THE KINGDOM OF GOD WILL PROVE TO BE BOTH BROAD AND NARROW
The juxtaposition of these two short parables with Jesus’ teaching on entrance into the Kingdom of God provides a dramatic contrast as well as some interesting surprises relating to the Kingdom. How can the Kingdom be both broad and narrow at the same time? Jesus shows how that is possible. How can the Jewish religious leaders have such false expectations of their membership in the Kingdom? Jesus points to some surprising aspects of who it is that will end up in this Kingdom before Judgment day closes the door on new members. But at the end of the day Jesus continues the thread He has been developing regarding the urgency of repentance and the need to be authentic as a true disciple.
J. Ligon Duncan: Jesus in these two stories shows how something that looks small can become great. Something that looks insignificant, but is in fact very significant; something that looks almost insubstantial can permeate everything. And He’s telling these stories to encourage His disciples because He is perfectly aware of what the response to His ministry is and what the response to their ministries will be.
They are being called to preach Christ and his gospel in a world and into a culture that will overwhelmingly reject those realities. And if they view the kingdom by the measure of their contemporaries’ acceptance or rejection of Christ, by their contemporaries’ acceptance or rejection of their message, they will be discouraged because though they will see amazing things just like in Jesus’ ministry we saw amazing things. We saw amazing crowds follow Jesus’ ministry from time to time and we saw amazing responses of faith to Jesus’ ministry from time to time, and though the disciples, there will be days like the day of Pentecost when thousands come to trust in Christ, but there will be an overwhelming either yawn or rejection of their ministry, of their message, and of their mission by their contemporaries.
I. (:18-21) KINGDOM OF GOD CHARACTERIZED BY EXPLOSIVE GROWTH –
A. (:18-19) Outwardly and Visibly – Like a Mustard Seed
1. (:18) Key Question Regarding Nature and Composition of the Kingdom of God
“Therefore He was saying, ‘What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it?’”
2. (:19) Visible Impressive Manifestation
“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.”
The kingdom will be universal and extend to the end of the earth; it will be broad enough to encompass all nations; Despite humble beginnings and fierce opposition, it will be victorious and outwardly impressive
B. (:20-21) Inwardly and Invisibly – Like Leaven
1. (:20) Key Question Regarding Nature and Composition of the Kingdom of God
“And again He said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?’”
2. (:21) Invisible Transforming Power
“It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.”
The transforming power of the kingdom will be impressive
Steven Cole: So the meaning here is parallel to the meaning of the small mustard seed. The smallness of the pinch of leaven is not a problem even though the lump is large. The smallness of Jesus and His ragtag band of followers is no problem with regard to the worldwide spread of the gospel. The power does not depend on Jesus’ followers, but on the power of God through the gospel.
Geldenhuys: Through these two parables Jesus teaches that the kingdom of God, of which He is the Founder and Representative, will outwardly as well as inwardly come to perfect development notwithstanding its insignificant beginning and the opposition that will be offered it. Nothing will be able to stop its growth and full development.
Mattoon: Leaven is normally used to illustrate the influence of sin in the Bible, but here, it is used to illustrate the spreading influence of God’s kingdom. The leaven starts out small, but then it changes the entire nature of the dough. That is what Christ does in us as we yield to Him. We are new creatures in Christ. Paul said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).” As we yield to Christ in our heart and mind, we change and become more like Him as He works in us. Paul spoke of this surrender and the resulting transformation is us. (cf Ro 12:1-2). The effect of leaven may go unnoticed, but it is working, changing the nature of the dough. God’s working in our lives may go unseen at first, but He is working in our hearts. (cf Php 1:6). As the leaven does its work on the inside of the dough, our Lord works in our heart, changing us on the inside, which in turn, effects our behavior on the outside. We have no power to change ourselves. We are incapable, incompetent, inept, and ineffective in cleaning up our wicked heart. The power to change our ways, conquer sinful habits, and conform to the image of Christ must come from the Lord, who works within our heart and soul when our faith and trust are in Him. Without Him, we are helpless. (See Jn 1:12, Jn 15:5)
II. (:22-30) KINGDOM OF GOD LIMITED TO A NARROW CORE OF MAINLY GENTILE GENUINE BELIEVERS
A. (:22) Context – Heading to Jerusalem
“And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem.”
B. (:23a) Key Question = How Many Will Be Saved? Many or Just a Few?
“And someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?’”
Interesting question in light of the preceding two metaphors that spoke of such rapid and widespread growth of the Kingdom of God when viewed externally
Steven Cole: Somewhere in some village some unnamed person in the crowd asked Jesus an interesting theological question: “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” I don’t know the man’s motives for asking the question. Perhaps he saw the increasing opposition from the religious leaders and he could sense that the crowds, although superficially interested in Jesus’ message, tended to side with their leaders. But he asked this question, “Are there just a few who are being saved?” Most of us have wondered about that question as we look at the billions of pagans compared with the few committed Christians. It would have made for an interesting theological discussion. But Jesus did not answer the question directly. Instead, He directed the question away from abstract theological speculation and toward specific application for each person in the crowd. The man had asked, “Will the saved be few?” Jesus turned it around to ask, “Will the saved be you?” Remember, Jesus was speaking to a crowd made up mostly of religious Jews. Almost to a person they believed in the one true God. They were not agnostics or polytheists. They believed in the Hebrew Scriptures and lived in basic accordance with them. In giving His answer, Jesus was not addressing a pagan audience. He was talking to the “church” crowd, most of whom assumed that they would go to heaven because they were good Jews. And He gives us church folks some important and practical lessons on the subject of salvation: Salvation requires our earnest effort, our urgent attention, and our careful self-examination. It requires our earnest effort because the door is narrow. It requires our urgent attention because the door is soon to be closed. It requires our careful self-examination because once it is closed, the door will be eternally-closed.
C. (:23b-24) Key Principle = The Door to the Kingdom is Narrow
“And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter by the narrow door;
for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’”
Focus on your own salvation – don’t get all caught up in what will happen to others
Donald Miller: Obviously, the questioner assumed that he was numbered among the saved. Jesus sought to shake him loose by insisting that no one is saved by the accident of birth into the Jewish nation, nor by the achievement of keeping the Law. The door into salvation is narrow (vs. 24). Jesus himself is the Door (John 10:7-9). Repentance and faith in him are the only striving that counts.
Morris: Strive is a word denoting wholehearted action. It is a technical term for competing in the Games, and from it we get our word “agonize”. It point to no half-hearted effort. This does not mean that human achievement merits entrance into the kingdom: it is the attitude that is in mind.
D. (:25-27) Don’t Presume You Have a Free Pass
1. (:25) Once the Door Closes It Is Too Late — Urgency
“Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’
then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’”
2. (:26-27) Superficial Contact with Jesus Won’t Cut It — Authenticity
“Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence,
and You taught in our streets’;
and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from;
depart from Me, all you evildoers.’”
Geldenhuys: Though they may plead to be admitted on the strength of the fact that they have seen and heard Him and knew Him outwardly, He will reject them inexorably because they never came into intimate personal communion with Him and continued to live in unrighteousness, although they had the fullest opportunity to learn to know Him as their Redeemer.
E. (:28-30) Transition From Jewish to Gentle Orientation
1. (:28) Rejection of the Jews
“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out.”
Anyabwile: Everybody talkin’ bout heaven ain’t goin’
Deffinbaugh: Notice that the Israelites who miss out on the kingdom by failing to pass through the narrow gate are very conscious of what they have lost, and what others have gained. This is the basis for great torment, for “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Hell is no joy. Hell is being separated from God, and wishing you were not. Hell is being separated from God, knowing that you could not have been, but refused, and watching others enjoy it. Hell includes conscious torment, the knowledge of what could have been.
2. (:29) Inclusion of the Gentiles
“And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.”
Morris: There is double mortification: being excluded themselves and seeing the despised Gentiles included.
3. (:30) Surprising Reversal
“And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.
Lenski: Some people have all the means of salvation but fail to use them and ae lost, others are destitute of these means in the beginning, ye the moment they get them they make full use of them and thus obtain salvation. This fact is beyond dispute, and it is used here as a warning.