Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond
The Kingdom, Part 5
Yesterday we began with a brief review of the main points that have been covered in Jesus' Teachings, The Kingdom--Parts 1-4. We also recapped the Jews' rejection of Messiah, and noted that part of that difficulty stemmed from their expectations of a conquering Hero-King, who would over-throw the Roman rule and restore the kingdom of Israel. Plus, John the Baptist's declaration likely reinforced those expectations (Mt. 3:2), as well as Jesus' teachings and focus on the Kingdom. Even the disciples' questioned Jesus on this matter (Ac. 1:6); I'm sure that Jesus expected them to understand, after three years of personal instruction, that His was not an earthly kingdom (Jn. 18: 36).We also began our examination of the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast (Mt. 13:31-33), which have similar meanings--or do they?!
Interestingly, the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast are also recorded by Mark (4: 30-32) and Luke (13:18-20). Their accounts are virtually identical; but only Mark adds, " He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything," (vs. 34). Because Mark didn't actually write down Jesus' explanation, we are left to draw our own conclusions. Therefore, returning to these two parables, we discovered that those who equate the Kingdom with the Church, have the perspective that the mustard seed and yeast have small beginnings but quickly flourish. The parallel is then made that the Church started small but quickly grew. Then there are those who believe that these parables are symbolic of God constantly working to achieve His purposes, even if we don't always perceive that He is doing so.
In 2007 (or 2008) I was stalked by a neighbor, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had stopped taking her medications. At church our pastor, Mike, opened his sermon with the fact that many members were coping with difficult circumstances, and heads were nodding as he zeroed in on the 'things that steal our joy'. Wow! A tailor-made message, just for me! The next time that I listened to my copy of that message, I thought I had a copy of the wrong one! Here's the interesting thing: I realized after hearing about the things that steal our joy that my mind had apparently wandered. In other words, I didn't really hear the entire teaching!
This selective listening/hearing regularly and consistently comes into play when we pray, read our Bibles, or listen to sermons/teaching. God gets our attention and focuses it on what He wants us to know and do--He makes it personal. And this is why both perspectives on these parables are valid--the mustard seed and the bit of yeast can definitely fit into both views (i.e., that they represent the growth of the Church and that they can also represent God's 'hidden' working in the world).
As we noted in The Kingdom, Part 3, some parables describe the Kingdom, others point out the nature or characteristics of its members, while a number of them explain how individuals may become part of the Kingdom. We have looked at two parables that describe the Kingdom. Tomorrow we will consider some that describe Kingdom members.
Blessings & Peace
Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)