At Harbor Community Church we’ve been working our way through some of Jesus’ Parables. We shan’t get to all of them, but have been focusing on those parables where Jesus describes what the Kingdom of God/Heaven will be like. The Kingdom of God is a huge theme in the scriptures, and one could argue its main unifying theme from start to finish.
Here’s a helpful definition of how to think about the Kingdom of God/Heaven.
The Kingdom of God is an explosively veiled inbreaking into the present world order of the reign of Jesus himself as emperor of the cosmos. This being the case, it ought to change the way we see ourselves, and our place in this age and in the one to come.
Everything starts in the garden where God used to dwell with Adam and Eve before sin. It ends with city, a people, God coming down from heaven to dwell with us once again, without tears or suffering, a place where business is conducted and the “kings” of the earth bring the best of their culture into this new Kingdom (Rev 21).
That’s a little more of what Jewish folks expected to see right off the bat with Jesus, but he gives us some parables to help us understand what to make of our experience now and how we should be involved in this Kingdom expanding.
Some folks see Kingdom and think evangelism and some folks see Kingdom and think solely in deeds of mercy and social justice. Often people pick one or the other.
Parable of Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Yeast, it seems like both are very much in play. Both parables explain that what you first saw in the ministry of Jesus was not all that impressive in comparison to what was prophesied in the OT and Revelation. In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Kingdom starts small and gets big, so big that the “birds of the air” (which I call “strange birds”), aka Gentiles from all over, will find refuge. This corresponds to the vision in Revelation. Kings of the earth, aka, representatives of all tribes of peoples. Kingdom growth means sharing the gospel here and abroad.
But Kingdom growth isn’t only numerical. It’s about depth. That’s what the Parable of the Yeast refers to. Simon Kistemacker claims this parable refers to in the “intensive” growth of the Kingdom. Yeast works slowly, inside out, until all the dough is affected. But yeast works behind the scenes, where as you sometimes don’t even know its there. Again, inside-out, as people live out their faith by what they do (not just what they say). This includes deeds of mercy and social justice, serving your community through your work, loving and blessing your neighbors, and yes for some being involved in politics. This corresponds to the kings in Rev 21 bringing their “treasures.” The best of their culture and work. Over time.
These parables are like the heads and tails of Kingdom growth. I can’t imagine a coin without heads and tails.
Both are components of the Kingdom. Both aspects need to be part of a church which declares itself to be Kingdom focused as Harbor does. Gospel proclamation from churches and from individuals as they come and go, as well as gospel application in work, family, neighborhood, hobbies, and politics as they come and go.