Jesus put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."
Jesus was not a politician. A politician promises a great future – and has to explain later why it didn’t happen. “I’ve seen the future, and it works!” said Lincoln Steffens after a visit to the Soviet Union in 1919. It was a claim that no one could disprove, since no one else had seen it; nor had he, really. He mustn’t have seen the present either, which was staring him in the face. Later on, even though he was not a politician, he had to backtrack. The Gospel is news about what is present here and now. “The kingdom of God is among you,” Jesus said.
The kingdom is present in a hidden unspectacular way, like seeds. The mustard seed is not actually the smallest of seeds, but proverbially it stood for the smallest thing. Seeds disappear into the ground and die. Yeast, too, is invisible when mixed into the batch. Elsewhere Jesus spoke of salt – which, like yeast, becomes invisible. In the Gospel, all spectaculars are for God to perform in the end-time. Jesus’ way is the way of humility and love. He was not the expected kind of Messiah come to baptise the wicked in fire and overthrow nations. “He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory” (Mt 12:19-20). Instead of seeking to consolidate power and win votes he went about healing sick and tormented people. Nothing spectacular.
The logic of the Gospel is not straightforward logic. It is the logic of paradox: the first is the last, the weak is the strong, the greatest is the least, the poorest is the richest, the weakest is the strongest, the lost is the saved, the lowest is the highest, to die is to live.... In a word, the ok are not ok, and there's more hope for us not-ok people than we dare imagine.
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