The “Kingdom of Heaven” is a topic that I think has been convoluted by many different people I’ve encountered. I’ve definitely appreciated the opportunity to study this topic further. What I find interesting is that the first person to mention the Kingdom of Heaven was actually John the Baptist in Matthew 3:2 when he proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” When Jesus starts His public ministry, He then uses a similar phrase in Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” See also Matthew 5:17. In Luke 4:43, Jesus said His purpose in coming was to preach the Kingdom of God. (From my initial scan, the Kingdom does not seem to be a prominent theme in John at all.)
The thing that interests me the most about the Kingdom of Heaven is that it seems like it was such a radical, groundbreaking, revolutionary idea that Jesus was unable to just speak of it plainly; He had to describe it in parables. I wanted to look at the series of parables found in Matthew 13.
Jesus starts in Matt 13:1-9 by describing four different types of soil. First, I think it’s important to note that the seed never changed. This is a call to all Christians in general and preachers in particular to make sure that your message is legitimate seed. If I’m not sowing the right seed, then I’m actually an enemy planting weeds (we’ll get to that in a minute). Second, this parable calls us to examine our hearts; has the “word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19) taken root in your heart? Are you producing a harvest? Third, this parable reminds us that we are not responsible for whether or not a seed takes root; it’s not up to us, nor is it our job to somehow change the soil.
The next parable, in Matt 13:24-30, Jesus tells us that within the kingdom of heaven, there will be weeds. I think I agree with Augustine’s assessment that this means there will Christians and non-Christians within the churches we attend, but in light of the previous parable, I can’t help but see a subtle warning to us preachers. What seed are we planting? Are we planting weeds? Or are we planting the word of the kingdom? At the harvest time, will your fruit be taken into the barn? Or will your fruit be bound and burned?
The final parable in this series, (Matt 13:31-33), takes a look at how this seed should reproduce. Turns out, the Kingdom of Heaven should be spreading like a weed! According to the University of California’s Pest Management Program, mustard is a weed! What saddens me about this parable is that I don’t see this rapid, uncontrollable spread of the Gospel in our society. We seem to be on a steady decline and I’m eager to help change that. But that begs the question “Is the modern American Church planting the right seed?”