April 18

Text: Matthew 13:31, 32

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." (NASB)

In Matthew 13, Jesus told a series of kingdom parables.  These parables were not Jesus’ attempt to provide a comprehensive view of God’s kingdom—it is doubtful that Jesus had “defining” in mind.  Consider who his audience was before deciding Jesus’ emphasis and purpose.  It is far more likely that parables challenged accepted concepts than they provided a comprehensive definition.

Jesus’ audience was the Israelite people in Palestine.  These parables addressed them and their thinking—not us and our 21st century questions.  To them the concept of kingdom was familiar.  To most of us, it is not familiar.  To most of us it is a negative concept, but to them it was a positive concept. 

Kingdom governing had been basic and familiar for centuries.  With variations, the concept of those Israelites was relatively simple: (1) God would restore the nation of Israel to prominence.  (2) That nation would deliver Israelites from their enemies.  (3) Israelites would exist in peace and prosperity.

In today’s parable, God’s kingdom would begin quite small, but it would grow to be huge.  The illustration of this incredible growth was the mustard plant.  It began as a tiny seed, but at maturity it produced a plant so large that it could accommodate birds’ nests.

 Try to think like an Israelite 2000 years ago concerning kingdom concepts.  Contrast their thinking with Jesus’ parables.  (1) Wicked people existed in the kingdom.  (2) In the kingdom, the good people would not produce alike.  (3)  An enemy’s work in the kingdom would not be destroyed until the harvest.  (4)  The kingdom would grow.  (5) It grew through contact—not by genealogy but by contagion!  (6)  In the kingdom the angels would separate the wicked from the righteous at “the end of the age.”

What did all that mean?  Their kingdom expectations and Jesus’ teachings were NOT alike!

Suggestion for reflection: Do you have it all figured out, or is your mind open to God?  (Read Deuteronomy 29:2-9.)

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