The Kingdom of God is Like… (7 Short, Informative Kingdom Parables)

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’.

kingdom2

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.

Conclusions

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

***

 

This entry was posted in Jesus, Kingdom of God and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Kingdom of God is Like… (7 Short, Informative Kingdom Parables)

  1. Dennis Wade says:

    I do a lot of pondering on the Kingdom and what it is, and here are some of my insights:

    Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within. If we think of the parables that talk of the Kingdom growing like a mustard seed or like yeast, then the Kingdom seems to be an inner power that is born within us and grows within us, permeating our being with its values and concerns.
    This inner power enables us to develop qualities like empathy, compassion, kindness, and motivates us to act on these qualities.

    The inner qualities that the Kingdom gives us are worth more than anything the external world can give us, because they bring us joy and fulfillment, things that external wealth, fame and power can never give.

    Whenever anyone acts on these values, they are mixing with the Kingdom, but to truly be of the Kingdom we must value these qualities above all else and make them the guiding principles of our lives.

    It is not enough to believe these things: we must also do the work of living these beliefs every day. We are judged by our actions, and not by our beliefs.

    The inner power of the kingdom is what motivates even the worst people to sometimes be generous and kind. However, they usually don’t seem to value these qualities very highly and easily turn away from them. These people are like the tares that grow up with the wheat, and in the end they usually separate themselves from the Kingdom.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beth Huntley says:

    Why does the parable of the net NOT teach about a burning hell? It sure sound like what I was taught as a child!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Beth, I would say that what many of us were taught about burning hell was based on misunderstanding passages in the Bible. As in the case of the parable of the tares, Jesus uses exaggerated language and imagery to make a point.

    Passages in the New Testament might seem to suggest eternal torment in a burning hell, but they really do not. This might be helpful:
    https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/jesus-and-old-testament-imagery/

    You can also read the first few links on this list from Jesus Without Baggage to see how passages that seem to describe the burning hell of punishment we were taught actually do not:
    https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/books-and-resources/hell/

    Like

  4. fiddlrts says:

    I’m really enjoying this series of posts. There is so much richness in the words of Christ, and I love to hear your perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. newtonfinn says:

    It’s been 2000 years since Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom. I look around–at the present, at the past, at what seems to be looming in the future–and my head tells me that Jesus was wrong. Are the evils of the American Empire that much different from the evils of the Roman? Are people in general any more loving and selfless than they were in Jesus’ day? Since I can’t answer a resounding “yes” to these questions, I begin to doubt the efficacy of the seed and the yeast, to suspect that the ratio of wheat to tares or good fish to bad fish hasn’t changed very much at all in the two millennia following the telling of these stories. I’m left with the gut feeling, the deep intuition, that something in Christianity went terribly wrong, that a crucial mistake was made early on in the direction taken by the church, a fundamentally wrong turn within the first few decades after Jesus’ death.

    Thus I remain haunted by Schweitzer’s post-WWI assessment of Christian history and its relationship (or lack thereof) to Jesus. ““The Christian ethic has never become a power in the world. It has not sunk deep into the minds of men. What has been presented as Christianity during these nineteen centuries is only a beginning, full of mistakes, not full blown Christianity springing from the spirit of Jesus.” So at this sadly sobering point, what are we to do, those of us who share Schweitzer’s assessment but also know in our hearts and minds, as he did, that Jesus remains “the way and the truth and the life.” Schweitzer was driven (called) to a life of extraordinary service, meeting medical needs in the African jungle–atoning, if only in the smallest degree, for the evils of colonialism that had eagerly spread exploitation under the “Christian” flag.

    To what new forms of similar service are contemporary followers of Jesus being driven (called)? There are indeed sporadic outpourings of the Holy Spirit, genuine works of discipleship here and there to which we can point, and I include JWOB among them. But are they enough to sustain us? Are they enough these days to allow our belief to override our unbelief? No, I’m afraid not–not without some sort of immanent second coming, a miraculous return of our Redeemer not in the clouds above but right here in our miserable midst. I’m not alluding to some perverse “Left Behind” scenario but to something so far beyond our capacity to conceive it that all we could do in initial response would be drop to our knees and weep with joy. Read articles like the one linked below, and only one word comes to one’s lips: “Maranatha.”

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/07/the-deathly-insect-dilemma/

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton: “I begin to doubt the efficacy of the seed and the yeast, to suspect that the ratio of wheat to tares or good fish to bad fish hasn’t changed very much at all in the two millennia following the telling of these stories. I’m left with the gut feeling, the deep intuition, that something in Christianity went terribly wrong, that a crucial mistake was made early on in the direction taken by the church, a fundamentally wrong turn within the first few decades after Jesus’ death.”

      I agree that some of the impetus of the kingdom began to stall out after Jesus did not return as quickly as expected, and progress of the kingdom was further obscured by Constantine’s co-opting of the church, but I think it has continued to grow and influence people throughout the world. Remember that the kingdom is within us–and invisible. Despite everything, I think the kingdom continues to expand apace.

      I also agree that there will likely be a dramatic resurgence and advance as we get closer to the final transition of the earth to the kingdom. I look forward to that time.

      Like

    • Dennis Wade says:

      Newton, I followed the link to the article, and I must say it was very disturbing. I battle with the same questions and ideas you raised in your reply, as i think many of us do. It is so disturbing to see things like global warming, the disappearance of countless species, and the effects of unchecked technology, ect,, ect. In fact, it often leads me into very dark thoughts. And I, too, have often wondered where the power of Christianity lies in such a world.
      All I have to offer is a few thoughts that have been forming in my mind for a while now. They are still not fully developed and there are still a lot of parts where I have no answer, but if you will bare with me, I will attempt to put them into words.

      First of all, I think we make a big mistake when we look to the external world and expect to see the values of the Kingdom guiding it. The external world of institutions, corporations, religious and governmental bodies are really not based on the values that Jesus taught. What matters most to them is power, wealth, fame, profit, etc. They may give lip service to kindness, compassion, etc., and may even demonstrate them occasionally, but their real devotion is to the false values of the ego. I think the only proper response to this for followers of Jesus is to make sure that power, wealth and fame, the values of the false self, do not control us and our behaviour, but that we keep striving to be an example of the values that do matter: kindness, acceptance, etc.
      We should rejoice when we see even small glimpses of these values in the external world, but we should also remember that Jesus said His Kingdom is not of this world, and that He did not attempt to establish His Kingdom by political or institutional means. The values of the Kingdom cannot be legislated into being, but must be born within us by the power of God.

      So, if the Kingdom is NOT “out there” in the world, then there is only one other place for it to be, and that is within our internal being. And I think this is the very place where Christianity stumbled in a major way. For the most part, we have given our power away to external institutions and have believed that by being a part of these institutions and following their instructions we have entered into the kingdom.

      I, too, have also asked where the power of the Spirit is in today’s world, and the only answer that comes is that Jesus said the values, the fruit of the Kingdom can only grow within us if we abide in HIm. The analogy of the branch being separated from the vine and therefore being unable to produce any fruit expresses this perfectly.
      The external world does not abide with Jesus, and therefore we see no fruit of the Kingdom appearing very often in this world.
      But what about us? Do we abide in the Vine? Do we know what it means to “abide with Christ”? How much time do we actually spend just being with Jesus in our internal world?
      Christianity has wonderful values , wonderful fruits (Galatians 5:22-23), fruits that the world desperately needs, but these fruits can only be produced from within individuals who value these fruits enough to spend time with the power of God within in order to grow them.
      If the yeast of the Kingdom does not appear to be fermenting our inner being, then we need to examine our “abiding”.

      Now, I know that this really doesn’t answer the questions about the dark events that the world seems to be headed for, and maybe there is no answer available until we actually get to those dark places. Maybe the world has to come to the place where these false values of the ego really do cause our whole ecosystem and therefore our institutions to collapse in order for us to understand that we do need different values And maybe from that place the world will finally discard the false values for the values of the kingdom, and Jesus will return internally to the world and the yeast of the kingdom will finally spread through the world.
      Or, maybe there will be an actual outer return of Jesus to establish His Kingdom’s values in the ruins of the old institutions. It’s hard to tell what is allegory and what is factual in the teachings about those times.
      But however it appears, we know that God is committed to there being life in this world, and He will not allow it to disappear. Life has the very power of God within it, and it always adapts and grows in new ways.

      So, it seems that it all really does come down to the importance of us learning to abide within the vine and allowing the fruits of the Kingdom to grow within as a guiding force that directs our actions, our thinking, and our planning.
      Jesus promised us that these fruits would grow, and I myself want them more than anything else the world has to offer. So, I will be seeking to learn what it means to “abide in the vine”, as I see it as the only way that I will have anything to offer to the world.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: The Kingdom of God is Like Attending a Banquet | Jesus Without Baggage

  7. Pingback: 2 Parables of the Kingdom from Planting | Jesus Without Baggage

  8. Pingback: How Do We Become Part of the Kingdom of God? | Jesus Without Baggage

  9. Pingback: Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. Pingback: What Is Heaven and Where Is It? | Jesus Without Baggage

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.