Reader: “How can I describe the Kingdom of God?”
Response: “It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground.”
Scripture: Mark 4:30-32
Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
I have a question. What is the best way to describe something whose depth and ramifications are indescribable? Jesus gives us some help in answering that question in this passage. His followers had their idea of what the Kingdom of God should look like. That much was clear from the people’s response at the crucifixion: in their minds God’s kingdom would be an earthly rule that would overthrow the Roman occupation. It is clear that the people did not understand Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God, not even the disciples grasped his message. Part of the purpose of this method of teaching was to separate those with unbelieving hearts from perceiving the truth. Also, the idea of a Kingdom of God would clearly be a threat to the Roman occupation, hence his speaking in parables and explaining to his disciples in private. Let’s look a little closer at his words.
Without a doubt there was in Jesus’ own words, mystery in regard to the Kingdom of God (Mk. 4:11). Jesus’ solution to describe the indescribable was to tell a story. He did it often and turns out to be a wonderful way to teach. The point of a parable was to give added insight to those who perceived. Imagine yourself to be one of the disciples as Jesus is explaining the meaning of the Kingdom of God and he turns to you and asks you what do you think are the key words in his parable. What would you say? Seed, planted, ground, smallest seed, grows? What do the birds have to do with anything? What can we learn?
God’s Kingdom was deceptively small. When you consider the population of the world then and now, twelve people is a miniscule foundation, a tiny group, the “smallest of all seeds.” Think of it: one God-man gave his life to solve the world’s alienation from God. One man, one death, one resurrection from the dead, an ascension into heaven. These singular acts by one unique person changed all of creation. In some ways a mustard seed. This gospel story is planted in the hearts of a few men and women and grows throughout all parts of the world over centuries of time and continues to this day! The birds building nests in the shade of the tree represent all peoples and nations finding rest and safety in the Kingdom of God.
The surprise is that it started so small and became so large. Note Jesus’ choice of using the superlative contrasting words “smallest” and “largest.” The Kingdom of God is not what you thought or expected. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God had come in his own person and ministry to invade the kingdom of this world. Jesus’ rule will ultimately overcome all hostile powers finally destroying the kingdom of this world currently under the power of the devil. The fulfillment of the Kingdom of God with Christ as ruler is yet to come as set forth in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Do we perceive the Kingdom of God at work among us now? Are we part of that work? Where do you see evidence?
Music: “Rejoice the Lord Is King” arr. Forrest Covenant Combined Choirs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9Ec28lwVEg Youth still sing!
Bonus: “Rejoice the Lord Is King” great arrangement well done.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGqzzIEV6JU Hour of Power Choir
Lord Jesus, we identify with the disciples on grasping the mystery of your Kingdom. We get the main part but there are still unknowns, things we can’t quite figure out. What is clear is that there are two kingdoms at war here on earth, the kingdom of the devil, which is hellbent on destroying your kingdom. And at times it looks like his kingdom has the upper hand. But we know the outcome of its devastating, crushing defeat. This season of Eastertide confirms the certainty of such. Help us, Lord, to work diligently for the advancing of your glorious kingdom here on earth. May we be bold and outspoken in our allegiance to you and may the pusillanimous spirit be replaced with the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our victorious King. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp