives in you and all you provide us through your unconditional love. The seed of faith which you have planted in our hearts continues to grow and your love, grace and mercy permeates our very being. Because we have accepted the free gift of salvation as offered through your son Jesus Christ we willingly give up all we have to follow you and do the work that needs to be done to expand the growth of your kingdom where it will be accessible to all people who are willing to come to you looking for a life of peace and joy. Show us the way to spread the word to those who haven’t heard that the kingdom is now so that they too can enjoy the life of love that we have through your most loving and caring son Jesus Christ. Bless us so that we may be a blessing to others. In the name of all that is gracious and holy, we pray, amen.