The concept of the kingdom of God was very important to Jesus, and he told a number of parables about the kingdom to help his followers understand it better. I am so glad he did that!
Matthew 13 is a treasure trove of kingdom parables. Last time we read two parables from the chapter; today, we will visit the remaining ones. Remember that ‘kingdom of heaven’ is Matthew’s preferred term for the ‘kingdom of God’.
The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast
Jesus told two parables about how the kingdom of God grows and spreads:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.
These are perhaps my favorite, most exciting kingdom parables ever! They suggest that once Jesus introduced the kingdom of God it began to grow and spread by itself! This does not mean we are not agents to promoting the kingdom but that we need not worry about the kingdom faltering or dying out.
In my imagination I see the kingdom spreading from person to person all over the world until it fills the earth. Keep in mind, though, that we should not think of the kingdom as the church.
There is a similar parable in Mark 4:
This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.
The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
I believe this speaks to the great priority of the kingdom. Remember that we spoke last time about the importance of commitment to the kingdom; and there is good reason for such commitment—the kingdom is of the highest importance to us.
The Parable of the Net
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I don’t think we should draw any conclusions about the end-times from the imagery of the blazing furnace and gnashing of teeth, which only support the main point of the parable that there will be people with the kingdom who are not of the kingdom.
The Parable of the Teacher Who became a Disciple
One more parable. Jesus asked if they understood all these things.
“Yes,” they replied. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
It is shocking to me that they answered ‘Yes’ to Jesus’ question! I am not that confident. But I do like what Jesus said about bringing out both new treasures and old. It reminds me of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus the Pharisee about the kingdom. I really think that Nicodemus went away changed. And I believe that it was more important to him to be part of the kingdom than to be a Pharisee, but I think it also made him a better Pharisee—new treasures as well as old.
I feel as though I am getting a better handle on what the kingdom is like:
- It is dynamic and growing and filling the earth. While we are responsible to share the good news of the kingdom, it grows and spreads on its own power. It is not due only to our efforts.
- The kingdom is of unspeakably great value and we should do everything we can to align with it and become part of it.
- There will be those who mix with the kingdom but are not of the kingdom.
- When we become disciples of the kingdom we will discover new treasures as well as old ones.
To this we can add conclusions from last time:
- It seems that people need to be ready to hear the good news of the kingdom for the message to be effective, but we never know who that might be—so we ‘sow the seed’ of the good news.
- Being part of the kingdom requires commitment, but it is not for us to determine who is part of the kingdom and who is not. We just need to be committed.
What insights do you have? Next time, we will look at one more group of stories before we take a break from our study of the kingdom of God.
Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.
Articles in this series: The Kingdom of God
What Is Heaven and Where Is It?
Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God
How Do We Become Part of the Kingdom of God?
2 Parables of the Kingdom from Planting
The Kingdom of God is Like… (7 Short Kingdom Parables)
The Kingdom of God is Like Attending a Banquet
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