Title: The Kingdom is Like…
Text: Mark 4:21-34
Two Short Parables
Parallel Text: Luke 8:16-18
This brief section contains two more short parables, the Parable of the Lampstands and the Warning for Hearers. First, let’s talk about lamps…
Lamps and lampstands are used several times in the New Testament as references to the Truth. Certainly, the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ was something that had been hidden since the Garden of Eden, which is probably why Paul referred to it as a mystery. The time was soon to come when everything would be made known, and Jesus’ Apostles were the ones who would make it known fully, beginning at Pentecost. Clearly, His message is that there will be no secrets when the time comes.
The second short parable is slightly more difficult to catch the meaning of. We should see right off that when Jesus says that “whoever has will be given more…” in verse 25, Jesus isn’t talking about material possessions.
“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The “measure” mentioned in verse 24 is the care you use in considering what you hear. So, “Consider carefully” what you hear means that we should listen very carefully and really consider it; great care in consideration of what we hear will yield great benefits to our understanding of the truths that we will shine for the world to see about His gospel. If we take little or no care in this, the truth will do us no good at all, and that could have tragic results.
Thus, we can see that whoever has (truth) will be given more (truth).
Have you ever listened to a sermon that was really great, and had the guy in front of you, who spent the whole time fidgeting and looking at his watch, then comment how much he got out of the message?
How about those times when you were busy fidgeting and looking at your watch? Were those the times you left feeling as though you really got something wonderful from the message?
Well, maybe you have, but I haven’t! Nope, not when I wasn’t paying attention.
Parable of Seeds
He also said, “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.”
Parallel Text: None
When I was in school, I was pretty good in science. When it was time for the test on seeds and plants and how plants grow, I could recall all the answers to the questions. I could say that the cells in the plants grow and divide, and that the DNA of the plant determines how they will grow and what parts form and all of that, but can I say that I understand how all of this happens; really understand? No.
Maybe you understand it, but I don’t, even though I could explain what I learned about it. Maybe you noticed the subtle difference between knowing about and understanding…
In this parable, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom; after all, He is on the Kingdom Tour… He’s talking up the Kingdom. I know a lot about the Kingdom, and even though there are those who know more about it than I do, I know more than most. Yet, can I say I fully understand it? No, not at all, for there is a component within the Kingdom that I cannot begin to understand fully, even though I know about it: The life power of God.
Down through the years, I have planted a great many seeds. I’m not sure that I fully understand it, but I know that if you and I plant enough seeds, a crop will grow, and if we keep our eyes and ears open, we will see and hear evidence that tells us that a portion of the crop is ready for harvest. Hopefully, we’ll decide to get involved in that harvest and help to bring some of it in, along with unknown numbers of others all around the globe, for this is how the Kingdom works. I have harvested many in whom others planted the seeds, and many others have brought in a harvest from seeds I planted; it’s all good!
This is what Jesus is trying to teach here: Plant seeds, lots of seeds. Pay attention, and bring in the harvest when and where the time is ripe. We don’t really need to understand every detail; we just need to plant, pay attention and harvest.
The Mustard Seed
Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
Parallel Text: Matthew 13:31-35
The Parable of the Mustard Seed is one of the best known of Jesus’ teachings; we cite it often as a teaching on faith, but that is not what this parable is about. The faith connection comes from Matthew 17:20, which is not a parable. Rather, the Parable of the Mustard Seed is about the Kingdom. I doubt that Jesus was intending to give a lecture on botany here, but He clearly used frames of reference His listeners were familiar with: Mustard seeds are tiny, yet they grow into very large plants.
That is the point of the metaphor, tiny seed becomes very big plant. How does this apply to the Kingdom?
If I was an atheist, I would be asking myself how it is possible that an obscure travelling teacher from first century Galilee is still a controversial figure all over the world twenty centuries after his death. Yes, that’s right, a carpenter’s son born in a stable who grew up in flyover country became the most influential figure in history, yet he never traveled more than a hundred miles or so from his birthplace.
After his death, a ragtag bunch of misfits from the provinces, just a handful of them mind you, unleashed a revolutionary idea in the minor provincial capital of Jerusalem. They were opposed by the greatest power the world had ever seen, and Mr. Atheist, you are still opposing this teaching today. How could this have happened? It’s simply incredible!
As Jesus told us, the Kingdom is like that. A tiny seed grows into the largest of garden plants, big enough to give shelter to the birds; it just wouldn’t seem likely at all… but there it is. It isn’t reported in the text, but I have a hunch this is what Jesus explained to His disciples. Yes, they were obscure, true, they weren’t important big shots from famous and powerful families, and they were young, very young. Yet, in spite of all outward appearances, they made a huge mark on history, and more importantly, they made a huge difference for God’s salvation plan, in spite of all apparent circumstances.
Don’t you suppose that Jesus would tell us the same thing?
You and I are mere mustard seeds in a sense, small, not really noticed in our celebrity crazed world, yet full of life’s power and potential. Should we allow it, He can and will do a mighty work in and through us and His Kingdom will grow and flourish in spite of all the odds, in spite of the naysayers, and in spite of the guffaws of others. Why?
That’s an easy one: Because the Kingdom is like that!