Story of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

WELCOME back to our amazing series on the wonderful Parables= of Jesus. Today, we’ll spotlight two of them—about the Seed and the Yeast.

Both of them have one message: God likes small.

He likes big too. He’s a big God. And He built a big universe. But our problem is we tend to over- like big. And we downplay small. Which is a big mistake.

This is God’s powerful word for you. Let me begin with a story.

In Cubao, Quezon City, there are a few department stores scattered in Metro Manila. But the first-ever “supermall” that was built was SM City North…

Man, it was mind-blowing. My first thought:

Was I still in the Philippines?

Do you know that to this day, SM City North is the biggest mall in the country? (Trivia: Second is Megamall and Third is Mall of Asia.)

SM City North has half-a-million square meters. That means the mall is as big as Vatican City. SM City North has 1,100+ stores, 5,000+ parking slots, and before the spread of the Coronavirus Disease started in 2019 (COVID-19) half-a-million persons walked through its doors every single day.

If you’re asking, “Where did this massive complex of buildings come from?”

The answer is riveting: Everything started with one idea.

One day, a guy by the name of Henry Sy, a 12-year-old kid from Xiamen, landed in Manila. Years later, his family returned to China, but he stayed on. In 1958, he had this idea—to start a shoe store called “Shoe Mart” in Quiapo, Manila.

Fast forward today. SM has 75 malls in the country, plus 8 in China. They also own the biggest bank in the Philippines.

Small is big.

That house you’re in started very small. It started with an idea. A thought.

A design. Later on, an engineering blueprint. That phone or laptop you’re using to listen to this talk started with an idea. Someone dreamt of that machine. Every book that has been written, every song that has been sung, every organisation that has been built started with an idea.

Which reminds me of what Paul said, “…we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

And would you believe?

Even the Kingdom of God started in the same way…

One Idea Starts a Movement

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 NLT)

Here’s a photo of a mustard seed. Pretty small, right?

Here’s what happens if you plant the seed and allow it to grow.

Before we continue reading, declare this: “I’m God’s mustard seed.”

Jesus adds a bonus parable that has the same message: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (v.33)

Imagine 60 pounds of flour vs. a pinch of yeast.

Jesus said the Kingdom of God—the place where He reigns—starts very small. And the Kingdom’s territory is bigger than SM City North.

The Kingdom is God’s mega-project of fixing this broken world. But as big as the Kingdom is, Jesus says it started small.

Let’s read this parable in context…

Instead of a Warrior, God Sends a Savior

The Jews were being oppressed by the Roman Empire. So, they were praying to God to establish His Kingdom, but their idea of Kingdom was for a military Messiah to lead God’s army and act as a Divine Hammer of Justice to crush the Roman oppressors.

But God had a different Messiah in mind.

He didn’t send a Hammer— He sent a Healer. He didn’t send a Warrior— He sent a Savior. Instead of fighting, He went about healing the sick, feeding the hungry, touching lepers, and befriending sinners.

People wanted something big. They wanted a war. They wanted Jesus to be like Captain America who would lead the Avengers to crush Emperor Thanos in Rome. At the very least, they wanted a coup d’etat where they kill the puppet kings over Israel.

Let’s apply this today. Imagine everything that’s wrong with the world. Poverty. Injustice. Pollution. Your Ex. Your other Ex.

So, what again is God’s grand plan to right the wrongs of the world, overhaul twisted humanity, and build His Kingdom on Planet Earth? Get ready to be shocked: God wanted to use small nameless people to build the Kingdom…

Some 2,000 years ago, God did that…

Small Nameless People

For His first disciples, Jesus chose Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Fishermen were not the poorest but they were not the richest either. They were the small entrepreneurs at the time of Jesus who had a hard time paying taxes. These guys were big nobodies. If Peter had social media, he probably had 28 Facebook friends and 16 Tiktok followers, most of them his relatives. They had zero power.

Hey, in the Bible, you do see God work through powerful people like kings. I’m not discounting that. But more often, God works through small nameless people because the core message of Genesis is that we are ALL Kings and Queens, made in the image of God.

Dear friend, you’re more powerful than you think you are. You’re more amazing, and beautiful, and impactful, and phenomenal than you think you are. You are God’s mustard seed.

Which reminds us of the story of the beginning of The Feast…

My Mother and Her Little Idea

THE year was 1980. My Mom Pilar, here with Dad Gene, had a little idea. She believed that God wanted us to build a small prayer group in our garage.

In the next few months, a tiny bunch of ordinary folk—relatives and neighbors and office mates—gathered there every Tuesday night.

When I woke up on Tuesdays, it was the same scene: Dad set up the chairs; my sisters scribbled the lyrics of the Worship songs on brownish Manila paper and hang it on a piece of wood; my Auntie cooked sotanghon and almondigas for those who went to the prayer meeting without dinner, and turon and fake orange juice for snacks after the prayer meeting; and my Mom sat beside the phone almost the entire day, inviting her friends to join our prayer meeting. She received a lot of rejection. But it didn’t stop her. She was on a mission.

Because I was 14, I went to school. In class, my Math textbook was on my desk, but my Bible was open on my lap because I was preparing for my talk that night.

Never in my mother’s wildest hallucination did she ever think that her tiny idea would spark a global movement with hundreds of Feasts in 26 countries.

At right, here I am leading our Grand Feast in Sydney, Australia, in 2018.

Neither did she think that we would launch numerous ministries for the poorest of the poor, including a media organization that would publish the widest read inspirational literature in the country.

Will You Say Yes?

Small is big.

This is how God loves to work.

This is His modus operandi.

He works through the domino effect. One small domino can cause a million other dominoes to fall.

And there’s nothing special about that first domino.

It just must be willing to start something.

Are you willing to start something?

Even if you fail? And start again? And again?

My mom was a housewife and a mother of six kids. She was just a High School graduate. She was not a preacher or leader. She could not stand in front of a pulpit without laughing and running to the toilet to pee. (I’m not exaggerating.)

But this was why God used her: She said “Yes”.

How God Plans To Invade the World Through Small

One small nameless person is enough to cause a revolution.

Truth: Jesus believes that one ordinary person discipling another ordinary person will change the world.

To make this a bit more practical, here are the two steps to building the Kingdom…

Follow Jesus in your daily life. Entrepreneurs, sell with integrity. Employees, love your customers. Fathers and Mothers, sacrifice for your kids. Husbands and Wives, be selfless. Children, serve others.

God is in your mustard-seed moments.

God shows up in small, hidden, and mysterious ways.

Our problem? We look for God in big dramatic events. We think He shows up only when it’s epic. But that’s not true.

God is in your monotonous daily Pandemic life at home. God is in your cooking, cleaning, washing. God is in your Zoom meetings —wearing a formal shirt on top but shorts at the bottom. God is in your online shopping. Follow Him there. Love Him there. And shine His light there.

The Feast was so successful, we built massive Feasts. We filled cinemas and halls and convention centers. A Feast with a hundred participants was considered small. Feast PICC gathered 7,000 participants every Sunday.

And then the Pandemic came.

And in one snap, God brought us back to what my Mom was doing 40 years ago. Today, we start micro-Feasts in garages (because it has to be open-air!), street corners, offices, coffee shops, and Zoom calls. We’re back to where we started.

Can you be like my Mom?

God’s Kingdom, His plan to overhaul humanity, starts with you.

God doesn’t care about how small you are.

God doesn’t care where you’ve come from.

Will you be God’s mustard seed?

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