Images build up not only our perspective on what it is to have faith but also build hope that allows us to maintain when hardship comes. The Reign of God proclaimed by Christ Jesus to be at hand is sometimes obscured by events in our world. Matthew assures us through several images that the Reign is at work in small things: a seed, yeast, a pearl.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
The general purpose of these parables is to assure the dispirited Matthean community that the realm is coming and to help guide them in responding to it. The parable of the mustard seed. . . suggests that Jesus and the Matthean community who witness to the realm are to the world like the tiny mustard seed going into the soil: Compared to other peoples and movements, Jesus and his community are almost invisible. However, just as the mustard seed becomes the greatest shrub, so the realm will overtake the present evil age. The birds represent gentiles having a place in the realm (e.g., Ezek 17:22–23; Ps 104:12; Dan 4:10–12, 20–27).
These parables in 13:44–45 compare the experience of discovery in the parable to the experience of discovering and responding to the realm of God. In verse 13:44, the discovery of the treasure is accidental. In 13:45, the discovery of the pearl results from an intentional search. In both cases, the. . . finders respond by making a complete commitment to the treasure and the pearl.
According to Matthew 13:47–50, when God ends the present age, every person (fish of every kind) will be gathered for the last judgment. . . Matthew thus urges the listeners to recognize the realm growing like a mustard seed among them and to respond like those who found the treasure and the pearl. – Ronald J. Allen
1 Kings 3:5-12
In the Deuteronomic theology, the monarch has a special responsibility for leading the community in obedience (Deut. 17:14–20). At the beginning of his reign, Solomon dreams that he prays for God to give him the qualities of the ideal deuteronomic ruler. . . .
God promises to give Solomon an understanding heart as well as riches and honor. However, these promises are contingent upon Solomon being obedient in the deuteronomic way. Before this dream, Solomon has already set in motion behavior that will undermine his faithfulness by making a marriage alliance with Pharaoh and bringing his new wife into Jerusalem where she will worship her Egyptian deities. In his dream, Solomon may have fueled his prayer with the best intentions. But for the deuteronomist, actions count. The reader is not surprised when the monarchy breaks into two nations that both fall to the Babylonians. This passage is thus both inspiration and warning. – Ronald J. Allen
Paul . . . assures the community that when they are confused by the suffering accompanying the coming of the new world (Rom. 8:18–25), the Spirit will pray aright for them. . . . The community should not be dismayed by the difficulties of the tribulation but can recognize that God long ago predestined these things to eventuate in good, that is, in the coming of the eschatological world.
The notion of predestination here affirms for the community that history is under God's control. Romans 8:31–36 (cited so often at funerals) is the climactic assurance. . . . No matter how difficult the situation of the community, they can remain faithful in the confidence that beyond the suffering lies life indescribable. – Ronald J. Allen
Ronald J. Allen is professor of preaching and New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Homily Service 41, no. 3 (2008): 118-127.