The Gospel of Luke ~ Chapter 13:18-21 ~ The Kingdom of God Grows Upward & Inward in You.

Vol. 19, No. 28 – July 26, 2020

7 26 20 - Luke 13 vs 18-21 The Kingdom of God Grows upward and inward in youThe Gospel of Luke
Chapter 13

IV. The Repudiation of the Son of Man by Men, Luke 9:51-19:27.

I. Instruction in the Light of Rejection, Luke 12:1-19:27.

7. Concerning the Kingdom, Luke 13:18-35.

a. Two object lessons to describe the Kingdom of God, vs. 18-21.

b. Enter through the narrow gate or be rejected, vs. 22-30.

c. Lamenting over Jerusalem for her rejection of the Messiah, vs. 31-35.

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a. Two object lessons to describe the Kingdom of God, vs. 18-21.

The first illustrates the humble beginnings of something great, vs. 18-19; the second, its inevitable transformation of the world, vs. 20-21.

The first is found in vs. 18-19, that speaks of the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed. This is paralleled in Mat 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32.

Vs. 18

Luke 13:18, “So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it?””

Jesus is asking Himself a question to provide an opportunity to speak about what the “Kingdom of God,” BASILEIA THEOS, “is like,” (the Present, Active, Indicative of the Verb EIMI with the Noun HOMOIOS), and what to “compare,” (the Future, Active, Indicative of the Verb HOMOIOO), it to.

The parallel passage is:

Mark 4:30, “And He said, “How shall we picture (HOMOIOO) the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it?””

Vs. 19

Luke 13:19, “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and THE BIRDS OF THE AIR NESTED IN ITS BRANCHES”.”

Jesus then chose a parable of a “mustard seed,” SINAPI KUKKOS, “kernel, grain, or seed.” SINAPI is used only in this parable in Mat 13:31; Mark 4:31, and here, and in analogy to the faith we should have, showing that exercising even the smallest faith will have great results, Mat 17:20; Luke 17:6.

Luke 17:6, “And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you”.”

Mat 17:20, “And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you”.”

The image of a seed is the most fitting symbol of potential. In our passage, the mustard seed is used in comparison to the Kingdom of God. It is one of the smallest of all seeds, yet produces a larger plant than most. As the man sowed the mustard seed in his own “garden,” KEPOS, and it “grew,” AUXANO, “grow, increase, or become greater,” it “became a tree,” GINOMAI DENDRON.

“And THE BIRDS OF THE AIR NESTED IN ITS BRANCHES.” In the Greek it reads, KAI HO PETEINON, “birds,” HO HOURANOS, “heaven or sky,” KATASKENOO, “live or dwell,” EN AUTOS HO KLADOS, “in its branches, shoots, or twigs.”

This is a quote from Ezek 17:23, that reads, “On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches.”

Ezekiel is speaking about God keeping His promise of the Davidic line, even after the Babylonian conquest. It is a picture of Jesus Christ, the son of David, coming to restore the people and nation of Israel and providing salvation for the entire world, i.e., “birds of every kind.” In that Messianic prophecy, we see God’s provisions for all to enter into His Kingdom. As Jesus uses this quote in this parable, He is identifying the prophecy as being fulfilled in Him, with the emphasis on the provision to provide everyone a place in the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, from seed to tree, speaks of Jesus coming into the world and taking on humanity in the form of a child, and growing to a man who would go to the Cross and pay for the sins of the entire world. Cf. Phil 2:5-11.

Nested in its branches,” is the fact that some people will have positive volition towards Jesus and believe upon Him for their salvation, with the result of being entered into the eternal Kingdom of God / heaven. Those who believe upon Jesus have an eternal abode in heaven. They will KATASKENOO, live or dwell, in heaven forever. This word is only used in this narrative in Mat 13:22; Mark 4:32; Luke 13:19, and in Acts 2:26, which is a quote from Psa 16:8-11. It is a prophecy of our Lord’s resurrection that leads us all to have great joy and hope in life, knowing we are eternally secure.

Acts 2:26, “Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope.”

The parallel passages are:

Mat 13:31-32, “He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. 32and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES”.”

Mark 4:32, “Yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR can NEST UNDER ITS SHADE.”

Matthew and Mark emphasize the smallness of the mustard seed and underscored Jesus’ words regarding the growth of the Kingdom. Luke places more emphasis on the branches of the mature tree and the birds that found shelter and sustenance there. He is emphasizing the results of repentance and the place they will have to dwell in for all of eternity. It starts with sowing the little seed called the gospel of Jesus Christ, but results in an enormous tree called the Kingdom of God where the Family of God will reside peacefully in heaven for all of eternity.

Remember, the Kingdom of God is both spiritual and earthly. Spiritually, the unbeliever becomes a part of God’s Kingdom by believing in His Son for salvation. Earthly, the Kingdom of God will one day reside on planet earth when Jesus sits upon His throne during the Millennial reign and then in the New Jerusalem, Psa 2; Isa 2; 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jer 33:14-26; Dan 7; Micah 5:2-15.

Isa 9:6-7, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

Isa 11:1, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”

At the Second Coming of the Lord, the Kingdom of God will fully reside on the earth. Evil will be vanquished, the earth will enjoy peace, justice, tranquility, and fulfillment. With the removal of the curse, there will be complete communion between creation and Creator, Rev 19:11-20:6.

“Not unlike a seed falling to the ground, the literal kingdom of God came to earth in the person of its King, Jesus Christ. Like a seed, however, there is a delay between its planting and its fulfillment. A seed goes into the ground, and from the perspective above the soil, nothing happens. Eventually, however, something insignificant in size becomes something magnificent. In secret, potential yields to actuality.” (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary)

Therefore, Jesus used this illustration for the greatness of the Kingdom of God that is also found in OT, in which a tree gives refuge to birds, Judge 9:15; Psa 104:12-13; Ezek 17:22-24; 31:3-14.

Within 40 or so years from our Lord’s resurrection, the gospel had reached every major city of the Roman Empire, along with innumerable towns and villages. But by the end of the 2nd Century the gospel of Jesus Christ had reached the entire known world.

Vs. 20-21, give us a second analogy as to what the Kingdom of God is like. This is paralleled in Mat 13:33.

Luke 13:20, “And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?” 21It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

Mat 13:33, “He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened”.”

Jesus opens this parable the same way He did the previous one, with a rhetorical question, which He answers.

Leaven,” is the Noun ZUME that means, “leaven, yeast, or ferment.” In classical Greek the word is used for fermenting grain. In both Roman and Hebrew writings, leaven was also a metaphor for defilement, impurity, or sin. Though this is the predominant use of the term, it was occasionally used positively as when rabbis saw the Torah as leaven that leads a person to God.

Interestingly, our narrative in Mat 13:33; Luke 13:20-21, is the only time this word is used in the positive sense. All the other occurrences are the negative sense, with warnings not to have false doctrines or sin in your life. Jesus particularly used it in regard to the false teachings of religion, cf. Mat 16:6, 11-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Cor 5:6-8; Gal 5:9.

In the positive sense, as here, it means that the kingdom of God will grow. It is not used to emphasize a gradual conversion but to emphasize the inevitable transformation.

“Hid in three pecks of flour,” uses TREIS for “three” and three words that are only used in this narrative by Matthew and Luke, ENKRUPTO, “put in or hide,” SATON, “seah,”  (a measure for grain, one-third of an ephah or bath, which is 22 liters), and ALEURON, “meal, fine meal, or wheat flour.” This would be the proper amount of dough to use when preparing bread for a family or larger group; it is the same amount prepared by Sarah in Gen 18:6. The point is only a small amount of yeast is needed to make a large quantity of dough rise.

“Until it was all leavened,” is HEOS HOS HOLOS, “whole, complete, entire,” and ZUMOO in the Aorist, Passive, Indicative that means, “to ferment or leaven.”

Gal 5:9, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.”

Yeast must be inside, and it works quietly and unseen. Again, here in the positive sense, the application of the Kingdom’s growth is obvious. When a little of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is placed in the world, many will come to believe and enter the Kingdom of God. Like leaven in dough, the Kingdom of God changes believers from the inside out with the promise of complete transformation. This begins for the believer while we are here on earth, and will culminate in our resurrection bodies in the eternal state. It is inevitable, meaning it is only a matter of time.

Therefore, Jesus likened the leaven to the Word of God / Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember Rom 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” As the Word of God is planted in the hearts of people, it swells the kingdom of God as those people respond to the Word.

“The early growth of the Kingdom is set forth in the Book of Acts. Wherever the Church in Acts is portrayed as growing, one sees the preaching of the gospel was the direct cause of that growth. The kingdom of God, or the Church, still grows the same way today. The Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, is the marching orders given to the Church to plant the seed and infuse the leaven, thus causing the growth.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary). Therefore, the first parable taught that the kingdom of God grows outward and upward. It starts small, like a mustard seed, but grows and stretches like a mighty tree so that the birds are able to nest in its branches.

The second parable teaches that the kingdom of God grows inward and through. It is like yeast. You cannot see it, but it is there working on the inside, working its way through the entire batch of dough. Likewise, the kingdom of God grows in visible and invisible ways.

In Luke 17:20-21, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them saying, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; no one will say, ‘Look here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

When Jesus preaches the gospel of the kingdom, He is speaking of the reign and rule of God that breaks into the world and breaks the power of Satan. It frees all who had been held hostage by the devil’s power and breaks into believers’ very being, setting us free. Remember, it is a kingdom where the rule of Satan is broken and the work of God spreads inwardly, outwardly, and upwardly. Christ renews all things. His sacrifice not only saves sinners, it also renews the cosmos. There is no kingdom apart from Jesus’ sacrifice, but because of His sacrifice there is so much more opened to those who believe.

Finally, these two parables of the kingdom give us a picture of the kingdom’s spread. It’s growing, sometimes visibly and sometimes invisibly. It means we should not measure our success by what we see. The Lord may give us great numbers in a great harvest, or He may be kneading yeast into the dough in ways we cannot see. It also means we will one day see all the branching success of God’s kingdom. We can do our work with faith and confidence because we know the kingdom grows even if we cannot see it yet. Remember, the devil has no power to challenge Christ. The Christian view is not a dualistic philosophy with equal rival powers tugging it out. No. Christ comes into the world to break the back of Satan’s schemes. In Christ, we are winning the battle. Let us take heart and do the work of spreading the Gospel with confident joy!

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If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:


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If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us.

Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life.

So right now, you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:

“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”

If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!

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