The Book of Luke, The Mustard Seed, the Leaven, and the Strait Gate - Lesson 173
Luke 13: 18-22, Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? 19It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. 20And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 22And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.
The question that begins this discourse is a question that is posed and answered by Jesus Christ.
Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?
His answer is posed to bring to mind a grain of mustard seed which grew into a great tree and leaven which a woman took and hid in meal.
Now the next words of Christ following this question and answer session are about the strait gate and are from a different occasion and time.
But I believe the story of the mustard seed, the leaven and the strait gate were all placed together to teach a common lesson as to the future of the kingdom of God and should be considered together.
So these resemblances are followed in chapter 13 by Christ referring to a strait gate where we are told that only a few pass through the gate but many are not able to pass through.
Here again we see that this subject was prefaced by a question?
Luke 13:23-30, Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? 24Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.
The language that Jesus Christ uses here shows us that entering into the kingdom of God is not easy.
He encourages striving to do so.
It will not be a causal entering in, but an entering in with striving.
The word “strive” means to struggle, to contend with an adversary, to labor fervently.
He also says that many will seek to enter in but shall not be able.
That word able means that they do not have sufficient force to enter in.
They try to enter into the strait gate by force but to no avail.
They try to enter into the strait gate by means other than that which is approved of God and because of this they are not able.
The fact that it is a strait gate means more than it is only a narrow gate.
It means not only a narrow opening but a narrow opening with many obstacles in the way of entering the opening.
There are many things in the way toward the opening that hinders any who strive to enter in.
There is also a time when the gate or door is shut and can no longer be entered.
The master of the house shuts the door but there are demands for the Lord to open the door unto those without.
These that are without, claim rights to come through the strait gate for they have been workers in the broad way.
Their claim in the Gospel of Matthew is that they have prophesied, they have cast out devils, they have done many wonderful works.
This is how they have described their works, however the work that they have done is described by the Lord as works of iniquity for all works done outside of Christ are works of iniquity.
The Bible says that even the plowing of the wicked is sin and that all your own righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
They are therefore denied passage and turned away.
Now I believe the mustard seed which turns into a great tree, the leaven which permeates the meal and the entering or not entering in at the strait gate all refer to the same thing.
For they refer to that which takes place from the time of Christ to the present and in many ways even through the millennium for even at the end of the millennium false professors are revealed.
For each of these resemblances describes something that becomes large by being inhabited with false professors.
The birds which lodge in the tree are the false professors.
The leaven which puffs up the meal show the size of the bread is inflated by that which is not real.
The ones who are turned away from the strait gate are false and not real for the Master does not recognize them as from his household.
I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
So this is an indication of what the outward appearance of the kingdom of God is like from the time of Christ through the present and even to the end of the millennium.
This whole body of discussion flowed from the reaction of the religious leaders in the synagogue as to the healing of the crippled women.
Many of the Jews wanted to “work” for their place in the kingdom of God by meticulously “keeping the law.”
But in striving to earn God’s blessings, they rejected their own sinfulness and thus the need for a Savior as well.
For this is what religion produces.
It produces hypocrites, who pretend to be something that they cannot be, and that is to be holy.
For a man cannot be holy without the intervention of God.
In their quest to be holy, or righteous they naturally are attracted to the kingdom of God.
They are the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of the great tree.
The false professors find comfort in this great tree.
They inflate the outward of the kingdom for they are always outside but think they are inside.
Matthew records Christ’s words in this regard:
Matthew 7:22, Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
They, as the leaven affects the meal, are simply like bubbles, full of hot air, having no eternal value.
They are the birds who have found comfort in the mustard tree thinking that their idea of what pleases God will be sufficient for them to enter the strait gate.
This is the force that they intend to use to enter the strait gate.
The force of their own ideas, the force of their own good works, the force of their own doctrine, their own distorted understanding of the Bible, their picking and choosing of God’s Word to reinforce their own ways.
So we are given a picture here by Christ of the outward appearance of the kingdom of God.
It is bloated with multitudes of false professors.
Jesus Christ said in Matthew 7:13-20 that wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction.
These birds have entered the wide gate, their religion is a broad religion of their own making and by it they try to force their way into the narrow gate where a narrow way is required.
Now, what is to be our response to this message of Christ?
What is to be our response to this warning of Christ to take care that the way upon which you walk is the narrow way.
It tells us of the multitudes that have chosen to walk the broad way and gives us dire warnings that we are not to join them in their walk.
One wonderful thing about our God is that our God is careful to fully disclose the consequences of our choices.
He has a full disclosure policy.
We are to understand from this discourse that most of those in the religion of Christianity are false professors.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Jesus Christ describes those who enter the strait gate as few in number.
If you look into the Greek derivation of this word “few” you will find that it has been translated from a Greek word which means puny.
Jesus is saying here that the number of truly saved people is puny.
What is puny, what is few? When does a number become puny?
When does the interest rate on a bank account become puny?
It used to be that the interest rates on savings accounts were decent but now I think everyone would agree that they are puny interest rates.
What is the interest rate on your checking account?
One quarter of one percent? That’s puny if you ask me!
The religion of Christianity is the largest of the religions and is said to include 2.1 billion people.
This is not puny, this is not a few, but this describes the masses who have entered the wide gate and are on the broad way.
I do not know what the percentages are between who is false and who is true in the religion of Christianity but if Jesus describes the number as puny I would imagine that the percentage does not exceed 1 percent.
One in one hundred. If that were so there would be at this time 21 million souls who are on the narrow way.
21 million from world population of 6.6 billion!
If that is true one person out of 100 people who call themselves Christian is a true strait gate, narrow way believer.
This preaching of Christ tells us that it is not easy to find the strait gate because of all the obstacles in the way and most of those obstacles are those in the broad way.
Religion itself is the obstacle.
Therefore we ought not to look to religion for the way to the strait gate for religion is simply the major obstacle to the strait gate.
We are to look to God’s word and only God’s word to find the strait gate.
And we are to be careful about our own profession of faith.
We are not to take it for granted that we are walking the narrow way but be should heed this warning that most of those around us are not walking the narrow way.
We are not to judge by the walk of those around us to determine if we are on the narrow way.
God is good to us and tells us in his word to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith.
If you look at the percentages already given it is vital that each be sure of their standing before God.
Have you passed through the strait gate and are you secure on the narrow way?
The Apostle Paul takes this teaching of Christ and admonishes us to examine ourselves to be sure we are. I Cor. 13:5, Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.
The word “examine” and the word “prove” means to test, to scrutinize yourself.
Most of us are careful to examine our bodies with regard to our health.
Our body joins us in this endeavor.
Pain clearly announces itself so that we immediately examine the part of our body from where the pain comes.
If we cannot tell from our examination we call on a doctor who examines our body in all kinds of intrusive ways.
No one likes these examinations but they are necessary for the health of the body.
And when these examinations prove that there is a correction needed we do not hesitate to make such corrections even when life may hang in the balance.
Now, if this is what we do for this body which is temporal how much more should we rush to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith?
This expelling by Christ of those professors on the broad way must be taken seriously as a warning to us to be ever so sure of our standing before God.
Christ could have asked these false professors about their lack of a new birth, for in every true believer's life there is a time of new beginning, a time at which his spiritual life begins.
Jesus calls it “passing through the strait gate” in our passage in Luke 13.
He calls this being born again in John 3:3:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
And Paul clarifies this requirement in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
So by telling the false professors to depart he is telling them:
There never was a time in your life when you were changed.
He could have told them that they never had a desire to keep his commandments for his word identifies this as a mark of those who have come through the strait gate.
1 John 2:3-5, And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
He could have told them that all true children of God will receive discipline from God.
He could have asked them if they remember a time or times in their life where God had disciplined them for a specific sin?
Hebrews 12:6-8, For
whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he
whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all
are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
He could have asked them about the Comforter that he had sent true believers to help them in this life with the struggle between living like the world and the Spirit's desire that we live according to the Word of God, obeying His will instead of our will.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the
flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the
flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the
things that ye would.
He could have told the false professors that no true believer practices sin.
Practicing sin is having a knowledge of God's will and actively defying it with no intention or action to change and there is no pressure to change because there is no Spirit of God to effect change
1 John 3:9
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and
he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
So in summary we must be honest with ourselves. We must truly look into our own heart and ask ourselves:
· Is there a time in my life when I became a new creature?
· Do I desire to obey God and do His will?
· Can I remember a time in my life when God has disciplined me for a specific sin?
· Do I struggle with my flesh to obey God's word?
· Am I practicing sin?