THE PARABLE OF THE KINGDOM

 

Luke 4:21-34

Key Verse: 4:31,32

 

“It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

 

Last week we studied about four different kinds of heart soils and the result each soil bears. In today’s passage Jesus teaches us what should be our attitude toward his word and what the kingdom of God is like. I pray that we may pay attention to his word and consider it carefully.    

 

I. A LAMP ON A STAND (21-25)

In verse 21 Jesus says, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? We use florescent lights and spotlights to shine this center and our rooms. But back then people used lamps to light up their houses. This lamp was made of clay and had an oval shape like a kettle. People put olive oil in it and lighted the wick. Then they put it on its stand so that it might shine in the house. It is common sense that people light a lamp and put it on its stand. No one lights a lamp and hide it under a bowl or a bed. If anyone did so he would waste expensive oil and put himself in danger of being burned while sleeping. He would lose the purpose of a lamp. Jesus is the light of the world that shines in darkness. We have his light in our heart. We should reveal Jesus who is the light of the world instead of hiding.  

 

Look at verse 22. “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant be brought out into the open”. The reason Jesus spoke by many parables is that he wanted to reveal the meaning of his teachings. The concept of the kingdom of God is not easy to explain and understand because it is invisible and spiritual. If a philosopher tries to describe it we may not be able to understand even what he says.  This is why Jesus used parables to make it simple and visualize using our daily materials such as mustard seed and plants. At that time farming was a main job so he spoke many parables using agricultural terms. If he lived in modern days he would speak many parables using computers. Though a parable is a simple story no one understands its meaning until it is explained. Its meaning is hidden to those who are not interested in knowing. But those who want to know can understand the meaning behind the story. But the understanding doesn’t come naturally. There should be some effort involved. What kind of effort is needed?

 

Verse 24 says ”Consider carefully what you hear”, he continued. “With the measure you use it will be measured to you-and even more.” We have to consider carefully what we hear. The word ‘Consider’ means ‘ponder’ or ‘meditate’. When we hear we have to pay close attention. After we hear we have to ponder carefully. Those who have good heart soil are the ones who hear the word, accept it and retain it. They keep on pondering what they heard trying to understand its meaning. They are like the twelve apostles who came to Jesus and asked him the meaning of the parable of the sower. Whoever considers carefully can understand the meaning of his word. He is like a good heart soil that bears 30, 60 and even up to 100 times of what is sown. Jesus’ mother Mary is a good example. Whenever she heard something about Jesus from people or an angel she treasured up all she heard and pondered in her heart even though she didn’t understand at that time. Her mind was like 8GB flash USB. The people of Berea in the book of Acts are another good example. They received Apostle Paul’s message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. In other words they did their homework. They made their own research to find out what the messenger said was true. It is pretty sure that as much as they studied they understood. Jesus says, “with the measure we use it will be measured to us and even more.”   

 

Verse 25 says, “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have even what he has will be taken from him.” Missionary Moses Chang learned German for five years. But when he didn’t use the language he forgot it. He also used to learn Spanish. But when he stopped practicing the language he began to forget it too. Now the only foreign language he speaks is English because he keeps on speaking in English. The principle is same in our job knowledge and skill. If we keep on using them they will be developed. But if we don’t use them we tend to forget and lose them. Our mind is the same. If we keep on meditating on God’s word our understanding of his word gets better and our mind capacity gets bigger. But if we don’t consider his word we forget even what we know.

 

 

II. THE PARABLE OF THE GROWING SEED (26-29)

Look at verses 26-28. He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” Jesus compares the kingdom of God to seed sown on the ground. In this parable we learn several things.

 

First, the kingdom of God starts by sowing seed. Verse 26 says, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.” In real farming, a farmer spreads fertilizer first and tills the ground to mix it up with the soil. Then he sows seed. Without sowing seed there will be no harvest. There is no magic or miracle in farming. No seed spreading, no harvest. No work, no pay. The kingdom of God starts when one begins to spread the seed of God’s word. Romans chapter 10 verses 13 and 14 talk about the importance of spreading the word. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” There is no magic or miracle in farming. No seed spreading no harvest. We can’t expect someone to believe unless he hears the word. All of us have come to believe because someone, most likely our bible teacher has taught us the word.

 

Second, a farmer needs long waiting with patience. The kingdom of God is a slow and long process. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes days and months to grow. Back then farmers planted wheat seed in early November and harvested in the following June. Once a farmer sows seed he doesn’t dig up the soil to see how the seeds are doing. If they did, the entire process would be hopelessly interrupted. When I was in middle school, one of the subjects I had was agriculture. One time we practiced grafting. I cut some branches from a rose of Sharon (MuKungWhah) and planted them in my back yard. After several days I was curious about the branches, wondering if they had any root. So I dug up the soil and carefully pull them up. I saw some white tiny roots attached to the end of the branches. I was impatient. I kept pulling up the branches every day to see how the roots were growing. I don’t remember what happened to the branches. A farmer doesn’t do this kind of stupid thing. Likewise when we spread the seed of God’s word we shouldn’t be too anxious or impatient wondering, “What’s going on with the seed I spread?” “Why don’t I see even a stalk even after several years?” Like a farmer we should patiently wait.  

 

Third, the kingdom of God grows and produces crop. Verses 27 and 28 read “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” Farming is a hard job. It requires experience and diligence and hard work. There is so much work a farmer has to do. He should spread fertilizer and till the ground. Then he breaks the soil and turns it into fine particles. Then he sows seed and supplies water. Once plants come out he should constantly battle with the weeds by pulling them out. He applies pesticide to protect them from plant diseases and harmful insects. These are just a few of many hard works a farmer does. But there is one thing a farmer can’t do which is most important. He can’t make the plants grow. If God doesn’t grow the plants all efforts of the farmer will be in vain. While watching and helping my parents-in-law growing hot pepper plants for many years I learned this truth. A farmer can do all the work. But it is God who makes things grow. Apostle Paul says in 1Corinthians 3:6, 7 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.” Since God grows things our job is to sow seed and supply water. After that we should depend on God to do the work of bringing forth a healthy plant.

 

What happens after a farmer sows seed? The seed grows all by itself. It automatically and constantly grows night and day whether the farmer sleeps or gets up. A seed has life in it. The seed has power in itself to bring forth a crop. The farmer does not understand how it works. What he cares about is that it grows. It is like a baby’s growth. Shepherd Abraham Lee doesn’t know how his baby Samantha grows biologically. What he cares about is that she is fed well and she doesn’t get sick. Then all by herself she grows and becomes bigger. He sleeps at night and goes to work in the morning. When he comes home he enjoys watching her and becomes amazed how fast she grows. Like growing seed and a growing baby the gospel has a mysterious and supernatural power of its own to bring forth faith in a person’s heart into salvation and make him grow.

 

There are three steps of plant’s growing mentioned. When the seed sprouts,  first it becomes the stalk, then the head and then the full kernel in the head. A stalk can’t jump to become the full kernel. The stalk should go through the stage of head to become full kernel. This process is very similar to the growth of believers. Like a seed sprouts and grows believers are born again, become mature in Christ and start to produce fruit.

 

In the past shepherd Tommy didn’t see a meaning of his life. He shared in his testimony that he had wanted to commit suicide. But through bible study he found the meaning of his life. He accepted Jesus and received salvation. The seed sown in his heart has sprouted and grown. He fed one student with one to one study. He became a fellowship leader and faithfully led group bible study. He has faithfully served our praise team by presenting power point slides and has presided over Sunday worship services. Last May he graduated from the University of Maryland. After graduation I thought that he would have no problem to get a job. But even after a half year passed he couldn’t get a job. I wondered, “What’s going on?” “What’s the problem?” Then at this year’s leader’s conference he accepted Jesus’ world mission command through John 20:21, “Peace be with you! As the father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then he decided to go to Indonesia as a missionary. He received one month missionary training in Chicago and has prepared himself to go there as an English teacher. Once he told me, “If I go there I want to stay multiple years.” Wow! When I heard his decision at first I was surprised. I was amazed at the power of God’s word. Before he had been asked to go somewhere as an one year missionary, but he couldn’t decide. But when he accepted Jesus’ word it cleared his way. I also learned God’s way of working. When he couldn’t get a job I didn’t know what was going on in his life. I never knew when and how he accepted his word until I heard. God was working in his own way through his word. Through this I learned that my job is to faithfully teach the word and pray. Then God will do his part by growing and producing crop.

 

Look at verse 29. “As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come. A farmer’s joy is to see his plants growing. He has great joy when he harvests the crop. Here ‘the harvest’ means God’s final judgment at the end of the age. As a farmer harvests and brings in his crop Jesus will return and gather his people.

 

 

III. THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED (30-34)

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? Jesus was eager to explain about the kingdom of God. Then it didn’t take time for Jesus to come up with another parable. He is a genius in telling parables. Jesus explained the kingdom of God using many parables to plant the hope in people’s hearts.

 

Look at verse 31. “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” This time Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. Have you seen a mustard seed? According to Wikipidia its size is about 1mm in diameter. According to my wife who saw a mustard seed, its size is a quarter of a sesame seed. So you can imagine how tiny it is. Yet when planted it becomes the largest of all garden plants. It grows up to 15 feet. I am about 5 feet and 7 inches. So it can be three times taller than my height. It can reach the lower part of this ceiling. The branches become large enough that the birds of air can perch in its shade. You know birds are smart. They don’t perch their nests on thin and shaky branches.

 

Here we see a characteristic of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God starts very small. It looks insignificant. But once it starts it grows huge and covers the whole world.

Jesus was born in a manger. Compared to the mighty Roman Empire at that time this tiny baby looked nothing. But the kingdom of God through Jesus kept growing and growing and growing. Now Christianity, including Catholics, is the biggest religion in terms of size. According to statistics in one website ‘Adherents.com’ Christianity is ranked as number one in terms of size. It has 2.1 billion people. 

 

A history of UBF shows another example. This organization started with two people in 1961: one American missionary and one Korean pastor. About 60 years later this ministry has exponentially grown. It has sent out 1345 missionaries to 86 nations according to ‘ubf.or.kr’. I have seen how each chapter has grown with so many sheep in our website. Next month at least 3000 people will attend the Purdue conference. We will see how God’s work has exponentially grown throughout the world. Surely the kingdom of God grows like a mustard seed. When we think about our one to one ministry it is like a mustard seed. It is not massive evangelism. No one notices what we do. Considering so many people in the world studying with students doesn’t seem to impact the world much. But when the gospel is planted the potential is great. Each one can grow and become a big tree. God raised one person Abraham for 25 years and through him numerous descendants like sand on the seashore came out. Therefore we should be patient and faithful to plant the seed of gospel. May God bless our Purdue Bible conference so that each one may receive the word of God. May God bless our young messengers for Roman’s school when they consider God’s word carefully.  

 

 

Let’s read the Key Verse: 4:31,32

 

“It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”