Mark 4:26-32
The Parable Of The Kingdom Of God

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

Thy Kingdom Come

1. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come." -- [That's] the prayer Jesus taught. "Thy kingdom come. That the kingdom of God would come." The Lord committed unto our speech the words of a prayer, [when he commanded us to] pray that way. So, time after time, over and over, we say the words of this prayer. Even today in [our] worship service, we have united our hearts together and prayed it.

2. We say this prayer all the while holding to several kinds of ideas. O Father, may thy kingdom come! In this world people filled with hatred and anger are killing each other. O Father, may thy kingdom come! In this world justice is distorted, the weak and the small are trampled under foot. O Father, may thy kingdom come! [People] cannot get through things peacefully with those with whom they work or those with whom they study even though serving along side each other. O Father, may thy kingdom come among one person and the other! Though dwelling under one roof, not understood by the other, husbands and wives, parents and children, are unable to live with mutual love for one another. O Father, may thy kingdom come in the midst of our homes! Even though the life we are given is so precious such that money can't buy it and [we just get] one life in this world and we receive this temporal life as willed by God, we are right now living in confusion, shaken by irresistible impulses and demonic forces. O Father, may thy kingdom come into our lives which have been filled with sin and stains! My body is sick. My heart is full of fear and worry. O Father, may thy kingdom come into this heart of mine! We say this prayer with these kinds of thoughts in our minds.

3. We often boast of our strength, put on a bold front even, and act like we can solve anything by our own power. We tell ourselves that we should just hold on, and live by giving ourselves our own pep talks. Yet, at the bottom of our hearts, we all know [one thing] for sure. When it comes to the broader issues of the world all the way to the smaller more personal issues of the heart, going by our own power, we know for sure that we're up a creek without a paddle unless God steps in and unless his control comes into the situation - we are really helpless [without him]. So, even when we are worshipping the Lord, we don't need to act like stubborn know-it-alls. We should seek [him] with a teachable spirit because Jesus taught us, saying, "Pray, 'O father, thy kingdom come.'"

4. Then going further, Jesus also addresses those of us who pray with a parable. It is the parable of the kingdom of God. As persons who pray together that "Thy kingdom come," I would like for us to pay close attention to the Lord's address to us.

The Parable Of The Growing Seed

5. Begin by looking at chapter four and verse twenty-six. Jesus spoke as follows: "The kingdom of God is like this. A man sows seed in the earth, but night and day, while he is sleeping or awake, he will not know how the seed sprouts forth or how it will do it. The earth will yield forth fruit on its own, first the stalk, then the head, and rich fruit will yield forth on the head. When the fruit matures, immediately, he puts the sickle to it. For, the time of harvest has come," (verses twenty-six through twenty-nine).

6. Whenever we hear this parable, we must take care not to bring in our modern feelings into it. In elementary school science lessons we studied about how plants germinate. So, we think of the planted seeds giving forth their sprouts as a natural process. But, the people of Jesus' time never saw it that way. A seed being planted in the earth meant it died once because it was similar to a burial. But, marvelously, the seed that was supposed to have died gave forth a sprout. Thus, that was not a process of nature at all to the people back then. It was a miracle God did. Then the sprout would soon stretch forth and would come to yield forth fruit, this too, was also God's doing.

7. To the put the kingdom of God into a parable of the growth of a seed stands for the fact that it should not be put on par with [any kind] of development in nature based on human strength. The kingdom of God is brought [into being] by God's own doing and is a truly mysterious [series of] events. People who don't understand that only think of Christian things as "studying something good to become a better person" or something like that example. The name we call "the church" might be the basis for this misunderstanding because lots of people will only think of it as "a teaching society" [because the word "church" in Japanese has the character for "teaching" in it]. Or, [it may be misunderstood] because some people will think of it as just "a movement to bring on a better social order." In that case, the services being held in church are on par with activist groups and symposia for [such] a movement. But, when Jesus was speaking about sowing seeds in accordance with the level of awareness back then, the Lord was truly speaking on the mysterious doings and workings of God. The bringing about of the kingdom of God is more than the effects of education and activism.

8. So, because God's workings are that way, they proceed in a manner that goes beyond human comprehension, in a way unbeknownst by humans. It is as [the Bible] says, "A man sows seed in the earth, but night and day, while he is sleeping or awake, he will not know how the seed sprouts forth or how it will do it," (verse twenty-seven). Even in the term "night and day" a level of awareness unfamiliar to us is being said by it. We would probably use the term "day and night." But for the Jews, the day begins with sunset. People go to sleep at the start of the day, and the reason people go to sleep with their minds at ease is during that time as well God's activity keeps on going. It is even as the lyrics say in Psalm one hundred and twenty-one, "Behold, he who watches over Israel never dozes off or falls asleep," (Psalm 121:4). Also, God's work proceeds and his preparations are done when people awaken. Then, people find out God was there doing something and his preparations are done while they were all the while ignorant of it. As a matter of fact, isn't that our own experience as people?

9. Therefore, it also says "The earth yields forth its fruit on its own." It doesn't come by human strength. Of course, farmers may get mad if you say, "The farmer doesn't do anything." He does sow the seed. He puts it in his hands. He must do his farming. In a similar way, on this earth we must do what we can. We work hard for education, and it is important to work for the realization of a better society. But, just as the farmer should not claim that "My farming will make the plants grow and will cause the fruit to come," we shouldn't claim that our work will bring the kingdom of God to pass. That's God's miracle to do.

The Parable Of The Mustard Seed

10. Jesus went on to tell another parable. Please look at verse thirty. "To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? By what parable shall I show it? It is like a mustard seed. When [you] sow it in the ground, it is the smallest of all the seeds in the earth, but when you sow it, it grows and it becomes larger than any other vegetation, and it extends its branches so large that the birds of the air build nests in the shade of its leaves," (verses thirty through thirty-two).

11. In this parable, the Lord is directing our careful attention to the very "seed" sown. In particular, it is "the smallness" that we should take notice of. Therefore, the Lord was making reference to the "mustard seed," [which was] the smallest of seeds among the seeds known back in those times.

12. What does the small "seed" of the kingdom of God mean to say? When we read just before the passage we read today, we see that "seed" is defined as "the word of God." But, the spoken word cannot be separated from the presence of the one speaking it. "Jesus Christ" the one doing the speaking cannot be separated from "the word of God" being spoken. The Gospel According To John tells us about another message in which the Lord had given about "seeds." He said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains a grain. But, if it dies, it will bear much fruit," (John 12:24). Fully aware that the time had come for him to be crucified to death, he had spoken this, and in this way Christ himself is the word of God, Christ himself is the seed of the kingdom of God falling to the earth to die.

13. This is how God sowed the seed of Jesus Christ on this earth. God [had] Christ crucified on the cross and made him an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This was the seed of the kingdom of God that God cast forth upon the world. And right now through the words of the preaching of the gospel Jesus Christ is being communicated through out the world and the seed of Jesus Christ is being sown. Thus, that we exist as Christians shows something -- that the seed of Christ has certainly been sown. That the church exists on this earth -- it shows that the seed of the kingdom of God has already been sown.

14. The way it looks to us may be too small to be anything. "I am just one Christian at home. I am small, my presence means nothing at all." "The population of Christians in this country is less than one per cent. It hardly means anything to have a church in this country." We might want to say something like that. But, Christ doesn't see it that way. Even though it may seem small to us, the Lord has said here that the fact that the seed has already been sown does have greater meaning than you might believe.

15. No matter how small the mustard seed is, when it grows, it will soon extend its large branches. In other words, it means that in the small seed a large tree is already prepared for the future. Our presence as Christians, the church's existence in this world, no matter how small it may seem, no matter how trivial it might look to us, the kingdom of God is already there within the sown seed, and it waits for the time when it will soon be revealed.

16. "Thy kingdom come." -- That's what we pray, and as we do, on the other side of things, we need to keep our eyes steadfast on the truth that the seed of the kingdom of God has already been sown. Since the seed has already been sown, as the farmer anticipates the time of the harvest with his hopes up, like one does in farming, we also believe in the working of God, we should do wholeheartedly at ease what we are able to do, as we rejoice and embrace [our] hope [in the kingdom of God] without fretting and without despairing. That is the lifestyle for us as we pray "Thy kingdom come!"

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