Three Kingdom Parables
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
Mark 4:21–25 (ESV)
21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The growth of the Kingdom would be natural for the disciples but would seem to burst from nothing to outsiders (We’ll see this later as well)
^ Is illuminated by Matthew 10:26-27
An encouragement here and in the next to not hesitate to shine forth the word and will of God
“Pay attention” - Attention is what is measured; the amount of study/ meditation/ reading you put in on matters of the Kingdom will determine your amount of understanding
Devote yourself to understanding God’s will!
Mark 4:26–29 (ESV)
26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.
28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
A few ways to look at this one. Here’s one that makes sense to me: It is put by some that Jesus is the sower in this parable; There is danger here of falling into Deism - God created the world, and perhaps meddled directly a few times, but then is remote and inactive in human affairs until the end. I think it only makes sense to say Jesus is this sower we treat it as metonymy where Jesus doing something is actually referring to the Body of Jesus - his church - doing something. So when we think of Jesus scattering the seed and not knowing how growth occurs it is really better to think of it as Jesus’ body scattering the seed. We are often quite ignorant as to how exactly growth comes about as a result of our labors, we know only that it does. Hence Paul says, “I planted, [another] watered, but God gives the increase.” (1 Cor 3:6)
verse 29: Back to Jesus acting directly. There is great consolation here, again similar to the comfort offered in Matthew 10 concerning the disciples’ rejection. Focus on sowing the seed; garden where you can, but focus on relentlessly spreading the seed; know that there will be a good harvest at the end.
“Do not grow weary in doing good!”
30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
Disclaimer: Is mustard seed the smallest on the earth? One commentator remarks easily that it is not even the smallest seed in the Region! Is Jesus a liar? Oblivious to science/ inaccurate? No. It was very popularly used proverbially for the pronounced contrast between the tiny seed and the plant itself that, though an herb can easily grow to ten or twelve feet tall and about 4 inches around. So here also. Jesus not only employs hyperbole in calling mustard the smallest of all the seeds on the earth, but in doing so plays on a common talking point of his day and age.
One more reminder concerning the Kingdom of God - we may talk about its manifestation in terms of “already, but not yet.” We understand the Kingdom prophecies of Joel 2, Isaiah 2, and Daniel 2 (and many other places) as already having taken place, being fulfilled in Acts 2. We also understand that the full realization and habitation of the territory, the city, the Kingdom of heaven is not going to be realized until the Lord’s Day.
To the actual point of the parable: the coming of the Kingdom of God to Earth in the “already” sense is certainly clear as the secret things are explained secretly to the twelve plus a few - perhaps the 70 total that would be addressed in Matthew 10. By now we certainly see how birds from every nation, tribe, and tongue have flocked to the Kingdom and nested in its branches already (and since the day of Pentecost it has only grown)
Still more comfort might be gleaned by those who may seem concerned with how small - or maybe, how simple - the Gospel is, and how it could ever result in something life changing, let alone world changing; but it does!
The actions of one man, Jesus, have accomplished everything we could ever hope for! Reconciliation with our Father and mankind! Forgiveness from our Father and the power to forgive our brethren! Eternal life, forever triumphant over death! Victory! VICTORY! One life - a mustard seed - has changed all of time and our eternity. Trust in it.
Are you nesting in the tree of life, and daily eating its fruit?
Are you sowing the seed of the Kingdom?