Two Small (but mighty) Parables of the Kingdom:

The Leaven (Luke 13:20-21) [Matthew 13:33]

The mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19) [Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32] {Thomas 20}

There is general acceptance, including the Jesus Seminar, that these are original stories by Jesus. The general themes are:

  1. Transformation: the leaven thoroughly transforms the dough
  2. Hiddenness: you can’t see the yeast hidden in the flour/dough
  3. Mysteriousness: difficult to explain exactly what happens
  4. Limited human capacity: it is not the woman who makes the dough grow
  5. Irresistibility: certainty that the dough will rise (assuming the yeast is good)
  6. All-embracing: it doesn’t stop until all the flour is leavened

Something extraordinary is happening: the kingdom is breaking in, shown by Jesus in his teaching and life. Something is happening now and the invitation to enter the kingdom is open to all people, although many people don’t know about it. God wants all people to be with him—in his kingdom. The process is not controlled by human action.

There is a small, insignificant beginning, but great final results. The kingdom is not imposed upon people, yet there is an irresistible power about it. As one writer has said “No matter what you do, the yeast works anyway” (Capon 1985:123). Jesus proclaims that the kingdom will definitely happen.

In these parables there are images of hope and the certainty of an invitation to enter God’s kingdom. God will bring about the desired results.

The Banquet/Feast (Luke 14:16-24) [Matthew 22:1-10]

Different groups op people: Jews and Gentiles

An urgent invitation to fellowship with God: God wants all people to fellowship with Him.

The people invited do now seem to grasp the splendor of the occasion. God does not want to force anyone to come—they separate themselves from God.

What about God’s threat? Is it a traditional Jewish rhetorical device of hyperbole? The invitation is declined because people are preoccupied with other things. The question of priorities is a key component of Jesus’s teachings.

What does it mean for God’s dining hall to be full? It is only full if all people take their places. It seems to also suggest that certain groups of people can be replaced by others.

Distinguish the logic of the images from the logic of the message. St Isaac of Nineveh (1995:171) wrote “Just because (the terms) wrath, anger, hatred, and the rest are used of the Creator, we should not imagine that He (actually) does anything in anger or hatred or zeal. We need to note that metaphorical figures are not God’s true nature. Fire, darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth “suggest suffering and regret as well as the need for a painful process of transformation and purification.”

The exclusion from the banquet is self-inflicted, but is it permanent? Did Jesus say that religious authorities would not enter the Kingdom of God or only that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter first?

Translating the Parables

The nature of a story in other cultures: in Kewa there are two main genres: iti (legends) and remaa (stories). There are also sub-genres, for example “parables” (hidden talk) is an example of a story, but not one told by the ancestors.