I’m struck by what little attention Jesus gave to the topic of the church and how much He focused on the kingdom of God.
Paradoxically the huge attention most believers give to their church…
And little to the kingdom of God.
The two occasions Jesus mentions the church is when He talked about building it and followers applying discipline…correction to sinning members.
On the other hand, the kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven appear 74 times in the gospels.
The evidence is overwhelming that Christ-followers need to have a clear picture of the Lord’s teaching on His kingdom…
To adequately serve our King.
Today’s passage includes two short parables on the kingdom of God.
But don’t let their brevity fool you.
They are packed with material to paint a picture of God’s kingdom we should hang onto…
Because it will help us serve our King…Jesus.
And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself, first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.” 33 With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.
This passage gives us four characteristics of the kingdom of God.
- The Mystery of the Kingdom
- The Mission of the Kingdom
- The Majesty of the Kingdom
- The Message of the kingdom
The Mystery of the Kingdom (26-27)
And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know.
There is a hiddenness…a mystery to the kingdom of God that believers can never fully grasp.
Because the God of this kingdom is beyond our understanding.
Jesus is a sovereign King who accomplishes His perfect will and we must learn to rest in this.
Like the farmer who casts seed on the soil then goes to bed.
- Worrying about the crop doesn’t help it grow
Christians are to do all they can for the kingdom of God…
Like a hard-working farmer…
Then sleep like a baby.
Resting in the reality the King will grow His kingdom.
I heard a good comment once…
Work like an Arminianist and sleep like a Calvinist.
In other words, invest your time, talent, and treasure in the kingdom of God as if its advancement depends on you.
While resting in the knowledge that God’s in complete control of His kingdom no matter what you do.
This is a mystery of the kingdom.
The sovereign holy King invites sinning Christians to partner with Him in building up His kingdom.
Here’s how Paul explains this dynamic relationship…
Ephesians 2:8-10, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Verses 8-9 are clear that no one is saved because of their efforts.
Verse 10 makes it equally obvious we’re saved for good works…God-please…kingdom-building works.
Please understand the King calls you…every believer to join Him in this holy endeavor of good works.
He invites us into a mysterious partnership for His glory and our good.
Ask yourself, “How am I partnering with my King to further His kingdom.”
See…a picture of the kingdom has you in it.
You’re not standing back looking at it…
Admiring what others do.
You’re in it…shoulder-to-shoulder alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ.
If the past 15 months has taught us anything it is to sow the seeds of the gospel while there’s time…when there’s opportunity.
Because that time and those opportunities can come to a screeching halt.
When you picture the kingdom of God picture yourself doing its good works here and now…with confident urgency.
The Mission of the Kingdom (28-29)
The soil produces crops by itself, first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.
The singular mission of a seed it to grow into a plant.
That’s it…that’s what seeds are for.
And when they’re planted in the right soil…they grow.
The soil and seed come together to create a partnership for the plant to emerge.
The mission of the kingdom of God is to grow…to expand…enlarge.
This is what kings and kingdoms do.
No king is satisfied with the size of his kingdom.
He’s always thinking of ways to grow it.
Though our country isn’t a kingdom…
Leaders are constantly looking for ways to enlarge its national and international influences.
It’s what kingdoms do.
Think about it in terms of your kingdom of self.
Your natural desire is to expand…to grow.
It’s human nature to move toward expansion…
- Accumulation of material goods
The mission of God’s kingdom is to grow.
- Internally…in the heart and life of every believer
Coming back to the good works of the kingdom in the last section…
The fundamental quality is that those good works add to the kingdom of God’s expansion…its growth.
God mysteriously invites saved sinners to join Him in the good work of growing His kingdom.
The seed of that growth is the gospel…sown in the soil of seeking hearts.
King Jesus enlarges His kingdom through believers employed in the good works of spreading His word of salvation.
There’re a lot of seeds being cast by churches and Christians these days…
- Seeds of biblical errancy
- Preaching and teaching false doctrine
- Seeds of feel-good faith
- Avoiding the realities of sin and God’s judgment
- Seeds of no-accountability church membership
Even the seeds of division.
Only the gospel seed grows the kingdom.
This parable also teaches that there’s a season for growing the kingdom…
Then the farmer…puts in the sickle because the harvest has come.
The time will come when the Lord will harvest His church.
The season of sowing and growing will be over.
It’s the time of gathering.
I don’t know how much more time the church has to be about the Lord’s kingdom mission…
But I know it’s limited.
God’s people must regain a sense of urgency for its kingdom work.
Picture the kingdom of God growing through the efforts of your church.
[The Mystery, the Mission]
The Majesty of the Kingdom (30-32)
And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.”
The second short parable pictures the majesty of the kingdom of God.
Jesus illustrates this to His audience saying that when they compare the size of the mustard seed to other seeds…and the plants they produce…
The mustard seed is far more impressive because it’s much smaller than all the others.
Its produce is majestic…grand…imposing compared to them.
A healthy mustard plant grows to span up to 15 feet or more.
- A large bush or small tree
God’s kingdom is virtually imperceptible now…
It appears small in view of the power and scope of the other kingdoms of the world.
In fact, the kingdom’s stem, the church, looks to be shrinking in some places.
But when the Lord returns to reign over His kingdom…
Its majesty will dwarf all others in size and scope.
When we picture the kingdom of God, it looks small but that’s only because our view is limited.
Because we’re small.
We have a child’s view of God’s kingdom like a child views the world.
To her the world is no bigger than her crib or mother’s arms or playpen.
The world is vastly larger than those tiny eyes can see.
This is how we perceive the kingdom of God.
Through the lens of our tiny understanding.
But our partial perception of His kingdom doesn’t diminish its majesty in the least.
One day King Jesus will reveal the fulness of His kingdom for all to see.
When every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord…
But until then…we pray thy kingdom come…thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Until then…we’re to live as daughters and sons of the King.
Reflections of His royal Majesty.
With dignity and honor…humility and grace.
We’re to see ourselves as Scripture portrays us…
1 Peter 2:9, …you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…
Why is this view important?
- The verse goes on…
- …so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has calledyou out of darkness into His marvelous light.
If we don’t see ourselves as God sees us…
We won’t do as He expects of us.
A day will come when we…like the birds of the air…find safe haven in the fulness of God’s kingdom.
But for now…we are aliens in another kingdom…strangers in a strange land.
This is not our home…but we are not homeless.
It’s not our kingdom…but we’re not without our King.
When you picture the kingdom of God…see it as the place and Person of Jesus Christ that you represent here and now.
Don’t let a small view of His kingdom lead you to live a small kingdom life.
The Message of the Kingdom (33-34)
With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.
There’s one more very important point to make from this passage about the kingdom of God.
Verses 10-12 help us understand 33 and 34.
As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.”
First, we need to distinguish between “them” and the disciples.
Prior to Jesus’ teaching by parables in chapter four He’s accused of being under the control of Satan by the scribes.
3:22, The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”
- Scribes, religious lawyers, teachers of the law, rabbis
So, the “them” in 4:33 and “those who are outside” in 4:11 are the religious leaders who are committed to destroying Jesus and His ministry.
In verse 3:23 we read, And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables….
It’s at this point in Jesus’ public ministry when He starts teaching in parables to communicate the truths of God’s kingdom…
While leaving His attackers unable to perceive what He’s teaching.
- (12) So that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand….
As for the last phrase otherwise, they might return and be forgiven…
It’s Jesus’ way of saying they committed the unpardonable sin when they attributed to Satan what’d been done by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In chapter three the scribes gave Beelzebul (Satan) credit when Jesus was casting demons out of those who were possessed.
- Matthew 12
The point of this portion as it relates to the kingdom of God is that some people can go too far in their rebelliousness against the King…Jesus…
God won’t forgive them…they’re beyond the Kingdom of God…eternally.
We read this same principle in Romans 1:28-32.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
This doesn’t mean that a word of gossip or an arrogant expression condemns you to being outside the grace of God.
But these are among the persistent characteristics of people who’re familiar with God’s word and determined to rebel against Him.
Their hearts get hardened toward the gospel and the Person of Jesus Christ.
A hard message of the kingdom pictures that some are shut out.
As Christ-followers we live between two kingdoms.
The kingdom of God and the kingdom of culture.
One draws us toward love, light and life while the other toward darkness.
- Truth or lies
- Joy versus despair
The question is, “Do I live as a child of the King or a product of my culture?”
This is the tension…the burden of believing Jesus is your Savior and King.
The cost of followership.
But never forget what Jesus said about this…
- Compared to the crushing weight of culture…
- My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Live as a child of the King…not a product of the culture.