The Kingdom of God is like…

 

The Kingdom of God is here and now but not completely here yet.  So how do we explain the kingdom to people in this world which seems to be so without the Kingdom of God and a world so engrossed in values that are opposed to the Kingdom of God?

 

Nowhere in Scripture is the Kingdom of God as such, clearly defined for us.

 

Jesus explained the Kingdom as he did for many other teaching, by using parables, stories used to demonstrate a point. By using common objects, Jesus illustrated spiritual truths.

 

“the Kingdom of Heaven is like” This and similar formula appear many times in Matthew (13:31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52; 18:23; 20:1; 22:2; 25:1)[1] and in the other Gospels.  I am only going to pick up on a few of them today.

 

Mark 4:30 “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

 

 

Luke 13:20 And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

 

When we hear of plants growing from seed, or the invisible yeast working in dough, we remember our biology classes from school and we “think of organic growth, but the idea of natural development was alien to people of the ancient world. Between seed and fruit, they saw, not continuous development, but contrast, and recognised a divine miracle.[2]

 

As an aside: For those horticulturalists in our midst who say that mustard does not grow into a tree.  The  plant referred to by Jesus and translated as mustard is actually the Salvadora persica which is a small tree or shrub which grows to a maximum height of three meters and it has a pleasant fragrance, of cress or mustard, as well as a warm and pungent taste.

 

Our scientific understanding of gradual growth of trees growing or of yeast gradually working the dough fits with how Jesus described the kingdom. It is the gradual growth from small beginnings.  Little by little.

 

 

 

What starts off small and insignificant grows outside our sight.  Time lapse photography shows the growth but with our human eyes we do not see it. Same with the kingdom of God

 

Mark 4:26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

 

The yeast gradually transforms the dough and makes it rise.  It permeates the dough.

 

The mustard tree seed grows and becomes a shrub and gradually pushes out other bushes as it becomes the top dog and gets all the sunlight

 

The seed sprouts in the darkness of the soil, well before it breaks through and commences its upward journey.

 

Yeast takes the time yeast takes; seeds take the time that seeds need to germinate; trees take the time trees need to grow. We have no control over that. It is set in the DNA, which was pre-set by God.

 

The ancient view of how this happens – that it is miraculous - is also true in the Kingdom of God in that “the Kingdom is totally and exclusively God’s doing. It cannot be earned by religious or moral effort, imposed by political struggle, or projected in calculation.”[3]

 

The growth of the Kingdom of God has to do with the timetable of God not our timetable.

 

As I said last week, it is not about us making things happen. It is about God making things happen.

 

Nowhere does the New Testament tell us to build the kingdom of God. It is a kingdom built from the foundation of the world. It is built into the structure of reality – it is ultimate reality. [But we are called to] participate in building the church.[4]

 

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

 

The Kingdom of God is a much larger identity than the church but it embraces the church.[5]

 

The church is not the actual Kingdom of God, but is to reflect the love, justice and righteousness of God’s Kingdom within society.[6]

 

The church is to live out the values of the Kingdom of God in this world, resisting the ever-present temptation to usher in the Kingdom of God by political means.[7]

 

When we try and force the kingdom of God into existence, we damage it.

 

The peaceable kingdom of God can never be brought in by violence[8] or manipulative measures.

 

The world’s way of bringing people under subjection in a human kingdom is by coercion but the rules for the Kingdom of God are totally opposite. We do it gently.

 

Gentleness is a vital dimension of the kingdom of God, but it is a learned skill that requires work and demands patience, slowness and timefulness.[9]

 

We know that the Kingdom of God is still incompletely shown here and now. We know it reaches its culmination on the return of Jesus but it is here and working now.

 

We participate with God in his bringing in the Kingdom by our actions and thoughts and behaviours.

 

So if the kingdom is here and now, how do people discover it?  I don’t mean “find it because it is lost”, rather we find it when our eyes are opened to see the already existing kingdom.

 

Jesus said that the kingdom of God will be discovered in 2 ways- one, like a man going across a field who stubs his toe on what turned out to be a hidden treasure, sells all and buys that field. This is the sudden, decisive type of discovery – in one divine moment he sees, decides and commits himself for life.

 

Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

 

The other type is like a merchant seeking good pearls, who finds one of great price, sells all, and buys that one pearl. This is the careful weigher of values type; he finds one of the greatest value and sells all and buys it.

 

Matthew 13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

 

The first is the emotional type, the second is the hard-headed, business-like, “show me your value” type. Jesus welcomed both types and both approaches.[10]

           

Which one were you?  The one who stubbed his toe on the Kingdom accidentally or the one who actively sought it out?

 

Regardless of the means of discovery, they both realized its worth and sold all they had to buy it.

 

Do you realize the worth of the Kingdom to you?  Is it so important to you that you would give up all else to have it?

 

The realization that Jesus has brought the kingdom of heaven to earth presents us with a choice. Will we decide that His kingdom is worth more than all things, or will we devalue it by equating it with worldly treasures?[11]

 

We have spoken a lot about the fact that the world today is filled with hopelessness.

 

There are 3 basic needs inherent in all human nature: the need to belong; the need for significance and the need for reasonable security.  We must belong to something that gives a sense of belonging and a sense of significance and security for now and forever.[12]

 

The hope for the world and the answer to all three of those wants is the present and future kingdom of God.

 

We have the slogan “Jesus is the answer,” but Jesus is not the answer unless we give Jesus’ answer – himself and the Kingdom.[13]

 

For the church to be relevant to a despairing world, the answer is simple: discover the Kingdom, surrender to the Kingdom, make the Kingdom your life loyalty and your life program; then in everything and everywhere we will be relevant.[14]

 

The Kingdom of God is a word of comfort and hope in a situation of distress in this present distress,[15] to us and to those still in the Kingdom of the world.

 

 



[1] Turner, D., & Bock, D. L.  Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (p. 187).

[2]Walter Kasper Jesus the Christ 76

[3] Kasper 81

[4] Jones 155

[5] Brian Hathaway Beyond Renewal – the Kingdom of God 159

[6] Charles Colson Kingdoms in Conflict 92

[7]Colson 93

[8] Marva Dawn Joy in our Weakness:  21

[9] Stanley Hauerwas & Jean Vanier Living gently in a violent world: the prophetic witness of weakness 19

[10] Jones 297

[12] Jones 17

[13] Jones 38

[14] Jones 19

[15] Kasper 75