Sunday, October 04, 2009


From Little Things Big Things Matthew 13

In 1991, Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody recorded From Little Things Big Things Grow. You have probably heard the song on the add for Industry Superannuation. That wasn't what the song was about.

Gurindji – along with all Aboriginal groups in this predicament – found their waterholes and soakages fenced off or fouled by cattle, which also ate or trampled fragile desert plant life, such as bush tomato. Dingo hunters regularly shot the people's invaluable hunting dogs, and kangaroo, a staple meat, was also routinely shot since it competed with cattle for water and grazing land. Gurindji suffered lethal "reprisals" for any attempt to eat the cattle – anything from a skirmish to a massacre. The last recorded massacre in the area occurred at Coniston in 1928. There was little choice to stay alive but to move onto the cattle stations, receive rations, adopt a more sedentary life and, where possible, take work as stockmen and domestic help.

There had been complaints from Indigenous employees about conditions over many years. A Northern Territory government inquiry held in the 1930s said of Vesteys: It was obvious that they had been ... quite ruthless in denying their Aboriginal labour proper access to basic human rights.

However, little was done over the decades leading up to the strike. While it was illegal up until 1968 to pay Aboriginal workers more than a specified amount in goods and money, a 1945 inquiry found Vesteys was not even paying Aboriginal workers the 5 shillings a day minimum wage set up for Aborigines under a 1918 Ordinance. Non-Indigenous males were receiving £2/8/- a week in 1945. Gurindji lived in corrugated iron humpies without floors, lighting, sanitation, furniture or cooking facilities.

The words to the first verse are:

Gather round people let me tell you a story
An eight year-long story of power and pride

British Lord Vestey and Vincent Lingiari
Were opposite men on opposite sides

The words to the last verse are:

That was the story of Vincent Lingairri
But this is the story of something much more

How power and privilege can not move a people
Who know where they stand and stand in the law

On 23 August 1966, led by spokesman Vincent Lingiari, the workers and families walked off Wave Hill and began their seven-year strike. Lingiari led Gurindji, as well as Ngarinman, Bilinara, Warlpiri and Mudbara workers to an important sacred site nearby at Wattie Creek (Daguragu). Initially, the action was interpreted as purely a strike against work and living conditions. However, it soon became apparent that it was not just – or even primarily – improved conditions Gurindji were campaigning for. Their primary demand was for return of their land. Novelist Frank Hardy was one of the many non-Indigenous Australians who supported the Gurindji struggle through the strike years.

"This bin [been] Gurindji country long time before them Vestey mob" Vincent Lingiari told Hardy at the time.

While Hardy records Pincher Manguari as saying: We want them Vestey mob all go away from here. Wave Hill Aboriginal people bin called Gurindji. We bin here long time before them Vestey mob. This is our country, all this bin Gurindji country. Wave Hill bin our country. We want this land; we strike for that.

The Aboriginal land rights movement grew out of this.

From Little things Big Things Grow.

That was what the Lord was talking about when He gave us these two parables.

Matthew 13:31 He presented another parable to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It's the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it's taller than the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches."33 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into 50 pounds of flour until it spread through all of it."

The disciples, like so many others, were looking for the Messiah to establish a physical kingdom in which they would live and enjoy life. Perhaps we too wonder at times just how big of an impact is the Church making today. They must have thought, yes we are on to something Big here.. but, now the followers are dissipating. What is going on?

The Kingdom is like mustard seed - There are two things about mustard seeds. One is that they are small. When Jesus says the Kingdom is like mustard seed, he is saying that the Kingdom is small and insignificant and easy to miss. And the second is it is pungent. And the third is there is pervasive growth. The growth will one day be sorted. There will be a placement.

Compare this with expectations that when God showed up, everything would change. They expected anything but that the Kingdom would be small when God shows up.

But here's the other thing about mustard seed: it may be small, but it grows (32). It's not the size of the mustard seed, it's the presence of the mustard seed.

It is Pungent

It was known to be an irritant, something fiery and biting, stirring up the blood. When Darius, the king of the Persians, invaded Europe with a great army he was met by Alexander the Great. Darius sent Alexander a bag of sesame seed as a kind of taunt, indicating by the number of these small seeds the vast multitude of soldiers he had at his command. When Alexander received it he sent back by the same messenger a bag of mustard seed by way of saying, "You may be many, but we're tough and biting and pungent. We can handle you." And they did.

That is the character of mustard and these people knew that. So our Lord is using a very apt symbol by which he indicates that the message of the kingdom of God is intended to be arousing, irritating, disturbing, among men. Turn it loose, and it will get a whole community excited, stirred up, either negatively or positively, as we see it working so beautifully today.

Some years ago, I saw a church and pastor change in a most remarkable way. We had an evangelistic crusade with this church, but I knew the pastor had not yet ome to know the Lord as his own Saviour. I placed the evangelist, an old tank driver, into his home. After three days the old evangelist came to me and said, "you know David isn't a Christian?" I responded "Well that's the whole reason I have you staying with him! I am not worried whether any of our folk get converted but imagine what the Lord could do with him!" Well nothing happened, but a few months later David and his wife had to go back to Sweden or Finland to see to his dieing father-in-law. On the way home they stopped at Francis Schaeffer's Labri, where David gave his life to the Lord. He rang me from Sydney airport to tell me. Yes he'd figured out why I had the evangelist staying with him those months before! The pastor became a real Christian and he started preaching the gospel. It is most interesting to watch what happened in the congregation. He made a lot of people uncomfortable. They began to squirm and itch -- you can see the mustard was working on them. Others are being healed and rejoicing in it. The pastor is doing a very gracious, loving job of proclaiming this great message, but its quality is obvious -- it is pungent and biting and burning.

It Is Prominent in Its Growth

Our Lord calls particular attention to another property of mustard. It has, he says, the smallest of all seeds. If you have seen a mustard seed you know that it is small but obviously it is not the smallest of all seeds. There are seeds smaller than mustard seeds. There were even in Palestine in our Lord's day. Many have been disturbed by this, as though it means that our Lord did not understand much about agriculture. But here again we must be careful to put ourselves back into those times. We learn that there was a common proverb which used the mustard seed as a symbol of smallness or insignificance. "Small as a mustard seed," they would say. The Rabbis spoke of "a spot or blemish as small as a mustard seed". We do the same today. We say something is "as small as a flea." There are smaller things than fleas that we might use but that is a proverb which expresses smallness. Our Lord employs the mustard seed in this way. Proverbially, it is the smallest of all seeds. Proverbial smallness used in metaphor of faith. Matt 17:20 "Because of your little faith," He told them. "For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.


Here he is evidently stressing the apparent insignificance of the gospel. It does not look like much. It does not sound like much. You proclaim, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." That does not sound very impressive to many people. It is so simple that you can teach it to children and to idiots and morons. Even they can understand "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." So the world is not very excited about it, or very much impressed with it. The world does not regard it as a tremendous, earth-shaking philosophy. But just let them really trust Christ and invite him into their life and it is the most transforming, the most revolutionary thing that can occur to them. It is the beginning of a radical change in all their life.

No, mustard is not a tree; it does not grow into a tree. Then why did Jesus say it did? Right there is the heart of the parable. Our Lord obviously intended to teach that this growth is unnatural growth. It is not normal, not what you would expect from mustard seed. It is something different than is to be expected. He is surely teaching that in this age there is to be an unnatural, unusual growth. Instead of the lowly, humble plant you would expect from a mustard seed there would be a huge, abnormal, ungainly growth into a tree.

What is the meaning of the birds?

High tree with birds symbolizes pagan world-power. Assyria Ezekiel 31:3-9

Babylon & Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 4:10-12,20-22

Leaven is a consistent symbol for malice and wickedness. Elsewhere it represents the false teaching of Pharisees. Matt 16:11-12 And Corruption within Church. (Passover) 1 Cor 5:6-8

But the emphasis in these parables is on smallness, not wickedness.

The contrast is between small beginnings producing big results.

God's Kingdom starts small, almost invisible, but it will transform the earth.

God's Kingdom does start out small.

The Jews expected a thundering, triumphant coming of Messiah accompanied by Armageddon and the restoration of Israel as a nation out from under the Roman Empire.

Jesus' followers applied these same expectations to Jesus. John 6:13-15

Many Christians also yearn for a display of supernatural power. (To calm their doubts?)

You notice that it is only since the tree is fully grown and has branched out that this has taken place. It is as we near the end of the age this has occurred. How visibly this has been demonstrated in our day when from the pulpits and the spokesmen of the church has come a flood of stupid, crazy, mixed-up ideas -- evil concepts which have blasted and blighted and ruined the hearts and minds of people, just as our Lord said. It was only a comparatively short time ago that the great denominations of our day, though they represented unnatural and abnormal development, still were basically true to the faith and stood solidly on the authority of the Bible and proclaimed a true gospel. But then along came German rationalization and higher critical theories and socialistic philosophies. The Bible was overthrown and another gospel was substituted and supernatural faith was denied, and the birds of prey moved right into the pulpits in many places. One by one men of true faith were driven out. And it is still happening today. No wonder that when the youth of today look at the part of the church which is like that they say, "It is strictly for the birds!"

But what a comfort it is that our Lord had no delusions about this age! How clearly he foresaw all that has happened. How precisely he unfolds it to us here, that we might not be deluded either.

The Growth will be pervasive.

The Kingdom is also like yeast. When Jesus said this, people would be shocked - yeast was not a good thing. A lump of leaven is only 2% of the weight of dough. 3 measures (lit.) equals 50 pounds. Enough for 100 people.

How is the Kingdom like yeast? It's pervasive. When it's present, it's transformative. It works its way through all the dough and changes everything.

This Growth will be Placed

47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Dragnet. Remember how they go? dummmm! dumda-Dum- dum!

Just the Facts mam just the facts.

That program, by the way, captured the intent of this parable better than any commentary I have in my library. It was about a police dragnet which swept through the city of Los Angeles and would capture and bring in all kinds of people to be investigated, to have either their badness or goodness in the eyes of the law exposed.

Jesus says that is what is going to happen at the close of the age. Increasingly, inexplicably, there will be divisions into groups, either evil or good. This links closely with the parable of the wheat and the tares. There too Jesus said that the angels would divide men, that clusters of evil men would gather together and the righteous would do the same. Here Jesus says that the angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous and what people actually are will become plain to all.

Notice that our Lord closes with a very solemn word: "The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." {Matt 13:49b-50 RSV}

This day of judgment is a sure reality. But it appears that saved and unsaved man gives little thought anymore to the facing reality of the day of judgment that brings with it the prospect of heaven and hell. Have you thought about heaven lately so as to make preparation for your entrance? Have you thought about the reality of hell and all who will face it?

Weeping speaks of remorse and sorrow. Gnashing of teeth speaks of frustration and hostility and anger. It is all gathered up in the burning phrase "the furnace of fire."

Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

Jesus makes clear reference of this parable to the end time judgment . . . "So it will be at the end of the age." The dragnet has been cast out into the sea of mankind and no person will escape it.

Hebrews 2:3a how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation,

"The dragnet of God's judgment moves silently through the sea of mankind and draws all men to the shores of eternity for final separation to their ultimate destiny - believers to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal damnation." -- John MacArthur

Wicked sons of the kingdom cast out into outer darkness ... Matthew 8:12

Asked the scribes and Pharisees how they would escape hell ... Matthew 23:33

Matthew 23:33 "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?"

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit brings eternal condemnation ... Mark 3:29

Resurrection of the good to eternal life and the evil to the resurrection of condemnation ... John 5:29

The unjust, non-believers, are cast into the furnace of fire. In this furnace of fire we see the judgment of hell is . . . Hell is a constant torment of misery and pain (wailing and gnashing of teeth)

Martin Luther states . . . "The gnashing of teeth is despair, when men see themselves abandoned by God."

Mark 9:43-44 "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; 44 "where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' Hell is everlasting . . . no end in eternity! Matthew 25:46 "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

This day of judgment is a searching reality

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! {Psa 139:23-24 RSV}

Ezekiel 18:23 (NLT) "Do you think, asks the Sovereign LORD, that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I only want them to turn from their wicked ways and live." HCSB Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" [This is]the declaration of the Lord God. "Instead, don't I [take pleasure]when he turns from his ways and lives?

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance

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