He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

When you live in a big city, and you don’t have the room or the inclination to garden, you don’t spend much time thinking about seeds. Except when you are in school and they make you do the bean project. The bean project is a rite of passage for young people.

Remember how it worked? Your science teacher gave you a small bag of beans and a set of instructions. You were to plant them in little numbered boxes or cups and then experiment with them. Some got more light, some less. Some got more water, some less. Some you watered with Coke or something else. You measured their growth and you wrote a report and you were done and moved on.

You might not even have noticed the wonder of it all. How could it be that that seed held all that it needed – short of water and sunlight – to become a plant? And not just any plant. A plant that could someday produce seeds of its own. Even after your science teacher explained the math of how it all happened, it was still a miracle.

It is interesting how non-specific Jesus is when he is teaching about the kingdom of God. Truly, that is his main thing. From the very beginning, chapter 1, Jesus announced that “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” You don’t have to know anything about kingdoms to sense how strange it is for him to use those words.

In the real world, kingdoms don’t move. They might expand as the king conquered more territory but other than that, kingdoms are places you go to, they aren’t things that come to you. So how strange that Jesus says that the kingdom of God “has come near”? There is something mysterious about that. He must be talking about a different sort of kingdom.

But actually he isn’t. Because, when you drill down through the layers of what a kingdom really is, you can finally only land on the word “relationship.” The relationship between the king and the king’s subjects and all that that means. Other words come to mind like power, privilege, loyalty, subservience, protection, identity. You don’t need land, a castle, or a crown to have that. They’re nice. They’re handy. But they aren’t the heart of the matter.

So the only way to understand how Jesus portrays the kingdom of God “coming near” is to realize that it is only coming near now in Jesus himself. He is the physical embodiment of God’s reign in the world. Thus to trust Jesus, to believe in Jesus, is to realize that God is our true king and all earthly kingdoms are of a wholly different nature than God’s kingdom.

Earthly kingdoms are not modeled on God’s kingdom – earthly kingdoms are in competition with God’s kingdom for the hearts and minds of God’s people. Caesar can take my taxes but Caesar has no rightful claim on my heart. Caesar only gets my heart if I give it to him – and I’m not going to do that.

God’s kingdom is subversive but not violent. It is not coerced or forced or even enforced on anyone. It just IS and it is the only universal, all-inclusive, kingdom there is. Which makes it both as powerful, and as mysterious, as bean plants sprouting in little boxes. Even if you feed it Coke. As long as it gets enough sunshine because it is only darkness that will certainly kill a seed.

Let us pray: Lord, reign in our lives. Reign in our lives with truth, justice, compassion, and love. Thank you for the mystery of your love which has been planted, and is now carefully tended, in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “”

  1. Linda Stoetzer Says:

    WOW! This explains so much. Thank you!

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