What is the Kingdom Like?

By Carl McMurray

“Therefore He was saying, `What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree; and the birds of the air nested in its branches.’ And again He said, ‘To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened”‘ (Lk. 13:18-21).

In the above verses Jesus compares his kingdom to two everyday occurrences in order to illustrate different characteristics of that kingdom.

In the first illustration the kingdom is likened unto a mustard seed. This small seed, about the size of a pin head, grows into a plant large enough for the birds to nest in. The words are similar to our modern day sayings about acorns and mighty oaks. The lesson is clear. From modest and humble beginnings, the gospel of the kingdom can grow to have a tremendous effect. Whether we are speaking of the kingdom’s humble beginnings in Jerusalem and subsequent world-wide spread, or whether we are speaking on a more personal level of the growth changes brought about in one’s life as he humbles his heart to God and is “lifted up” in service, it makes no difference. The changes are still tremendous in the world, in a community, or in one’s life. We can-not escape the potential for growth that is present in this illustration and we need to beware the efforts of Satan to discourage us by whispering, “Nobody’s interested” or “They’re going to do it anyway, why fight it?” We need to keep planting kingdom seeds.

In the second illustration, the kingdom is likened unto leaven or yeast. He comments on the spreading power of the yeast throughout the meal. We note that even though its work is unseen, it is nevertheless very effective. We are forced to see once again the power for growth and spreading influence of the kingdom. In the first parable the growth was observable while here it is unseen. In the first, birds came and nested in its branches, while here no more meal is added to the amount. Both of these are different aspects of the kingdom. Sometimes growth is natural and visible, while sometimes it comes about more slowly through unseen influences such as example, love, conscience or friendship.

There are two things, however, that seem to be present in both cases that catch one’s attention. In both cases there is growth. Growth means change, which is uncomfortable for many people. We like our “ruts” and our traditions. But growth also means maturity and strengthening and wisdom. The kingdom (or church) should be maturing as our faith grows season by season. Greater wisdom should be available to every congregation as the work progresses. Though our standard, the gospel, is unchanging, our methods of evangelism, our class curriculums, our gospel meetings can and should change to be more effective in getting Christ’s message out to a “changing” society. Just like the “brush arbor” meetings and millennial teaching of the 19th century were laid aside as we grew and learned, so other activities that become outdated or need correcting should be addressed. On the one hand, to be more effective in reaching out to a lost world, and on the other hand to keep perfecting our teaching so as to always be upholding the light of the first century gospel. Jesus shows us that whether by visible results or hidden influences, kingdom growth is inevitable.

The second obvious thing I see, however, brings the parables home to me. I notice that in both cases, before there could be growth, there was someone involved in the process. In the first “a man” took the seed and sowed it. In the second “a woman” took the leaven and hid it. In both cases, the seed and the leaven would have been useless if they were just left alone to grow by themselves. Someone had to get involved. Remember, Jesus did not say simply that the kingdom was like seed or leaven. He said it was like seed, sown and growing. And it was like leaven, hid-den and growing. It is the whole picture that represents the kingdom. The seed and leaven (gospel?), the growth, and the man and woman (Christians?) are all part of the picture.

Are you part of this picture of Christ’s kingdom? As the song says, “There is much to do, there’s work on every hand, the cry for help goes ringing through the land,” and again, “There is room in the kingdom of God, my brother, for the small things that you can do.” God has done his part in giving us a Saviour. Mercy and peace need now to be taught in his name. Will you help . . . by your faithful attendance? By your spiritual worship? By your encouraging words? By your purposed and liberal giving? Will you teach a class? Will you serve in any number of ways that are available in the kingdom today, and by your action sow the seed or hide the leaven? May God bless you in your every effort.

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 14, p. 25
July 15, 1993