By CTA - Christ to All
Editor’s note: How many worshippers are you expecting on Resurrection Sunday? Be sure you send each one of them home with simple gift that will proclaim the good news of Easter morning throughout the year! CTA offers value-priced magnets, bookmarks, and goodie bags for Easter. Check out all the Easter gifts at www.CTAinc.com! This week’s devotion is slightly adapted from the FREE sermon outlines that accompany This Is Love, one of CTA’s themes for the Easter season.
Even our Lord’s enemies will usually admit he was a master teacher. Jesus was more than that, of course. Much more! He was - and is - Savior and Lord. Still, he was - and is - also a master teacher. One of his shortest lessons comes to us in Matthew 13:33. (Read it.)
To understand this story and its implications, we need to know a little bit about leaven, about yeast. Yeast cells are shaped like eggs and microscopic in size. Technically speaking, they are fungi. So if yeasts were to attend a family reunion, they would meet the molds used to make antibiotics. They would shake hands with the mushrooms you ordered on last night’s pizza. And they might sit next to the organisms that ripen blue cheese. The whole fungi family is quite humble, it seems, but very productive!
Baker’s yeast, the leaven Jesus talks about in his parable, has a long, nearly unpronounceable scientific name. The name means “sugar-eating fungus.” Baker’s yeast is very strong, strong enough to leaven heavy bread dough, causing it to rise.
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven,” Jesus tells us. So, is this one-verse story a parable - and only that? Or is it a promise wrapped in a parable?
All the evidence from the Book of Acts points toward this parable being, in reality, a promise, an apt description of what was sure to follow Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.
Let’s review a bit of history. We’ll see the Kingdom of God grow, the family of God expand. In fact, we’ll see a parade of unlikely people, all coming to faith in rapid succession:
- Acts 6 begins by describing a large group of Greeks - non-Jews - who had become believers. Some of them quickly began taking on leadership responsibilities.
- Later in chapter 6, we read this
The word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7 ESV).
“A great many of the priests . . .” That the faith was spreading among the priests is notable because at every turn, the chief priests were opposing the followers of Jesus. Lecturing, beating, and eventually killing them! But among the rank and file clergy, it seems, many were coming to see in Jesus their Messiah and Savior.
- In Acts 8, then, we read about one of the Greek believers, Philip, sharing the Gospel with Samaritans - a group of people often hated by Jews and Greeks alike. As a result of Philip’s witness, many Samaritans come to faith.
- Leaving Samaria, Philip then witnesses to an official from the court of the queen of Ethiopia, bringing this African official to faith.
- By Acts 9, Saul, the vicious persecutor of the church, is himself counted among the faithful!
In short, “the word of the Lord continued to increase.” The Word of the Lord grew! The message of the cross was changing individual lives. “This is love,” Jesus’ witnesses said, referring to his cross. And that message began to revolutionize whole communities. In the decades that followed, the message of Jesus and his love, of his cross and the forgiveness that flows from the cross, would change the world!
Listen again to Jesus’ story. (Reread Matthew 13:33.) This parable is also a promise! And from the promise spring two implications for us:
- First, remember that when Jesus first spoke these words, his followers were an unimpressive group. Unschooled and timid, they ran away when he was arrested. One betrayed him. Another denied him. Still, after our Lord’s ascension, the Eleven would proclaim the Good News of God’s love in the power of the Holy Spirit. Like the yeast in Jesus’ parable, that word of grace would slowly and silently begin to accomplish what the Lord sent it out to do. The humble beginning made on the day of Pentecost in an out-of-the way corner of Palestine was destined to accomplish great ends. The fact that you and I are here today, followers of Jesus, proves it! This is love! God’s transforming love!
- Second, the Lord’s parable also promised transformation on a smaller scale, an individual scale, a very personal and personally important scale. When the Gospel message invades our hearts, when the Holy Spirit uses his message of forgiveness and love to bring us to true faith, the message of the cross begins its quiet work in our individual lives. It is the work of transformation, of thorough change. (Read Romans 12:2.)
How is that transformation process progressing in your life and in mine? Perhaps as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection we will want to ask ourselves questions like these:
- Am I listening to what God is saying and taking it to heart? Do I regularly meet my Savior in the Scriptures and talk with him about what I find there? As a result, am I growing in daily repentance and a deeper faith in what Jesus accomplished for me on Calvary’s cross?
- Am I in God’s house weekly? Do I come expecting to be confronted by God’s Law and to be comforted by the Gospel message of pardon and peace in the cross? Do I gladly do what I have heard?
- As I grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), how is that growth changing my thoughts, my goals, my values, my behaviors? And who is getting the credit for those changes?
Just as in first-century Jerusalem, so even now the Word of the Lord is increasing. It is changing and transforming us as individuals. It is changing and transforming the entire world around us. The Holy Spirit is moving! This is true whether we see it or not, whether we believe it or not. Jesus has promised. (Reread Matthew 13:33.)
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