The Mustard Seed and the Yeast are two parables that divide opinion among Bible teachers. Some see the birds (v19) and the yeast (v21) as bad things. In the Parable of the Sower, birds speak of Satan’s representatives (8:12) and Jesus warned his disciples of the yeast of the Pharisees (12:1). This has led some to suggest the parables speak of the influence of false teaching in the Church. For me, it seems a bit of a stretch to suggest birds always mean evil in the parables; after all, Jesus has spoken of birds positively as well (12:6, 24). Jesus is always making a particular point in his parables. If you haven’t guessed already, I take the more traditional view, but check it out by reading it for yourself here, I may well be wrong.
The point of these parables is that from very small beginnings, the kingdom of God grew rapidly. Anyone looking at Jesus and his small group of followers would find it hard to see them having any sort of impact. Yet, the world has changed forever as a result of Jesus and the people he trusted. The mustard seed is not known for being a large powerful tree; it’s actually not much more than a bush. It is however, known for its rapid growth. In a similar way, yeast is known to spread through a whole batch of dough. A small amount has a large influence. The kingdom of God is still like a mustartd seed and yeast, it can grow rapidly. We see it some parts of the world and our prayer is that it should happen here.
In his response to another question Jesus turned the focus away from theory and onto the question of personal responsibility. It isn’t a question of how many will be saved, it is a question of whether you will be saved. If you have ever flown in an aeroplane, you will no doubt have sat through a preflight briefing. The cabin crew give safety instructions in case of an incident. When it comes to the part about the oxygen masks, the instruction is always the same; ‘make sure you wear the mask yourself before trying to assist anyone else’. It’s a question of knowing the owner of the house (Jesus). Some will come from far away and will take their places (v29), whilst some who should have been there will be excluded. Jesus made it clear the time is limited, the door will close and it will be too late (v25). Jesus’ hearers probably thought there would be other days and other opportunities to respond to Jesus but they were wrong. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem (v22) and that meant the cross – he wasn’t coming back, this was their last chance.
If you are not a Christian please do not assume there will be loads of other chances to respond to Jesus. There may well be other times but there will come a time when it will be the last opportunity, this could be it! “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.”
We thank you Lord that we can hear and respond to your good news. Help us not to be complacent, whether as those who hear or those who speak. We thank you this salvation which was so costly and yet is so free.