Jesus is the Son of Man
Big God in a Little Package
(Note: It has come to my attention that my sermon posts from Nov ’21 through the begining of Feb ’22 have been lost. So i will be reposting them here, meaning they wont necessarily be in the order they were preached and recorded. THank you for your understanding)
All right, please turn with me in your Bibles to Luke chapter 13. As always, of you do not have a Bible or have a need of a Bible, please see me after the service and we can see if we can get one into your hands.
As I was praying and reading over the last few weeks and months, I was trying to figure out which passage of scripture to go over for Christmas. I looked at all the traditional Bible passages and some non-traditional ones as well. They were all good of course, but I was having trouble making a decision, feeling called to a certain passage.
Then I looked ahead and saw this passage in Luke, where we would be, what the next text in our series was and it was too good to be true. This morning is not going to be one of the traditional Christmas texts, but we can see the coming of and the importance of the birth of Christ here this morning.
To set the context of where we are in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has been focusing and prioritizing telling us where our focus should be and what our priorities should be. They need to be on Jesus, on God, on the Kingdom of God and having a right understanding of those things. And he shows us that having our priorities and our focus right will apply itself in our lives through belief, or faith and repentance, leading to eternal life in Christ.
And what easier time for us to focus on, our maybe renew our focus, or maybe focus rightly for the first time, focus on the object, the person, the God that The Bible points us to and tells us to focus on, Jesus Christ.
So, lets go ahead and read this morning’s short passage. Luke chapter 13, verses 18-21. Ill be reading, as always, out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your preferred translation and follow along as we read Gods Word.
Luke 13:18-21, Luke inspired by the Holy Spirit records the Words of Jesus:
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
Thus says the Word of God.
So, a couple of “First-of-all,” s. First, we see that the word, therefore. And as we have seen, the word therefore is a connecting word. That means that this passage is directly connected to the preceding passage or passages. TO contrast, we look ahead and next weeks passage, where it says, “HE went on his way.” That is a transitional phrase. We take a break and move on from the previous passage. There still connected of course, as scripture, but not in a direct connection, inseparable.
And so, last week we saw Jesus miraculously heal a woman, correct a misunderstanding about the Sabbath and before that, the importance of our faith bearing fruit and before that the importance of repenting of our sins.
Now, therefore, he reaffirms the central message of his teachings. Bruce Larson writes:
As varied as his teachings are, the central message is always there. He keeps underscoring that He came to establish a kingdom, the kingdom of God. In that kingdom, there is a new way to live in relationship with God.
And here, Jesus gives two examples, two answers to the question, what is the Kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?
First, He gives an example of the mustard seed. Proverbially the smallest of the seeds. IT was the smallest of the seeds that were sown in Israel. It is one of the smallest seeds out there, though some take issue with the phrasing, thinking that because there are seeds that are smaller, that Jesus was wrong, and the bible is untrustworthy. Jesus often speaks proverbially though. The key is to understand context. To Israel at that time, for all intents and purposes, there was no smaller seed than the mustard seed, certainly not one that mattered.
Jesus uses the mustard seed in another context as well. In Matthew 17, Jesus extols the power even that small amount of faith, faith the size of a mustard seed. He compares the kingdom of God, and he compares our faith to a mustard seed.
It starts small, tiny in fact. And it grows from so small to very large. The mustard seed grows from the seed up to a very large tree. Big enough to cover the ground and for the birds to nest in its branches. This is also an allusion to Old Testament language where God will encompass not only the nation of Israel, but also the gentiles. The Kingdom of God grows this way. As RC Sproul says it starts with small beginnings and it grows to yield great and vast fruit.
Our faith grows from a small initial, immature, beginning faith and it develops, over time, also yield fruit, into a mature, full grown faith in Christ.
And it all starts with Jesus. It all started in a manger all those 2000 years ago. The most important person, the truest religion, the most monumental started in the most humble and small way possible.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
He started as a baby, a human baby, God clothed in flesh. And his ministry grew to encompass everything. Started in Nazareth, well Bethlehem really. It spread to all of the region of Galilee. It spread out to all of Israel and over time it spread over the whole world. All over the known world within 3-400 years and it has been brought across the globe over the last hundreds of years. And the scriptures show us that it also spreads between this world and the next.
One commentator writes that “From a small and seemingly insignificant beginning, the kingdom of God grows- at times invisibly almost imperceptibly- until it reaches all nations with its transforming power.”
Seeds like the Kingdom of God will grow. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes outwardly, like a seed to a tree. Sometimes inwardly like the yeast in the dough, as we are about to see. But always growing.
And like God, clothed in flesh, like the seed that is buried underground and starts to sprout, it all starts with an inward change. The change starts with the Holy Spirit changing your heart, it happens first on the inside, without being seen. But making us different from the inside out, instead of what we often try, which is to show the change in our outward behavior without actually changing us inside.
And Jesus gives another example showing the inner, unseen changing and comparing it to the Kingdom of God. He talks about a little leaven hidden in a large amount of flower. Basically, this is yeast being mixed through some dough.
To me this is a very interesting example that Jesus gives because, again, the leaven being spread throughout a batch of flour is used elsewhere in scripture. Only in other parts its used to show the corrupting power of sin. Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 5 how a little bit of sin corrupts much. The principle is that a little bit goes a long way.
It’s that principle that Jesus is using here. A little bit of Jesus goes a long way. It changes everything. It doesn’t take much. A little bit of Jesus transforms a whole person. OF course, it won’t continue to stay a little bit of Jesus. The amount of Jesus in your life should continue to grow and expand, but that’s more in line with the mustard seed.
The kingdom of God is the same way. It starts little, it starts with a small incursion, and then it spreads, and it will end up transforming the entire world. Transformation happens. The old passes by, and there will be a new creation. Our old selves are dead, and we are newly made alive in Christ.
Heaven comes down and invades this world and changes the culture. And we think that we need to fight this war on behalf of the kingdom of God. Yes and no. We are both winning and losing this war. We are destined to both win and lose this war.
We can’t succeed here on this earth. We will not “Christianize” the nation or the world. But we have seen what happens when the church decides that their main mission is to win the culture war. We end up moving to one extreme or the other. We move to the left, embracing friendship with the world over biblical fidelity and holiness. Or we move to the right, and we embrace power, especially political power over love and compassion.
But Jesus tells us that neither of these is right. He came, not to win a culture war, not to be the political leader like Israel was looking for at the time, or like we look for today. He came, not to allow and accept and embrace sin.
No, he came to ransom himself for the needs of the many. He came to acquire and offer salvation to sinners like you and me. He came to bring those who are dead and make them alive. He came to introduce the Kingdom of God to this world. And he succeeded.
RC Sproul writes: Within 40 years from the time Jesus spoke that parable, the kingdom of God had penetrated every locale in the Roman Empire. He started with a handful of people, and they leavened the whole lump. The little seed that was planted by Jesus has since grown into a tree that keeps us in its branches today, 2000 years after the life of Jesus.
Small things can grow and will grow. The gates of Hell cannot prevail against it because it’s the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of men. With God, all things are possible. With Christ all things are possible. A woman bent in half can be made straight and a culture twisted and distorted can be turned right side up when the people of God act like the people of God.
Jesus of Nazareth was born, come down from Heaven, God with us, born all those 2000 years ago. He came to introduce the Kingdom to us and this world. That’s what Christmas is. Celebrating and remembering Jesus’ first coming. We celebrate and remember his birth.
He came, he died on the cross. He rose from the dead three days later and then ascended into heaven. He calls us to respond to the offer of forgiveness and salvation by faith. He calls us to repent of our sins as we become new creations.
And he will be coming back. He introduced the kingdom, and he will return to consummate the kingdom. He will return to recreate the world. The New Heavens, the New Earth, all will be filled with us, His New Creations.
Christmas is the first advent, God come into the world to save sinners. Emmanuel, God with Us. He came to bring the Kingdom of Heaven. And it points us to the second advent, which we look forward to with, among over things, hope, faith, love and peace.
As we celebrate the first advent, the first coming, the introduction of the kingdom, we see the mustard seed sprouting and growing onto a large tree. We see the leaven being mixed into the flour and transforming it from the inside out. And then we will see the final and full manifestation of the kingdom, the transformation of the world completed when he comes again.
Joy to the World is one of the most famous Christmas songs although its not actually written about Christmas, Christs first coming. Instead, it was actually written about his second coming. Look at the lyrics with me as we finish up and then pray.
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!