Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 6, 1999
Please turn with me to Luke 13:18-21. This morning we are focused on potential - the potential of what God can do working in and through us.
Imagine this: On Day One - two friends get together and decide to form an Internet company. They call it “YouHoo.com” - its a search engine with some unique ideas and potential.
On Day Two they go public with their stock - and the stock sells for a modest $15 per share.
On Day Three their stock is selling for $250 a share and going up. Remember - they haven’t produced a product - they have no employees - in fact they don’t even have an office. All they have is the potential of what they’re going to do.
On Day Four they sell their company to a large foreign computer company and each make $50 million on the deal.
This could only happen in Silicon Valley - and thinking about companies like “ebay” and “intel” and others - its not too far from reality.
In Luke 13:18-21 - Jesus illustrates the potential of God’s working in us and through us. As we come to verse 13 - I’d like to back up just a little to verse 10 and set the scene for what Jesus is about to say.
It was the Sabbath and Jesus was teaching in a synagogue - speaking with the people there - when He became aware of a woman in the crowd. This woman had been sick - suffering with a crippling disease for 18 years.
When Jesus saw her, He called her over to Himself - put His hand on her - and said to her, “Woman, you are free from your sickness!” And immediately she straightened herself up - completely healed - and began to praise God.
When the men in charge of the synagogue saw what had happened they became very angry because Jesus had healed this woman on the Sabbath. And they began to explain to the crowd just what Jesus had done wrong.
They said, “There are six days in which we should work; so come during those days and be healed, but not on the Sabbath.”
Jesus answers them, “You hypocrites! Any one of you would take his ox or donkey out to give it water on the Sabbath - what about this woman - one of God’s own people who’s been sick for 18 years - why shouldn’t she be healed on the Sabbath?” - “What’s more important a donkey or a human being?”
The synagogue leaders were humiliated by His answer - and they should have been.
Jesus holds up the entirety of the Kingdom of God - all of the potential of what God is doing and can do in our lives - holds it right up in front of the faces of these synagogue officials - and says here it is. And their response? Sorry, it doesn’t fit our understanding of things. We just don’t see it. We’d rather trust what we know and believe.
In Luke 13:18-21 - in response to the blindness of these synagogue officials - Jesus gives two practical illustrations of what the Kingdom of God is like for those who choose to trust Him. Look there with me.
Luke 13:18-21: He - Jesus - said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which 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.” And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven - yeast - which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened..”
The first illustration is about a mustard seed. Its an illustration about what happens when we place our trust in God.
Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a small mustard seed - that grows to become taller and larger than all the other plants in the garden - offering shade to people below - and branches for birds to build their nests.
Potentially a mustard seed might grow-up to be a plant about 8 to 10 feet in height - given all the right growing conditions. But even if then it would be a thin - scraggly thing. There’s no way it would support even a bird’s nest. Its nothing like what Jesus describes.
Jesus is emphasizing the great potential of the seed when cultivated by God. A very small mustard seed grows unnaturally - supernaturally - into a tall shady tree. That’s the potential of the Kingdom of God.
Today, we look backwards through almost 2,000 years of church history and tradition and it would be so easy to think that all of that is what Jesus was talking about. The spread of Christianity over the earth. The dominance of Christianity in the west. Centuries of theological debate and study. All the religious knowledge we have today.
Its easy for us to focus on the outward activity of the Christian religion - and think that the spread of Christianity means that God’s Kingdom is growing. We’re easily impressed with size and influence and power. If attendance is good - if the budget is large - if the building is paid for - that’s success - that’s the Kingdom of God growing.
Even here - when we have ministry events - or our Sunday Service of Worship - when someone asks, “How was it?” The question that's usually being asked is, “How many people were there?”
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is not all this external religion. The Kingdom of God is people - people of faith - who have a relationship with Jesus Christ. The potential of the Kingdom of God is realized in our lives when we are willing to trust God.
We look around and see our nation - Apostolic or Evangelical - and those who rarely - if ever - come to a church - people who are trusting in external religion - tradition - ethnicity - but they don’t know Jesus. There’s a concern we share for our Armenian nation - and the communities in which we live. We want to pray and work that they would come to trust in Jesus as their Savior.
But what influence - what potential - does a small group of believers have amongst the thousands of Armenians in the Bay Area? What influence can the Evangelical reformation have as a small percentage of the Armenian nation? Who are we - in the communities where we live - the places where we work? When we speak out in faith - we experience resistance - ridicule - indifference - its hard to follow Jesus.
So often we focus on the small seed - small and alone in the world. We focus on the seed and forget to visualize the potential of the tree - of what God wants to do in us and through us. In the mustard seed there is a tremendous potential for growth.
The seed is small. But, what does Jesus say? The seed is supernaturally becoming the Kingdom of God. God will water it - nurture it - God will bring growth to it.
To this church - to those who struggle in prayer and service - who seek to live Godly lives in this society - these words mean that we are to carry on - move forward in faith - because God is bringing about His Kingdom. That faith - in God’s hands - will become a tall - thriving - mustard tree - and He will call His people from every nation to come and nest in its branches.
Second - Jesus speaks of leaven - yeast - the influence we have on others.
In verse 20 - A woman takes some leaven and hides it in a large tub of flour - after time it changes all the flour - penetrates it - so that all the flour is leavened. There’s inherent potential in the yeast to infect the flour. Just as there is potential for the people of God to transform this world.
The Bible speaks of leaven in two ways. I think Jesus has both in mind here. First, leaven is often symbolic of sin - people and actions that are disobedient to the will of God. Second, leaven is yeast - its the ingredient that makes dough rise - expand. That’s a good thing.
Our actions are like leaven - they’re infectious - they influence others - either for evil or for good. We may not think that what we do is really all that important - but according to Jesus, it is.
The words that we say to our brothers and sisters in Christ - or what we say about each other - what we say about God’s ministry - the words we speak when we’re not a church - people hear. Our commitment to worship and obey God - the priority He has in our lives - people watch how we live our lives.
If everything that we are is given to God - trusting Him - living in obedience to Him - we can be leaven that brings people closer to God - that attracts people to His ministry here. We can be leaven that seeks to build up His Church - that He can use to enlarge His Kingdom and bring others to salvation.
The religious leaders - and most of the people listening to Jesus - didn’t understand what He was offering them. They missed the potential of God’s working in them and through them.
Many were very religious - observing all the external effects and regulations of their religion. Ethnically they were Jews - and in the same way that many Armenians claim to be Christian because we’re a Christian nation - many of the Jews believed that their relationship with God was okay because they were His chosen people.
But the bottom line - is that entrance into the Kingdom of God is by choice. Being a part of the Kingdom of God doesn’t happen because of our physical birth or because we’re raised in the church and lived Christian lives. Entrance into God’s Kingdom - and all the potential of what that means - comes when we individually choose to receive Jesus as our Savior - to live trusting God with our lives now and for eternity.