Church of the Good Shepherd

The Parables of the Mustard Seed & Leaven

Hitting a 90mph Fast Ball

Have you ever seen someone do the impossible?

  • I’m not talking about waking on water or raising the dead … though if you’ve seen that, that’s pretty cool
  • But something that you can’t prove.
  • Something unexplainable

Something like hitting a 90mph fastball.

Robert Adair, who is Sterling Professor of Physics Emeritus at Yale University, wrote a book “The Physics of Baseball.”

He breaks down the reaction time for a batter, who is facing a 90 mph fastball.

  • LOOKING: It takes about 75 milliseconds (in the time the ball has traveled about 9 feet) from the first observation to the construction of the picture in the batter’s brain of the ball leaving the pitcher’s hand. This sometimes can be as much as 100 milliseconds.
  • THINKING: The batter has about 50 milliseconds to decide if the pitch is a fastball, curve, slider or change-up and if it is too high or low or inside or outside. This time also can be slightly longer as a player makes minor mental adjustments.
  • ACTION: The brain begins to send out the signals to the body that will be needed to make contact with the ball. About 15 milliseconds are needed for the fastest signal to get from the brain to the lower leg. Another 10 milliseconds are required to distribute the signals to the various muscle fibers through smaller and slower distribution axion-wires, each of which activates a set of from 10 to 1,000 muscle cells.
  • BATTING: The swing of the bat takes 150 milliseconds or so. In the first 50 milliseconds, he can stop his swing, but after that it’s too late.

The whole process just described, from the look at the pitch to the moment the bat crosses the plate,” Adair said, “takes about 300 milliseconds.”

The blink of an eye takes between 300 and 400 milliseconds.


  • We can’t explain the physics behind a 90mph music
  • But we can’t deny that it happens

In life we tend to pick the undeniable.

  • We can’t explain how they built the pyramids, but we can’t deny that they’re real
  • For a long time we couldn’t explain how hummingbirds or bumblebees flew … but we couldn’t deny that they flew.

There are lots of things that are unexplainable, but it’s just common sense to side with things that are undeniable.

I bring all this up, because for lots of people faith is an unexplainable thing.

Our job here is to help people become authentic followers of Jesus.

  • That means helping them have faith in Him
  • Many people who aren’t yet following Him have real reasons not to.
    • There are things about God, Jesus and the Bible that they can’t explain.
      • Is the Bible true?
      • How does a good God allow so much suffering and pain?
      • Did Jesus really pay for all our sins?
      • Can an axe-head really float?
      • How did they get the dinosaurs on the ark
    • We can get lost in the details of the unexplainable

It’s important to remember that there is a big difference between the unexplainable and the undeniable.

1. This Parable Shows that the Kingdom of God is Undeniable

What is the “Kingdom of God”

The KINGDOM of God = God’s Power in Action

-          Not a place

-          It is everywhere touched by Jesus’ Authority and Power

From Kevin DeYoung What is the Kingdom ?
1. The kingdom is God’s reign and rule. At its simplest, the kingdom is where the King is. Where God is acknowledged, where his subjects are saved, where his enemies are vanquished, where his ways are obeyed, there we see the coming of the kingdom.

2. The kingdom of God is the long-awaited Messianic rule. Jesus’ prefaced his preaching of the gospel of the kingdom by announcing, “The time is fulfilled…” God’s Messianic rule was explicitly predicted in the Old Testament (e.g., Psalm 2). It was also prefigured in different ways. The Garden of Eden, with its peace, prosperity, absence of sin and suffering, and perfect relationship between God and man, was a picture of the kingdom of God. So was the nation of Israel in the promised land. The covenant blessings were blessings of the kingdom: safety, security, health, prosperity, God’s presence. These blessings reached their zenith under King David. He was a type of the Messianic King to come.

3. The kingdom of God is the age to come breaking in to the present age. Think of what we see in the visions from John and Isaiah of the new heaven and new earth. We see a new kind of Eden: no more tears, no evil, no impurity, perfect security, abundance, and holiness, a place where God is all in all, where the Lamb is worshiped, adored, and obeyed. This is the heavenly age that has broken in to our world with the coming of Christ. In Jesus’ ministry we see the signs of the kingdom. The sick are healed. The hungry are fed. Demons are defeated. Sinners repent and come to God in faith.

With Jesus, the kingdom has arrived, but it hasn’t fully set up shop. The kingdom of this world has not yet become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev. 11). We have the kingdom now as an appetizer. We can taste it. It is real food, but it’s not the main dish.

The Two Parables

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

  • Mustard Seed was the smallest seed a Jewish Farmer had ever used.
    • 1 millimeter in diameter
      • It takes 725-760 seeds to make 1 gram
      • Orchid seed is smaller
      • But they didn’t use them
  • It grew quickly – germinating in 5 days
  • Upwards of 10 feet tall

And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

  • 3 measures of flour = 50 LBS, enough to feed 100-150 people
    • Leaven is different from yeast
    • Fermented dough … like sourdough starter
  • Add 3-4 pounds of fermented dough to the 50lbs
  • Over night the whole 50 LBS would be changed

2. These stories help us understand the “Kingdom of God”

So if the Kingdom of God is everywhere touched by Jesus’ Authority and Power

Jesus is explaining how it would arrive.


Jewish Expectation – Sudden Appearance of the kingdom

-          Messiah would arrive with a shock & awe campaign

-          Kick out Rome

-          Bring back the Glory Days of David & Solomon

  • Instead there was a rag-tag group
  • A leader who was going to die on a cross
  • A small movement of people
  • A few miracles, a lot of walking … sometimes wondering where the next meal would come

? Can this really be the way God’s power and authority was going to change the world?

Answer – The Kingdom Is At Hand … it Might be Unexplainable, but it’s Completely Undeniable

Just before this … there was an unexplainable/undeniable miracle

Luke 13:11–14

And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath...”

Unexplainable – that Jesus would break religious rules and heal on the Sabbath

Undeniable – that this woman who was under the power of a disabling spirit had been changed by the power and authority of God

-          This is undeniable proof that the Kingdom of God was at hand

Jesus is Helping Us See That His Kingdom is Slow, Personal & Powerful

Can you explain how a little seed becomes the biggest tree in your garden?

Can you explain how a little piece of fermented dough can work its way through 50lbs?


-          If you can’t explain it, it must not happen

-          But … it happens every day.

This power is real and undeniable.

It might be SLOW

-          Life change rarely happens over night

  • One time an alcoholic never drank again
  • Others have to do 90-in-90

-          God didn’t come just to restore a nation, Jesus was redeeming individuals

  • Women with bent over backs and bleeding disorders
  • Men born blind
  • The Poor
  • Leapers
  • Prostitutes
  • People Caught in Adultery … and the ones wanting to throw stones

-          Jesus was in the business of setting PEOPLE free … not just nations, systems and institutions.

The Kingdom is POWERFUL

-          Whenever God’s power and authority showed up, things changed.

  • The bent over backs straightened
  • Leapers were cleansed
  • Blind men saw
  • Sins were forgiven and the sinners were set free to “go and sin no more.”



3.  We Have An Opportunity to Encounter the Kingdom of God

? Is it Possible for ME to have Faith?

Heidelberg Question 21 What is Faith?

 “It is not merely a certain knowledge, whereby I receive as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Spirit works by the Gospel in my heart, that not only to others, but to me also, the forgiveness of sin, and everlasting righteousness and life are given by God, out of pure grace, and only for the sake of Christ’s merit.”

ü  Faith isn’t just knowledge

ü  Faith isn’t knowledge and approval

ü  Faith is TRUST in Jesus for forgiveness, life and grace

What’s more … Faith is a Gift.

1) An Outside Element Has To Be Added

  • The seed was added to the garden.
  • The leaven was added to the three measures of dough.

In the same way, something has to be added to our lives – we can’t conjure faith up on our own.

WHY? – Moral Corruption

When the seed / leaven is added, technical term = REGENERATION

I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7, ESV)

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19–20, ESV)

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26–27, ESV)

  • Only God can turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh
  • Only God can change self-centered, short-sighted hearts so that they are able to experience love, hope and faith.

You can’t have faith without this new heart.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” (1 John 5:1, ESV)

-          Everyone who believes in Jesus HAS BEEN / ALREADY BEEN born of God

-          Also 1 John 4:7… “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

This is a gift.

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved …For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, ” (Ephesians 2:5, 8)

You might be thinking … shoot, I’m stuck.  I want to believe, but I guess I can’t unless God does some miracle.

Not true at all!

The fact that you even WANT to have faith, that’s the miracle right there.

-          You might not be able to explain everything

-          But remember … there’s a big difference between what’s unexplainable and what’s undeniable

-          You might not be able to explain everything there is to know about Christianity

-          But ask yourself … on a scale of 0%-100%, how sure are you that Christianity is true?

  • If 1% of you believes that Jesus is who He claimed to be … that’s a miracle
    • The seed’s been planted, the leaven is in the dough
    • In a small way, you are already being touched by the power of God.

2) The Kingdom of God Begins to Grow in a Slow, Personal and Powerful Way

Of young...it's going to take time

-          Can't hear sermon Sunday, apply Monday and have a new marriage by weds.

-          Years of sin don't fo away over night with one emotional experience

-          Be confident that the seed has been sown, change is happening, slowly

Older people- you should still be changing

-          5 years of walking a wide berth around same person/issue?

-           If you are in the Kingdom of God. You should be seeing ongoing life change

IAMSECOND stories?

“If you are real, take these drugs away…”

3) There are Unstoppable Results

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. ” (John 10:27–29, ESV)

-          They will never perish

-          No one will snatch them out of my hand

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

  • He keeps going in v.31-39 making it very personal

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ” (Romans 8:28–39, ESV)

who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. ” (1 Peter 1:5, ESV)

-          You are guarded through by God’s power

-          By this given faith           

  • the seed / the leaven

-          for a salvation that will be revealed at the end of everything.


There is a difference between the unexplainable and the undeniable.

I know many of you have some good questions about Christianity, you might not be able to explain everything…but something in your gut is telling you that it undeniable.

You can’t deny the impact Jesus has had on history

-          His legacy

-          The social concern the church has shown when it’s at its best

-          Abolition of Slavery

-          The Promotion of Women’s Rights

-          Civil Rights Movement in the ‘60’s can really be seen as a revival of Jesus’ teachings

On a Scale of 0%-100%, How Much Faith Do You Have?

1% is a miracle

Urgent Need for 1% to Grow…


Read More