PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM
Like a diamond, the kingdom of God is many-faceted. The kingdom must have been as difficult for Jesus’s disciples to understand as it is for us. Jesus told stories, many of them beginning with the words, “The kingdom of God is like . . .”, to shed light on the kingdom (but only for those who desired understanding) – what it is like and what it is about. Each story illustrates only one small part of the whole. He needed to re-programme their thinking from their fixation with Rome and a restored Davidic kingdom to a higher and unseen realm where God is at work to restore everything that was broken by the Fall.
Matthew set out a block of these stories in chapter thirteen of his gospel, beginning with the story about a farmer who sowed seed in his field (Matt. 13: 1-23). This is one of the few stories in this group of parables to which Jesus attached an explanation. The meaning of the story is quite clear; one kind of seed, four types of soil, four different responses to the word of God (Luke identified the seed as the word of God – Luke 8: 11). This was how He told it, but what was the point of the parable?
This is the surprising part. Jesus explained that one of the reasons why He taught in parables was to confirm the condition of people’s hearts. When people have no desire to know the truth, what they are told only serves to harden them in their unbelief. Their minds are closed to the meaning and value of God’s kingdom because they do not want to know.
His disciples were privileged to be given understanding because they had the heart to follow and become like their rabbi. As for the rest, the more stories He told, the less they understood because that was the nature of their hearts.
To His disciples Jesus made one thing clear; they were to seek to understand and follow God’s way above everything else. His rule had to take priority over all else because His way as interpreted and lived out in front of them by their rabbi, was the only way that would lead them to the Father. Even His disciples did not understand that He was the way to the Father until He spelled it out for them.
Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14: 5, 6)
Whatever Jesus had to say about the kingdom of God was, in the end, exemplified in Him. He was the interpretation of God’s rule and the mirror image of the Ruler – the Father. Experiencing the kingdom would not be difficult if they simply stuck to their role as His talmidim because He insisted that the purpose of His coming was, among other things, to show them how to live in the spirit of Torah.
This is how He summarised what He expected of them as His talmidim, both in their own lives and in the way they showed others what God’s kingdom is like.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6: 33)
How often we quote this verse without having much idea of what He meant! Once again we must put it in context, both in the immediate context and in the context of the entire Sermon on the Mount. His sermon was about how to live under the rule of God. He described the lives of the people who relinquish their right to make their own rules in favour of returning to the path – the way which takes them to the Father.
A large part of what we relinquish is our worldly attitude towards money and things, which was at one time characterised by selfishness and greed. Instead of being preoccupied with making a living or getting rich, we should be focussed on living under God’s rule. Life is not about how to make ends meet because He has pledged to take care of our needs. We have an obligation to demonstrate God’s compassion towards those who are in need, and to do something about it as our response towards God for His compassion and mercy to us.
A ”righteous” person is one who stays on the path and follows the landmarks that take him towards God’s name – His character mirrored and exemplified in Jesus, the replica of the Father. Every opportunity we have to show mercy and compassion, in the spirit of Torah, is another landmark on our path towards the Father.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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