Have you ever experienced going to a double feature? I’m not sure they even exist anymore, and they almost seem too good to be true, but moviegoers everywhere would have to appreciate their fortune when they went to a double feature. The phenomenon known as the “double feature” occurred when the movie theater director showed two films for the price of one. Imagine the cost of paying for your family to go see a movie today. Include the popcorn, candy, and drinks and you are talking about quite the evening out. Now imagine that your movie ticket was really for two! Pretty sweet! Now, some of you don’t make a habit of going to the theater. I maybe go to one per year. Others of you wouldn’t want to spend nearly 5 hours sitting and watching movies either. But I know some of you absolutely love this idea! Maybe you will start a petition to bring back the double feature. Let me know how that goes.
This week, as we continue our series looking at some of the parables that Jesus tells about the Kingdom of God, we come to a double feature. Jesus gives us two parables for the price of one and both are related to each other. Both uniquely describe the presence and growth of the Kingdom of God in our world today. Remember, for many people then and now, God’s Kingdom was something that was coming in the future. But once Jesus came to live among us, that changed everything. Now, God’s Kingdom was here. It was unleashed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Like the rest of His parables, Jesus tells us these Kingdom Parables for two main reasons. The first is to check the status of our eyes, ears, and hearts. Are we truly seeing things as He is revealing them to us? Are we truly hearing the message that He is giving? Are our hearts in tune with His will and His ways? Because the other reality is that for most people, we have an idea of what God’s Kingdom is and what it should look like. We can drum up a lot of ideas of how it should operate and our visions of it are usually impressive and big-time. But Jesus’ parables give us almost the opposite picture…at least initially. He uses the examples of a mustard seed and a little yeast to showcase this point. Now, by themselves, both of these things are not very impressive. They are not big-time. They are hardly noticeable or powerful by their sheer size, but they bring about some pretty remarkable realities as they grow and spread. Though God’s Kingdom is quite impressive, its impressionable nature is mostly hidden from the eyes of the world. God’s Kingdom is big, but its size is concealed in that which might seem to be small and insignificant. But the mustard seed and yeast, though small, hold great power and influence. Size doesn’t tell the whole story.
In his recent biography simply titled Grant, Ron Chernow tells the story of Ulysses S Grant's rise from store clerk to Civil War hero and beyond. By the fall of 1863, Grant had overseen successful campaigns in Vicksburg and Chattanooga. Suddenly, national leaders and politicians who just months before would have hardly recognized his name now sought to rub shoulders with the Union's hope of victory. In October of that year, on his way to a meeting in Louisville, Grant was approached by Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and Ohio Governor, John Brough. While Grant and Stanton had communicated via telegraph, they had never set eyes on each other. Short of breath, asthmatic, snuffling with a heavy cold, the short, stout Stanton barged into Grant's car, eyed the officers present, and then began to pump the hand of a bearded man with an army hat whom he assumed was Grant. “How do you do General Grant?” he cried. “I recognize you from your pictures.” Stanton was embarrassed to learn he was shaking hands with Grant's medical director, Dr. Edward Kittoe. Chernow explained: “Stanton later admitted that in guessing which officer was Grant, he had eliminated the real Grant because he looked much too ordinary and wasn't the prepossessing figure he had imagined.”
It is much the same way that the Kingdom of God operates. Its presence might be hard to notice, it’s growth might not seem progressive, it’s size and influence might seem unimpressive, but what does Jesus promise? His promise is that God’s Kingdom grows…that it is growing…and it will grow into something that will be impossible not to notice. He promises that it will permeate throughout the whole world in a way that cannot be denied or brushed aside. How reassuring it is to know that this is true even when life gets discouraging or when challenging times befall God’s people! How humbling it is to be a part of one of the agents that God uses to build and grow His Kingdom: His Church.
Again, let our prayer be that we are given eyes to see and ears to hear the ways that God is growing and building His Kingdom here and now. And may we rejoice that His Word holds the power to make the seed grow and to make the bread multiply so that many are fed.
Pastor Ben Bigaouette