Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is Like... The Metaphors of the Kingdom:
Observing the Stuff!
Using parables as a way of teaching was like the fine art
of storytelling. To teach in parables was to teach in pictures. Many people
think in pictures while few people are able to grasp abstract truth, which is a
notable form of teaching in the Western world. To become intelligible, we need
truth to become concrete. As an example, we can try to define beauty with words
or we can point to a person and say, "she or he is beautiful." The abstract has
become concrete from the person's point of view who is speaking.
does not tell a truth to a person as much as it helps a person discover the
truth. A parable allows a person to put on another set of glasses and think.
Parables help a person look at information from a different perspective. The
person hearing the parable is left to draw his or her own conclusions and make
his or her own deductions. Truth, which is told and memorized, is quickly
forgotten. Truth, which is discovered, will last a lifetime. The great value of
parables is that they do not impose truth on a person; they place a person in a
position to realize the truth.
Jesus used this form of instruction to teach about the Kingdom
of God. Those who were hearing him tell these parables were living within a
thought world whose prophets had told them about a glorious day when the
Kingdom of God would come. When it arrived, God would set up his rule that
would replace all other authorities and kingdoms. For the Jewish person in the
first century, this would be the single greatest event in history. The people
of God had been established as a people in the promise to
taken from captivity by
and established as a nation state under the rule of
Now the only major event on the horizon was the coming of their promised
Messiah, whose coming would overshadow all former events.
When John preached in the wilderness, he spoke about the coming
Kingdom of God
3.2). His listeners heard that one was coming who would bring a twofold
baptism. First, some would experience the Rule of God through being
Spirit-baptized. Second, Others would be baptized with judgment (Matt.3.11,
fire = judgment). Later while John was in prison, he sent some of his disciples
to ask Jesus if he was the one whom he had spoken about that was to come. Why
did John have to ask this question? Simple. Jesus was not acting like the one
John had announced was coming. Where was the Spirit baptism? Where was the
judgment? Jesus responded that his Kingdom was here and suggested that John
look at his ministry to understand what the Kingdom was about. Instead of
judgment on human institutions (namely the Roman Empire), the Kingdom had come
to attack the rule of Satan. The Jews expected one thing, but Jesus delivered
something else. It is within this historical context that we must look at the
Interpreting the Stuff!
The Kingdom parables of Matthew teach a present reality
of the Kingdom and a future reality. There are seven parables in
13. Two of them were concerned with judgment (a concern of the Jews in
looking for the Kingdom). These two parables are the wheat and weeds and the
net. The remaining five are concerned with the present reality of the Kingdom
which Jesus had come to bring to them. They are the sower, the mustard seed,
the leaven, the treasure, and the fine pearls
The Seed: Matt.
To understand this parable we must understand the act of sowing
and the idea of receptivity. Jesus told the parable and then explained it
13.18-23). We need to comprehend the meaning of the parable against the
background of first century Palestine's agricultural life. A sower was not
careless when he scattered the seed along the path, thorns, or soil, which had
no depth. He did so intentionally. Why? Because after the sowing of the seed,
the path, which the villagers walked on, and the ground with thorns and
shallowness was plowed up to receive the seed. Plowing came after sowing. This
small historical detail is important for a correct interpretation of this
parable. It serves to caution us that less attention should be given to the
soils and more to the sowing itself. The seed that is sown is the Kingdom. It
lands everywhere. Then the soil is turned to receive it. The central point is
not the kinds of soil, but to present reception of the seed of the Kingdom of
George Ladd says, "The Kingdom has come into the world to
be received by some and rejected by others" (A Theology of the New
Testament, Revised. 93). There is in the parable a diversity of response to
the proclamation of the word concerning the Kingdom. First, the path
demonstrates that Satan robs the seed before the plowman can turn it into the
soil to take root, demonstrating Satan's antagonism. Next, the rocky soil
represents those who reject the word of the Kingdom because of the world with
its tribulation and persecution. The thorns are the symbol of those who reject
it because of the world with its cares and riches. Lastly, the good soil
denotes those who accept and produce. Jesus is the sower. The seed is the good
news that God's Rule has come now. Satan will rob some. Some will reject and
others will accept the present Rulership of God into their lives.
The Wheat and the Weeds (Tares):
Judgment and separation from the world is the main message of
this parable. Wheat and weeds are explained in verses
We must keep in mind that the Jews were looking for present judgment when the
This parable has a cast of characters: the sower (Jesus);
the field (the world, not the Church as is often interpreted); the good seeds
(the sons of the Kingdom); the weeds (the sons of the evil one); the enemy (the
devil); the harvest (the close of this Present Evil Age); and the reapers (the
This parable suggests that there is a mixed society of
good seed and bad seed. At the close of this Age, the truth will divide
humanity into two classes. First, the righteous ones who are the sons of the
Kingdom. Second, the unrighteous ones who are the sons of the evil one. The
angels will handle the final division at the command of Jesus. Those who are
unrighteous will experience the anguish of rejection while those who are
righteous will experience the radiance of acceptance. In short, the Father will
accept those who received the good news of the Kingdom.
The Mustard Seed:
In this parable Jesus is comparing the presence of the Kingdom
of God at that present time (as he was delivering it) with the future reality
of the Kingdom. It started small, like a mustard seed, but will grow into a
large shrub. The present experience of the Kingdom is only a partial experience
of what it will be like when the Future has completely arrived at the Second
Coming of Jesus.
Here Jesus speaks about the transforming power of the Kingdom. The
Kingdom can transform society in general and individuals in particular. The
parable also suggests that there will be a day in which the Kingdom will
prevail completely. The whole will be leavened. The rival king (Satan) will not
continue to rule.
13.44 and The Fine Pearls:
The value of having God's Rule is inestimable. The Kingdom
should be sought over all other possessions
Matt. 6.33). Both parables teach this central truth. The difference between
them is that the treasure suggests that a person stumbles into the Kingdom
without really searching for it. When he found it, it was more than all his
other possessions. The fine pearls suggest that someone was actively searching
for the Kingdom and finally found it.
The last of the parables of
13 is like the wheat and the weeds. It suggests that judgment will occur
where the righteous and unrighteous will be judged and separated.
The Kingdom parables teach us through the medium of
stories what Jesus acted out in reality and fact. The Kingdom has come. Satan's
time is limited. Some will accept the Rule of God now, while others will reject
Doin' the Stuff!
It is always important
to apply what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the
Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
||How does the explanation of Parables help or hinder your
understanding of why Jesus used parables as a method of teaching?
||What do each of these seven parables teach about the Kingdom? Why is
that important to know? How will you apply the message of each parable to your
life? to the life of your church?
||In what way, if any, does the idea that sowing came before plowing
change your understanding of the parable of the seed?
||Is the Kingdom still today small like a mustard seed because its
completeness has not yet entered the world? Or does the Kingdom grow on a daily
BibleHandbook: Resource Stuff
Read the following Dictionary Articles from Easton's Bible
Dictionary. Easton's is about a century old, therefore, some of the
information is not current with newer Bible Dictionaries. You might read the
articles off-line in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not
own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If
you like lots of color pictures, try
Dictionary. One of these should suit your personal