Reading: Luke 13.18-21
Jesus said to the crowd, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’
And again he said, ‘To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
What is the kingdom of God like?
This may not be a question that is uppermost in the minds of the majority, but many people do seem to have some sort of rudimentary answer to this question. When I am speaking to those who have lost a loved one, I often hear talk of that loved one ‘looking down from heaven’ and ‘smiling in approval’ at something that has been said or done. Those who say such things may not consider themselves to be answering Jesus’ question, but how else can you interpret their words? They have created for themselves an image of a place where those who have died now rest in peace and contentment, no matter what befell them in their earthly lives.
What is the kingdom of God like? Jesus asked. This is, of course, a very big question. It is such a big question that no one is capable of providing an accurate, or even meaningful, answer. Everything to do with God is, by definition, beyond our comprehension and our vocabulary. ‘God’ may be a small word, but those three letters are used to describe the utterly indescribable.
Jesus, of course, knew that the crowd would not be able to answer his question, but he found a way to give us a clue. He chose two recognizable things that have similar properties: a mustard seed and yeast. Both of these things have something in common. Despite their smallness and lack of presence, they share the characteristic of growing way beyond what might be expected. Indeed, they grow, and grow, and grow far beyond the scope of our human imaginations.
God is also far beyond our human imaginations. No matter how inventive and clever we may be we never come anywhere near describing what the kingdom of God is like. So why does Jesus ask an unanswerable question? Jesus wants us to continue striving towards God. Jesus wants us to keep catching glimpses of the kingdom of God as we journey in this world. Jesus wants us to learn that God is as present in this world as he is in the world to come.
Let us pray that our senses, our hearts and our minds might be opened in order that we might join those who catch those tiny glimpses of God’s kingdom in this world, and then rejoice with them.