Bible Basics: The Kingdom of Heaven described in parables

“Wisdom is a tree of life to all who hold fast to her, and all who hold fast to her are happy.” Proverbs 3:18

On Wednesday February 16th we continued our look at the gospels.  We moved into Matthew to study this evangelist’s unique take on the Kingdom of God, as primarily expressed in the Kingdom parables.  These include the parable of the weeds, parable of the mustard seed and the leaven, parables of the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price, parable of the net, parable of the wedding feast, and the wise and foolish bridesmaids.  

Jesus came to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God.  That took some explaining since it certainly didn’t look like the messianic  kingdom the Jewish people were expecting. Celia Marshall calls that kingdom the “big bang” event that would happen instantly and change everything.  Jesus was proclaiming a kingdom that hid like yeast in flour, working silently over time.  This kingdom was about service to others, mercy, and growth as opposed to rigid structure.  So when people questioned Jesus to be more specific, to help them understand, he told 10 parables that began with “the kingdom of God is like…”  Using common images and everyday stories, Jesus teased the imaginations of his hearers. He didn’t so much supply answers, as he made his hearers question the assumptions they made about the ways things ought to be.  Jesus required active thought  and posed different ways of viewing reality.  The parables are as challenging today as they were then.  The kingdom of God should surprise us, unsettle us, and change the way we see the world. 

Megan MecKenna says that the parables are “desperate attempts to grab hold of people’s hearts and shake them into a new position, to unsettle very settled ways and people, to overturn our pasts and certainty and to startle us into sight and vision.” (Parables: The Arrows of God, 57) Matthew 25 says that Kingdom people are those who do the will of God.  That is very hard work and doing the will of God is not typically our first impulse.  Its more like the last thing we would choose, given our human “druthers.”  Parables give us bread for the journey, even when the journey is hard and long.

For further reflection consider the tension in the fact that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom being present now, and coming in the future.  In other words, it is already and not yet.  What does this mean to you?