The Gospel of Luke

This devotional is written by Ronni Blackford. Ronni is "not a cat person" but will show you pictures of her cat, Steve, without any prompting.

Luke 13:18-30

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

18 Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches."

20 Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough."

The Narrow Door

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"

He said to them, 24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.'

"But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'

26 "Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'

27 "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'

28 "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."


Reflection


I really struggled with this passage, and put off writing this devotional because I knew I'd have to wrestle to get my head around some difficult text. But as I read around it, prayed about it and did a lot of frowning at my Bible app, I found it became more and more relevant to everything I see going on right now.


In the parables of the mustard seed, and the woman kneading yeast into dough, it's clear that out of tiny sources, greatness grows. God's kingdom can be found in the most apparently insignificant and mundane places. Recently, with our movements restricted, I've been finding complete joy in moments I might usually have taken for granted: a sunny day, a row of brightly painted houses, or a dog ignoring its frustrated owner to roll in a mud puddle. One of the few silver linings of these scary and uncertain times has been the reminder that God is so clearly in the world around me. He's not just waiting for me in church, He's right here - in the new lengths people are going to to connect, the sharing of uplifting stories, the immediately answered requests for prayer.


When it comes to the 'narrow door,' one commentary pointed out the difference between the question and the answer. The questioner asks, "will only a few be saved?" They're asking about numbers. Cold, hard statistics. "Is there a cap on the number of people who can reach salvation? I heard there's a ban on gatherings over 50 right now? What about having a one-in-one-out policy?"

In his response, Jesus instead asks his audience: "will YOU be saved?" Will you leave behind your worldly concerns of money, power, status, to fit through the narrow door? Stricter even than Ryanair's cabin bag size limits, he says we can take nothing through the gate. Will who we are inside be enough to gain us entry?

Instead of being capped by numbers, salvation is limited by time. The door will shut at some point: Jesus talks about 'when’ not 'how many'. I take from that we have this life, right now, to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. It doesn’t matter that we keep the right company, or listen to the right preachers; it matters who we are within and what our intentions are. The time we are living in right now is such an opportunity to demonstrate our faith as we reach out to comfort and help our loved ones and complete strangers alike.


And finally, the last line feels so fitting at the moment. "Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then." Aren’t we seeing that right now? Our frontline NHS staff, the key workers staffing the tills at your local supermarket: the lowest paid and so often the least appreciated. They're the ones still putting themselves at risk to serve their communities, while the high-salaried, high-status individuals we spend so much time lifting up are being sent home, deemed "non-essential".


These days can be scary and heart-breaking and lonely, there’s no denying that. But I've come to see this passage as embodying the opportunity we have to remember that the enormity of grace and love is found in each statistically unimportant individual you see and in every tiny act of kindness, patience and understanding.


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