Chapters 11-13 of Luke’s Gospel highlight the growing opposition to the person of Jesus. The charge of healing by the power of Beelzebul, non-observance of prescribed washings, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, are just some of the examples of the opposition encountered. Nonetheless, the reign of God, namely, God’s presence and working, continued to grow in the lives of the disciples.
The two parables of the mustard seed and the yeast stress this increase. The tiny mustard seed and a small lump of yeast produce great results, namely, a shrub of considerable height and expansion of dough several times its original size. The Apostles themselves are sterling examples of modest beginnings. Jesus did not choose superstars as his first followers. There were, in our contemporary terms, no former class valedictorians or student council presidents in their number. They were generally considered insignificant persons from a backwater area.
There are any number of lessons to be learned from these parables. First of all, God often uses seemingly weak instruments. It is a reminder never to overlook anybody, never to count anybody out.
Secondly, there is an obvious period of time involved in a bush’s growth or in the raising of dough. Too often we wish the reign of God to be apparent and operative immediately. Paul tells us in the first reading that we must await with patience what we cannot see--not always easy but certainly beneficial.
The parables give us insight, even us non-agrarian and non-domestic types, into simple lessons. Through them Jesus, the master storyteller, presents his message clearly and appealingly.
By Tom Schloemer