Matthew 12:31-33, 44-52 (NRSV)
The Parables Of The Kingdom
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like….”
What is the Kingdom? We hear these words often – The Kingdom of God/Heaven – but what does it mean? It should be noted that the Kingdom of Heaven is synonymous with the Kingdom of God, mainly because Jewish people would often substitute the word God for another word as to utter the revered name of God was to risk blasphemy.
The Kingdom of God, simply put, is the domain in which God is king.
It is not a Kingdom ‘in’ heaven.
It is a Kingdom ‘from’ heaven.
It is other worldly (John 18:36). Often it can feel the farthest thing from our experience on earth. When we look around it can be hard to ‘see it’. It is there though. Jesus points to the Kingdom. Jesus lived the Kingdom. Jesus has now commanded us to bring the Kingdom. He did not operate on a purely spiritual level so that we live in a ‘spiritual kingdom’. Jesus lived a Kingdom that was for here and now. A holistic Kingdom. A Kingdom for those right in front of him, and for us here right now.
They say how much we value something is counted by how much we are willing to give for it. For example, it would be an absolute no-brainer for me to sacrifice my life for my kids. It’s near instinct. If my son or daughter were about to be hit by a car, I would jump in front of it. I’d give anything for them because they mean everything to me.
Here Jesus is asking us how much do we value his Kingdom? He is not asking us how much do we value getting to Heaven when we die. He is asking how much do we value the Kingdom that is right here, right now. Jesus is not solely interested in our personal relationship with him. Jesus is interested in our interpersonal relationships, from him to us to those around us. We don’t invite him in to our hearts, he invites us in to the heart of the Trinity. The Kingdom of God is not about me, it is about us. If I am just interested in getting me and my family ‘saved’, I am missing the point of the Kingdom. It’s not about getting people ready to die, it’s helping people to truly live. Mind you, ironically, that only comes through a kind of death to oneself.
Who were the very people Jesus came for? He came to seek and save the lost. He came for the broken-hearted, the poor, the lonely, the liars, the beggars, the migrant workers, the bankers, the bondholders, the homeless, the sick, the wealthy, the 45th President, the outsiders, the oppressed, the sex worker, the pastor, the prophets, the priests, the least of these … the lost. All of us are lost and the Kingdom of Heaven is for people like us. We can all pretend that we know which way we’re going but really, we’re all stumbling and bumbling around in the dark thinking we know what we’re doing but we don’t really. It’s why God’s exhortation at the transfiguration to ‘listen to Him’ (Matt 17:5) is so compelling. We listen to Jesus. That is where we find direction and purpose and we see what the Kingdom of God is about. Whatever Jesus was passionate about is where we see the Kingdom at hand.
How much we value the Kingdom isn’t a case of how our theology matches up, it’s about how we view people and, more to the point, how we love people, how we include people and how we invite people to the table. Ultimately, how we represent Jesus to people. It’s all well and good to think that we’d give it all up so we get to heaven but are we willing to give up our desires and wants so we are moved by what Jesus was moved by. Are we willing to bring people to the feet of Jesus where they will find healing, wholeness and a welcome home?
Ferg Breen is married with two kids and is a counsellor, psychotherapist, lecturer and pastor in Dublin. He also performs motivational seminars inspired solely by the work of David Brent.