Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my bi-monthly blog!
Previously, we saw how Jesus’ message would eventually be unwelcomed by the Jews because of their misplaced expectations, values, allegiance and focus. It comes as no surprise then that when Jesus started describing the coming Messianic Kingdom, His message was unexpected, a far cry from what everyone thought it would be, including John the Baptist and Jesus’ own disciples. They did not understand that the Messiah had to suffer first as the Lamb of God before returning in glory as the Lion of Judah; that His Kingdom was unworldly - not of this world nor according to its standards or ways; nor were His Kingdom subjects to behave like those of this world. Instead, the people wanted to make Jesus king by force and so subject the Kingdom to the violent ways of this world (References).
Because their eyes and ears were closed and their hearts hardened toward God, the people could not accept Jesus’ Kingdom message. From then on, Jesus taught in parables so that “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Mt 13:13). The true nature of God’s Kingdom would remain a “mystery/secret” to these people and revealed only to Jesus’ disciples.
Let us now go through the attributes of the Messianic Kingdom as taught by Jesus through His parables:
First, unlike earthly kingdoms that were visible to all, Jesus said the Kingdom of God was like a hidden treasure that only a few would discover, a narrow door that not many would enter. One could only see it by faith and through the help of the Holy Spirit. One had to be called by God and born again in the spirit in order to hear Jesus our Good Shepherd’s voice. But once we found God’s Kingdom and realised its true value, we would gladly sacrifice and give up all we had to possess and enter it (References).
Next, although the nations of the world were also meant to benefit from God’s covenant blessings given to Abraham, Jesus had purposely reached out to only the Jews as they were God’s chosen people. He already knew that they would reject His message and crucify Him as part of God’s divine plan of salvation but nonetheless, they remained responsible for their choices and actions. Through these series of parables, Jesus delivered God’s judgment on His existing Kingdom subjects - the lost sheep of Israel - for their unbelief and rejection, opening the way for sinners, outcasts and ultimately Gentiles to enter into His Kingdom first before God turns His attention back to Israel again. In this way, the first (Israel) shall be last and the last (Gentiles) first (References).
Again, contrary to the values of this world that defined success in terms of results, accomplishments and numbers, Jesus emphasised the value of the least over the greatest, of the one over the many, and how the lowly and humble would be exalted in the Kingdom of God (References).
Moving on, Jesus devoted the most number of parables to explain that while the Kingdom of God would experience extraordinary growth, it would be a mixed group comprising those who belonged to Him and those who did not. The extraordinary growth itself was something that was not only unnatural but ungodly, as seen in the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Yeast (because mustard does not usually grow into large trees but become bushes, while yeast is associated with sin in the Bible). All this, however, should come as no surprise - we had already seen earlier that both Israel and the Church are imperfect vessels for God; also, we just saw how God’s ways are different from the ways of this world (References) - what appears good to us may not be good to God, and what is not good can yet be good in God’s hands.