One of the themes that Jesus consistently spoke about was the coming kingdom of God. We certainly do not usually talk like that in our everyday lives. The only time we speak about kingdoms is when we are studying history or catching up on gossip about a royal family. Our normal experience certainly does not resemble a kingdom.
So why does Jesus go around speaking the way that that he does? To make matters a bit more complicated, he speaks about the kingdom of God as if it is indeed a part of everyday life. Jesus compares it to things that people in his day encountered every single time they got out of bed.
To understand parables, we have to understand that Jesus is not haphazard in his use of them. The very fact that Jesus speaks about heavenly truths as if they are part of our everyday life is part of the point of the parables. The Kingdom of God is not some far off and abstract concept for philosophy. God’s kingdom encompasses the stuff of everyday day life that we encounter at every turn of our existence. Let’s look at these four short parables in Mark 4:21-35.
A Lamp Under a Basket
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 Parable of the Seed Growing
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.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
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.”
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.
4 Truths About the Kingdom of God
- The Kingdom of God is exclusively revealed in Christ (verses 21-22).
- To grow in the experience of living in the Kingdom of God, you must act on the knowledge revealed by Christ (verses 23-25).
- It is the inherent nature of the Kingdom of God to grow and multiply (verses 26-29).
- The Kingdom of God, though it may not seem like it, overshadows every other kingdom (verses 30-32).
While the disciples did not yet have the knowledge of the cross and the resurrection to know exactly what sort of Kingdom Jesus was talking about, we have full knowledge of those things. We understand now that Jesus established a kingdom that is fundamentally different and also fundamentally better than any kingdom that this world offers. We should be able to read these parables and see their truths being worked out daily in our own lives.
- Is the lamp in Mark 4:21 something that is internal or external to ourselves?
- How do we sometimes place a basket over the lamp?
- What does Jesus mean by having “ears to hear” in Mark 4:23?
- How have you seen your experience of faith grow by the same measure as the action you have taken on your faith?
- Do you think there is such a thing as a person who has faith but doesn’t grow (Mark 4:26-29)?
- Why is growth such an essential part of the Kingdom of God?
- In what ways does the Kingdom of God seem small (Mark 4:30-32)?
- How do you know that the Kingdom of God overshadows every other kingdom?
- Does thinking about your relationship with Christ in the terms of a kingdom change anything about how you view your faith?
- Which relationships with earthly kingdoms do you need to change in light of the Kingdom of God?