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If you examine the life of Jesus, most of it was spent in relative obscurity. The Israel of his day was nothing more than irritating province in the Roman Empire. To be a Roman governor of the region was almost like a punishment.
Jerusalem was only important because of the fortress-like Temple complex that stood between Rome and the grain fields of Egypt. Jesus spent little time in Jerusalem, with the majority of his life and teaching taking place in Galilee.
Nathanael’s words, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1.46), reflected the general view of Jesus’ place of birth and the area of his ministry.
As Jesus’ followers probably had to contend with a fair amount of discouragement, as they walked with him through Galilee, while they fought off growing opposition by powerful religious and political leaders.
Jesus preached a counter cultural message. He said, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8.35).
Jesus practiced what he preached. On a daily basis, he “lost” his life and made the good news of God’s present kingdom his reason for living.
He spent the majority of his time with disciples made up of tax collectors, fishermen, zealots, and sinners. His ministry was among the sick, demonized, lepers, and desperate poor of Israel.
The only time Jesus associated with the powerful people of his day was when he came into conflict with them. He met with the great politicians of his day only to find himself sentenced to the most shameful death available in his day.
Encouragement for Small Beginnings
The twin parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven invite us to see God’s kingdom through the 20/20 vision of Jesus. They encourage people who feel overwhelmed by the big and powerful movers and shaker of our times.
Jesus said this about the Mustard Seed. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13.31-32).
The mustard seed is quite small indeed. When planted, it grows quickly into a plant that is about 10 feet tall. Birds often make their nests in the lower branches that are covered in large leaves.
Jesus used analogy between his kingdom and the mustard seed. The people who heard him could easily make the connection between the seeming obscurity of his work in Galilee and a tiny mustard seed.
Their lives had been radically transformed by their friendship with Jesus, but everything else in Israel seemed to remain the same.
Jesus let them know that the small beginning that began with them would grow, develop and make a large impact.
Invisible But Powerful
The twin parable to the Mustard Seed involved yeast. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened” (Matthew 13.33).
My wife, Toni, makes amazing sour dough bread. I am actually responsible for starting Toni on a bread making journey many years ago.
One day while she was at work, I tried to make homemade bread. My finished product look liked a brick and could only have been cut with a chain saw. It quickly found its way into the trash.
My failure with yeast was a blessing for everyone who had enjoyed Toni’s bread over the years. Yeast, though invisible, is crucial for good bread. She knows how to use it and I don’t.
Jesus spent the majority of his life in obscurity and much of his work was hidden. Yet, his largely hidden work and that of his followers has influenced history for over 2,000 years like no other movement.
Hospitals, charities, relief agencies, churches, and much more owe their existence to the hidden work of a Man who lived the majority of his life in Galilee.
Make a list with me of women and men, who sacrifice their lives for the sake of God’s kingdom and his purposes. They may have what is believed to be small works and hidden services, but their impact cannot be minimized.
Here are a few of my thoughts. I am sure you can add yours to my list.
— Mothers who pray daily for their children of all ages.
— Aid workers who bring food, water, medical services and sanitation to countries that lack those necessities.
— Men and women who daily reach out to the “still suffering addict.”
— People who go to their jobs and diligently work for the glory of God.
— Parents who nurture the growth of their children and influence them positively toward Jesus.
— Churches that serve their communities without fanfare, but with effectiveness.
A Message of Encouragement
It is easy for the hidden and small-beginning-activities to be swallowed up by the big and so-called important. It is easy to be discouraged as we live in a very chaotic and troubling world.
The parables of the Mustard Seed and Yeast remind us that if we seem to be “small,” it is OK. If we feel that our work is invisible, it doesn’t matter. God is in control of the results.
As you give your life to God in his service, he has every ability to make your small contribution significant. He will certainly see to it that your “hidden” service will be a contribution to his plans and purposes.
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.