Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Overgrow the Government - Luke 13 - The Coming Living Kingdom of God

(Click here to read Luke 13)
(Click here to read yesterday's entry for more context)

Luke 13:18-21 (ESV)
18  He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21  It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

Mustard bushes are not pleasant plants. They are scrappy and tough little weeds, growing like short woody trees, overtaking any space where they are not kept at bay. In Palestine, they were known to take root and grow over graveyards if not tended well.

Yeast, similarly, does not have a good reputation. On the contrary, it is almost exclusively used to represent sin in the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus himself used it to describe the hypocrisy of the pharisees in only the previous chapter (Luke 12:1 - “leaven” is yeast Luke 12 notes). Jews often fasted yeast during seasonal festivals to represent repentance. (It is also notable that he should make the unusual choice of using a woman to represent God, but I don't have space here for that. Click here.) Yet Jesus uses yeast to describe the coming Kingdom of God, wherein the great reversal sets all things toward God's justice from the inside out.

Jesus describes the woman as “hiding” the yeast in the dough. Both this yeast and the mustard plant are hidden, and both do their work outside of the light, but surely and steadily. Both are alive, bursting from within and affecting everything around them.

Such is it with the Kingdom of God. The seed of the Kingdom, the living Holy Spirit of God, is planted in the disciples of Jesus. From the inside out they are changed. Their attitudes, desires, and motivations change. Their actions change. By their testimony, others also reject the sinful and corrupt spirit of the world, and join the living resistance. They become a body, working together in new, just community contrary to the power and control of the empire. As they grow and change, so do the affects of their lives change the very foundations of the empire in which they live. The roots of the living Kingdom wedge wider the cracks of the concrete and barbed wire until the entire dead structure comes crumbling down, revealing a living, verdant garden of True Community in Holy Spirit Kingdom life.

But this good news has a sharp other edge. Those that cling to the cold, empty deadness of the old way will perish along with it. Those that prefer the injustice of the selfish world and their selfish and controlling heart within it will pass away just as it will.

Luke 13:24-30 (ESV)
24  “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25  When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us’, then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

These are extremely dramatic and sobering words. Yet it would be far less than the love that Jesus preaches for him to not warn people of the judgment that comes with justice served. Yes, there will be a great reversal. Be sure that you choose now which side of the line you stand on, or the good news of the Kingdom will not be good for you. Jesus said that the Kingdom was entered as though we are children. He said it is good news for the poor and hungry. He shares it in food and healing among the oppressed masses. Better to be among the poor, the weak, and the oppressed, seeking their justice as the reversal occurs.

And to make a statement of belief in the justice of God is not enough. If we truly believe that the God we serve is Just, Good, and Loving, it will be seen in our actions. Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree cut down when it does not bear fruit (vv6-9). This is not burdensome religion, not rules or legislation by which we judge ourselves worthy. It is the reality of fruit borne from our lives when the seed of the living Kingdom is planted in our hearts.

The difference of kingdom priorities is illustrated in the story of Jesus healing the disabled woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). A powerless woman is set free from a debilitating disability by the power of God. Such is the demonstration of the Good News of the Kingdom. In response, a man from the controlling powers of the religious elite commands the people not to come for healing on the Sabbath any longer. For him, the rule of rest on this Holy single day is more important than the lifetime of freedom for the woman who was set free. The story describes him as “indignant” (v14).

Jesus sharply condemns him for his hypocrisy and control.

The people rejoice (v17). It is for them that the Kingdom of God is good news.

The religious elites, however, are put to shame. They are on the wrong side of the coming reversal. Unless they change, the good news for them is not good at all.

But Jesus does not rejoice in the judgment or destruction of those who perish along with the old corrupt way. Chapter 13 ends with his lament over those who reject the good news of true Justice, Life, and Peace. He and his warnings are a message of love.

John 3:16-17 (ESV)
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.


v17 – Jesus interpreted the law differently than the Pharisees. This verse emphasizes his compassion and love by which he interpreted the law, and the delight of the people at his interpretation.
vv22-30 - Will many be saved? Will everyone?


  1. hey I am stoked you used the sticker I drew on your blog! thanks dude.... could you spread the link for my kickstarter project around so we can make more of them? That would be insane! Thanks so much... heres the link


    1. You made that image? That is awesome! I used to be part of a collective in my city that silkscreened tshirts of that image. Another friend of mine makes patches now. Did you ever use it as anything other than a sticker?

      I'll promote your kickstarter...

      Hey, I have a bunch of those patches, too! A couple people in our church wear them, too. About half our church is vegan.

      I'm gunna buy your stickers...

  2. cool thanks so much! I am glad you have enjoyed them over the years! If you ever want digital files of any images to make more screens or anything like that let me know! breakfast@riseup.net