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Luke 13:18-22 – A Mustard Tree and Bread

Because Jesus had released the woman from the spirit of weakness in the previous periscope, Jesus tells two wisdom stories (parables). It isn’t immediately obvious how the wisdom stories connect with the healing. Jesus’ loosening/releasing the woman was as sign of the inbreaking Kingdom of God. The two wisdom stories further expand on that theme.

The Kingdom is like a grain of mustard seed which results in a large effect – the birds of heaven rest in its branches. Likewise, the small yeast has a large effect – three measures of flour makes enough bread to feed 150 people. The kingdom that is breaking in with Jesus’ ministry has small humble origins but nevertheless it ends up having a big effect.

It is surprising that Jesus speaks of a mustard tree. The idea of a tree in which birds dwell was used in the Old Testament as a symbol of a kingdom – but usually it was a cedar tree or something equally impressive. This a mustard tree is a surprising metaphor that conveys a kingdom but not an ordinary one.

Likewise, yeast which was usually disassociated with the holiness of the temple but here the invasive character of leaven points to way the kingdom expands in a hidden but pervasive.