Then Jesus said, "What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it?
It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches."
He also asked, "What else is the Kingdom of God like?
It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough."(Luke 13:18-21)
I think the sense of the word [oun] is inferential (therefore) here in Luke (see Bible Gemz 1014). It certainly fits Luke's pattern of arranging things with a point to them. I am not sure if Jesus actually spoke this unit at this point in the proceedings or not. He could well have done so. Just because the Mustard Seed and the Yeast parables are used in another setting, does not preclude Jesus from using them elsewhere. And it certainly fits the context in this case. I tend to think that it was Jesus who used it and Luke recorded it, but it may also have been due to Luke's arrangement. I won't make a categorical statement on that as yet because I am not absolutely sure. Whatever the case, it still requires us to work out what Jesus or Luke are meaning by this arrangement.
Did you take the time to see where it connects to? There are numbers of options here which I will list for you, and then I will add what I conclude to be the connection to what was meant. But I hasten to add, this is in the realm of "this I say, not the Lord". Best you check it out for yourself and the best way to do that is to ask the LORD Himself when you see Him. But you will have to wait a while.
There are a number of options that have been suggested for the connection here.
It links to verse 17 b. and the idea "but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things He did."
It links to verse 17 a. and the idea "this shamed His enemies".
It links to the whole segment related to the woman who was healed, from verse 11 onward.
It links to verses 5 – 9, related to the parable of the fig tree: repentance and the true Israel.
It links to all that has gone before it.
If the link is to 1) the idea is the Kingdom is going to grow from small victories like this.
If the link is to 2) the idea is the Kingdom will grow from every victory like this over satan.
If the link is to 3) the idea is the healing of the woman was another small victory in the battle over the kingdom of satan. Victories like this will be what the advancement of the Kingdom is based on.
If the link is to 4) the advancement of the Kingdom is based on repentance.
Or 5) all of the above.
Allow me to develop the concepts for a while and state what I think. But again I reiterate, this is my conclusion. You will have to sort out what your interpretation is. I am not claiming that my interpretation is correct. There are times that I have and will do that because I am certain of the thrust of the text of the Bible and what is clearly stated. This is a case which is not so clear. So it is a little like the situation that prevailed in the times of the Judges, when every man did what was right in his own eyes. So applying that thought to this section, your interpretation is something you will have to work out for yourself. I am not claiming any revelation or special insight here. What I do believe strongly, is that because this is recorded in Luke's gospel, then it is logically connected together because that is what he told Theophilus he would do.
Certainly the case of the woman's healing makes it very clear that the Kingdom of God is having an impact. In the grand scheme of things it was a small victory, but every soul won back from the grip of satan is a victory. Every small victory for those held in the bondage of satan is a victory. Each one added to the next becomes cumulative. The mustard seed is extremely small but grows quickly into a large bush about 3 metres high. Technically it can't be considered a tree but in Jesus' time the mustard plant was indeed referred to as a tree. Jesus is merely adopting the usage of the crowd; speaking to them in their terms. The points of comparison for this example are three:
a) the smallness of the seed
b) the irresistible rapid growth of the plant
c) the size of the resultant plant from such a small seed
The imagery seems to suggest that from such humble beginnings, the Kingdom of God would grow to take over the world. Matthew and Mark contrast the size of the seed with the size of the plant. Luke mentions the smallness of the beginnings but then directly focuses on the size of the end result. The birds of the air nesting in its branches symbolizes the nations of the world. (see Ezek 17:23, 31:6; Dan 4:12, 21) Does the nesting in the tree suggest temporary occupation? The birds of the air (the nations) are only roosting there temporarily. Like the in-grafted branches of Romans 11. Does Jesus' parable suggest these nations are indeed not Israel but the Gentiles? This Kingdom will grow large enough to go far beyond the nation of Israel. The growth of the Kingdom of God mirrors the amazingly rapid, vigorous growth of the mustard seed. It is the power behind the Kingdom that will see it grow to take over the world. Not only that, but like the yeast it will permeate everything. The first parable talks of the extension and growth of the Kingdom; the second talks of the transforming power of it. It will go everywhere and get into everything. It has that power and that pervasiveness. As evidenced from the setting free of this "bent" woman, all things and all people will be set free.
It's probably clear to you by now what I think. I choose option 5. I think it is all of the above. I think Jesus' statements blend together the Parable of the Fig Tree, the call for repentance, and I think we would all agree the Kingdom of God is based on REPENTANCE. That is the foundation stone. But the Kingdom of God is built upon every person who is set free from the bondage of satan. That is why the Messiah came, to restore sight for the blind, to make the lame to walk and to set the captives free. Here before their very eyes was Kingdom work being carried out, appropriately on God's Day and in God's House. How fitting! The wonder that struck the onlookers and the shame that struck the opposition is all appropriate too. I don't think the summarizing of what happened by using the two parables related to the Kingdom of God, necessarily points to one particular verse or one particular segment of the above verses. I believe all are involved. It is a very "Jesus thing" to do and very typical of Luke to write it all in this way. At least that is my summation of it.
To repeat what I said at the end of the healing of the "bent woman", healing a child of Abraham and freeing her from satan's yoke on the Lord's Day in the Lord's House is what the Kingdom is all about. How could God's servants, ministers, not want to do that? And what better place to do it than God's house – temple, church, synagogue, sanctuary or cathedral? It matters not. Just give God the glory, by using His house to glorify His name by claiming back another soul from the grip of satan. It's what God's house is all about. To do it on His Sabbath Day again is strikingly appropriate. Indeed this is how the Kingdom will be established, with the victory of God's reign in each believer one at a time. Small beginnings but evidence of the pervasive, irresistible power of God at work; growing like a mustard seed and permeating everything like yeast. Bring it on. Make the people rejoice at the wonder of it all, and make the enemies of God ashamed and quake in their boots.
SIZE never determines SIGNIFICANCE! Rick Warren
Many of the things that seem impossible now will become realities tomorrow. Walt Disney
Your present will become permanent without an enemy. Rick Godwin
When you run from your enemy you delay your promotion. Rick Godwin