Discourse on the Kingdom of God
34. Discourse on the Kingdom of God
Since this is a long passage, we will break it out into sections.
And again Jesus began to teach by the seaside. And there gathered unto him a very great multitude, so that he entered into a boat, and sat in the sea; and all the multitude were by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things in parables, and said unto them in his teaching:
How shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or in what parable shall we set it forth? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown upon the earth, though it be less than all the seeds that are upon the earth, yet when it is sown, groweth up, and becometh greater than all the herbs, and putteth out great branches; so that the birds of the heaven can lodge under the shadow thereof.
As we discussed earlier, the kingdom of God refers not to a place, but to a spirit or an energy that is released when an individual or a collective live in conscious relationship with God, obedient to His will.
The parable of the mustard seed is that the kingdom of God starts small – one person at a time. As more people see and choose the relationship, however, the influence or affect of that spiritual dimension grows and spreads to the benefit of all.
And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.
And he said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
This parable speaks to the inner nature of our relationship with God, which we begin by making a commitment to deal with our resistance (“Resist not evil”), remove our blind spots (“…first remove the beam in our own eye”), and learn to love our enemy. Once we make that commitment -- and stick with it until we are “all leavened” -- it works on us, mysteriously, as leaven works on bread.
Another parable set Jesus before them, saying, The kingdom of God is likened unto a man that sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the blade sprang up, and brought forth fruit, there appeared the tares also. And the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it tares? And he said unto them, An enemy hath done this. And the servants say unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he saith, Nay; lest haply while ye gather up the tares, ye root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together.
If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear.
In this parable Jesus once again debunks the apocalyptic version of the kingdom of God. If you try to separate the wheat (the good guys) from the tares (the bad guys), you’ll end up killing both. So don’t try and stamp out or eliminate evil, because it will bring about your own destruction as well.
Now that’s something, isn’t it? It certainly isn’t the way most of us think. The only way it makes sense is if you see life in an entirely different context. We are one human family. Each of us represents what is possible for all of us. No one has a unique possibility; if they did, they would be something other than human. Just as all acorns share a common potential – none of them can become a peach tree – so do all people.
Because we are the same, the key to accepting others is to accept ourselves. (Think back to our discussion on Jesus’ teaching on anger and lust.) Likewise, rejection or condemnation of another can be a sign that there is an aspect of ourselves with which we have not yet made peace.
In that context, evil in the world can actually be our teacher, revealing sides of our own nature that perhaps we would rather not look at. Take terrorism, for example. Most people would say terrorists are evil. Most people would also say they themselves are not terrorists. But take the USA: is there not some shade of terrorism in a country that has 6% of the world’s population but uses more than 30% of its resources? In a country known to have covertly deposed democratically elected leaders in third world countries just because they threatened our economic interests? In a country that prosecuted a misguided war in Southeast Asia that resulted in the death of 3 million innocent civilians? We have some soul searching to do; and evil in the world may be an indication that we have not soul searched enough.
If we really understood evil, we’d know that its root is ignorance, and that our challenge is not to eliminate evil—for ignorance will always exist—but to understand the process by which we move from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to light.
The only other choice, according to Jesus, is to perish.
And Jesus said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed upon the earth; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow, he knoweth not how. The earth beareth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.
We can see in nature that when the right conditions are met, the growth process occurs. The same is true for the kingdom of God. When we fulfill the conditions -- obedience to the will of God, which is to love all – a growth process is set in motion that bears fruit in mysterious ways.
The kingdom of God is like unto a treasure hidden in the field; which a man found, and hid; and in his joy he goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of God is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls: and having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
When we truly understand what the kingdom of God is all about, we know that a relationship with God is not something that you add on to your life, like a new room to your house. It is the foundation of your house…without it you have nothing solid upon which to build. But to be 100 percent obedient to God’s will requires the total surrendering of our own will – that is the meaning of selling everything you have. And it feels like everything, doesn’t it? That’s because we are so tightly identified with our own ego. But along with that surrendering comes a rebirth to a higher, more fulfilling state of consciousness.
And with many such parables spake Jesus the word unto them, as they were able to hear it: and without a parable spake he not unto them.
And when Jesus was alone, the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? And he said unto them, Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you.
Jesus knows that his teachings threaten the religious authorities – the scribes and Pharisees – and that they are plotting against him, hoping to trap him in some heresy. Jesus therefore speaks in parables that they may see and not perceive, and hear, but not understand.
Then Jesus went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying: Explain unto us the parable of the tares of the field. And Jesus saith unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all the parables?
Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinketh he hath.
Here is one of our first clues that Jesus’ disciples are really not getting it. The tares in the field parable, remember, refuted the apocalyptic vision of the kingdom of God, the prevailing expectation of the times. It was one of Jesus’ central teachings, yet his disciples totally missed its meaning.
Jesus uses this as an opportunity to stress to his disciples the importance of clear perception and understanding. If you don’t see that bus coming as you cross the street, or don’t appreciate its ability to flatten you like a pancake upon contact, you’re going to probably lose everything you have as it runs right over you. If you do see it, and understand your relationship to it (stay out of its way!), you cross safely and life goes on. That is the meaning of “to him shall be given.”
Hearken: Behold, the sower went forth to sow: and it came to pass, as he sowed, some seed fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured it. And other fell on the rocky ground, where it had not much earth; and straightway it sprang up, because it had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And other fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing; and brought forth, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.
And Jesus said unto them, Is the lamp brought to be put under the bushel, or under the bed, and not to be put on the stand? There is nothing hid, save that it should be manifested; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light.
Here Jesus is acknowledging that not everyone will understand his teachings. But those that do understand them have an obligation to spread those teachings far and wide. In fact, the very purpose of the human adventure is to move from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge, so that life may continue.
And Jesus asked them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto Jesus, Yea. And he said unto them, Therefore every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of God is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
In the attitude or spirit that prevails in the kingdom of God, the richness of the past is not discarded, and the possibility of the new is not resisted. Each is evaluated only on its ability to serve the cause of life.
There is nothing covered up, that shall not be revealed: and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak ye in the light: and what ye hear in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
Again, we see that Jesus had an acute understanding of the danger of his situation. We can project at this point that he has foreseen that his life will end at the hands of those he most threatens, and that to buy as much time as possible, he must speak covertly. But there will come a time when his disciples will need to abandon the stealth approach, and instead teach openly…proclaiming these truths “from the housetops.”
[See also “Limits of the Kingdom of God” (Commentary 12-69), “Time of the Kingdom of God” (Commentary 13-79), “Essential for Entrance into Kingdom” (Commentary 14-84), and “Time of the Kingdom of God” (Commentary 14-89).]