‘[Jesus] put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches [and]‘at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous’[…] Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’’ Matthew 13:31-32,49,51
Brothers and sisters, in the past few months, many of you, whether parents or grandparents have had to turn your hand to teaching. When you ask those who have courageously taken on this challenge what they have learned one of the answers most often given is: that professional teachers have been massively undervalued.
Jesus, the best teacher there ever was, has been giving us our own crash course, in the past 3 weeks, in what the kingdom of heaven is like. The first week we had the kingdom compared to seed in a field, and our hearts compared to good or bad soil. Last week Jesus took this simple example and told us not to focus on the weeds, not to judge the other plants, but to get on with growing ourselves. And now - as Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom draws to a close - Jesus simplifies things again. In today’s passage Jesus teaches us again, and then He reminds us, that there will one day be a test. And so Jesus closes with a question: ‘Have you understood all this?’ Well, let’s look at this final bit of teaching on the kingdom of heaven and make sure that at the end we can say ‘yes’.
Jesus says: ’The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed […] it is the smallest of all the seeds’. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t look all that impressive. In our modern Western world if something is to be taken seriously it has to look impressive, and quickly make an impact. ‘But’ says Jesus ‘the kingdom of heaven is exactly the opposite’. It’s small, and it takes a long time to have an effect. But give it time, and it will make all the difference in the world. If, when you look at yourself, you wonder why God bothers. If you’re the only Christian in your family and friends and think you can never make a difference, remember, God works through the small things, and He takes His time. As Mother Teresa said: ‘We can do no great things just small things with great love.’ The kingdom of heaven doesn’t look all that impressive but then neither does a mustard seed.
Who or what is this kingdom? Who or what looks unimpressive? Well, it’s Jesus Himself!! In the parables over the last 3 weeks, Jesus has revealed Himself as: the seed, the leaven, the pearl, the fisherman, and in doing so, Jesus has taught us who we are. We are: the soil, the dough, the field, the fish. Only in getting to know Jesus, can we really understood who we are. Only in focussing exclusively on Him, do we discover who we are called to be. And as we saw in our first week back, if we do not understand what Jesus is saying then the seed will be plucked away from us by the Evil One. And so as we come to the end of this part of Jesus’ teaching, He checks in with us once again and asks: ‘Have you understood all this?’ As we saw last week, - and as we see again this week - there is a final exam, a judgement of our understanding. Or as Jesus puts it in v49: ‘at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous’. This final exam - this judgement - is the separating out of those who understood and believed from those who did not. And so Jesus turns to those He has been teaching and checks: ‘Have you understood all this?’ For Jesus is the good teacher who longs for each of His students to be able to answer ‘Yes’.
In the past 3 months, with the children being kept at home many of us have become teachers. And yet as we have listened to Jesus’ teaching over the past 3 weeks we have all become students. And like all good teachers, as Jesus moves on to new topics He reminds us of what he’s taught: that the kingdom of heaven doesn’t look all that impressive. Then He turns to us and asks: ‘Have you understood all this?’ Brothers and sisters, in both words and deeds, let all of us be able to answer ‘Yes’. Amen. (from Rev. Mike)