STUDY FOURTEEN: PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM – INTRODUCTION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012

Parables: messages of Christ’s kingdom:
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus described the blessedness of those who believe in him. This blessedness includes ‘the kingdom of heaven’. The parables of Jesus focus our attention on this kingdom. What is Christ’s kingdom like? What is the value of his kingdom? What are the operating principles of his kingdom? What distinguishes the members of his kingdom? These and other questions are answered by Jesus’ parables.

When we think of the kingdom, there are two erroneous views that we must avoid:

[1] that the kingdom is entirely in the future, and
[2] that there is a difference between the ‘kingdom of God’ and ‘the kingdom of heaven’.

The first of these errors can be answered very easily: Jesus taught that ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ [Luke 17:20-21]; that with his coming, the kingdom also came [Matthew 4:17]; and that those who are poor in spirit already possess the kingdom [Matthew 5:3, cf al 5:10]. In addition Paul taught that those who believe in Christ have already been rescued from Satan’s dark kingdom and made to stand in the kingdom of God’s Son [Colossians 1:13].

The second error is also easily countered: the two terms ‘kingdom of heaven’ and ‘kingdom of God’ are used interchangeably by both Jesus and the different gospel writers. Note the use in parallel passages:

Kingdom of heaven    =      Kingdom of God
Matthew 4:17           =       Mark 1:15
Matthew 5:3             =       Luke 6:20
Matthew 10:7           =        Luke 9:2
Matthew 11:11         =        Luke 7:28
Matthew 13:11         =        Mark 4:11; Luke 8:9
Matthew 13:31         =        Mark 4:30
Matthew 19:14         =        Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16
Matthew 19:23         =        Mark 19:24; Luke 18:24

In addition, Jesus himself used the two terms to refer to the one thing within the space of a few words in both Matthew 19:23,24 and Matthew 20:23,24.

When we study the parables of Jesus we are confronted with the challenge to follow him who is the King, to value the things that he, the King, values, and to bring our lives under the rule of the principles that he, the King, has laid down.

The impact of parables
In Study Ten we read that Jesus said ‘do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs’ [Matthew 7:6]. In teaching in parables Jesus was conforming to his own instructions. As he explained to the disciples when they asked him why he spoke in parables, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them’ [Matthew 13:11].  Their believing response to him, the King, opened the door for more understanding; but the door to understanding spiritual truth was closed for those who rejected him. This is not harsh, it is simply the way it is:

• If we reject the One who is the bread of life, we will remain spiritually unsatisfied, constantly hungry.
• If we reject the One who is the source of living water, we will remain spiritually thirsty.
• If we reject the One who is the truth, we will remain ignorant and deceived.
• If we reject the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, we will never know God.

When Jesus spoke in parables he was revealing the knowledge of his kingdom to those who believed. At the same time, it was hidden from those who refused to believe, who had chosen to remain in the darkness.

The next few studies will bring together the parables recorded by Matthew.