Jesus' Kingdom will come
Jesus' Kingdom Will Come (Mark 4)
The central teaching of Jesus is the coming kingdom of God. Today we speak more of personal salvation and less of God's kingdom than did Jesus. In Jesus Christ the reign and rule of God broke into history in a final, decisive way. Jesus talked about the reign of God in simple parables. Some understood His stories; some did not. To understand Jesus' stories, you need a relationship with the storyteller.
The three stories of Mark 4 contrast the apparent insignificance of Jesus' kingdom at its beginning with the conquering triumph of the kingdom at its end. These three parables answer the anxiety of Jesus' followers in every era concerning the growth of His influence. His word falls on such unpromising ground, the growth of his kingdom seems so uncommonly slow, and the number of His disciples seems so insignificant.
In the face of this, Jesus gives us the great assurance that His kingdom will indeed come.
The Kingdom Triumphs in Spite of Discouraging Response
Someone pointed to the apparent failure of Jesus' words with so many of His hearers. He was not succeeding with many people. Both His friends and enemies were wondering out loud, "Does God work like this?" In response, Jesus told the parable of the sower (vv. 13-20).
This parable is not about bad soils or futile sowing. How often has it been implied that Christian work fails three out of four times on the basis of this parable! How clumsy the farmer in this parable appears—sowing on paths, rocks, and thorns! A significant detail throws light on this story: in Palestine the farmer sows before he plows. He would plow all seeds under the soil. The emphasis rests on the joyous confidence that there would be an abundant harvest in the face of every difficulty.
In Palestine a tenfold return on seed sown was considered extraordinary, a sevenfold return was routine. Here the response is incredible—thirty, sixty, one hundredfold. In spite of all stony, rocky, thorny opposition, there will be an incredible response to the gospel of Jesus.
We should take hope from this in Christian endeavor. Around the world today there is amazing response to the gospel. The slow response in secular America is not the response in Africa, South America, or Russia. The field of the kingdom is the world, and there is a great harvest.
The Kingdom Triumphs in Irresistible Power
The kingdom of Jesus appears weak in contrast to the world's armies. The Zealots of Jesus' day urged armed revolt against the Romans in order to bring God's kingdom. Jesus' program appeared pale compared to theirs. In response, Jesus told the story of the seed growing spontaneously (vv. 26-29).
The message of the gospel is not as weak as it appears. The strong emphasis rests on the irresistible, germinal power in the seed. The seed grows automate of itself. This word automatic is found only one place else in the New Testament. There is an irresistible growth in the seed. The farmer can watch the process carefree, confident of the harvest to come. The harvest comes in spite of human passivity. The farmer is not unconcerned, but he does go to sleep. The farmer is interested and he is an instrument, but he is not the cause of the growth. Ultimately, the kingdom does not depend on my ability or inability, my will or my act. How ridiculous for the farmer to dig the seed up to see if it sprouted!
There is an irresistible, germinal power in that seed which is the gospel. It bears fruit automate, spontaneously. The kingdom of God will grow because of the power inherent in its message.
The Kingdom Moves From Insignificance to Dominance
Jesus' contemporaries expected the kingdom to come with a noisy, political victory by Israel. Israel would become the political center of the world. How different from all expectations were the microscopic, ragtag bands that followed Jesus. In the parable of the mustard seed (vv. 30-34) the emphasis rests on the two ends of the process of sowing. How small was the beginning. The mustard seed was the smallest thing the human eye could see. Yet it grew to become one of the largest of the garden shrubs. It could reach a height of eight to ten feet.
This parable is a simple word of encouragement. The band around Jesus appeared impossibly small. His methods of teaching and healing were not the weapons the Messiah was expected to use. Yet He dared to state that His kingdom would surpass all the nations of the world in glory. Like a great tree, His kingdom would become a sanctuary for all men everywhere.
The kingdom of God is coming, in spite of its apparent smallness. Are you part of that kingdom?