Church of God, New World Ministries

The Parables Of Jesus: The Kingdom Of God

In the first article in this series, we learned just what parables are and why Jesus used them. We also saw that there are three distinct sets or groupings of parables, each having a different theme. This revealing article examines the first six parables of the first set.

As Jesus sat in a small fishing craft just offshore of the Sea (or lake) of Galilee He began to address the large crowd assembled on the shore. He spoke to them in parables about the Kingdom of God.

In this first group of parables, Jesus gave to the people six parables without any explanation. Later, He privately explained the meaning of all these to His own disciples. He also gave the disciples four additional parables which were self-explanatory. These last four parables contained a special message within the overall theme pertaining directly to the disciples’ future apostolic ministry.

It is important to realize that the parables were doctrinal in nature: “And he taught them many things by parables and said unto them in his doctrine” (Mark 4:2).

A “doctrine” is a biblical principle, teaching or truth which is accepted as authoritative. It constitutes part of the dogma of real Christianity. Therefore, we cannot underestimate the importance of seeking understanding of the parables of Jesus!

The first parable Jesus gave is of special significance because it is a pacesetter of sorts. It is typical of all such parables, and the method of explanation also follows the same basic pattern.

Speaking of the first parable in this group (that of the sower), Jesus said to His disciples: “Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables” (Mark 4:13)?


The Parable of the Sower

“Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no dept of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched: and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased: and brought forth, some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:3-8).

This first parable is a simple story liberally laced with local color. It is found in three of the four Gospel accounts Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each Gospel mentions a point or two not found in the other accounts. We will use Mark’s more concise Gospel as our basic reference.

Jesus describes a scene very familiar to His audience: A sower went out to sow grain in his field. The seed falls on four different types of ground: 1) the wayside, 2) stony ground, 3) among thorns, and 4) good ground. Each represents a different category of person who hears the Word of God at some point in his life. Each responds differently.

We are not told who the sower is, but it is explained that “the sower sows the word” (v. 14). We must assume that whoever disseminates Gods’ Word (God or one of His human instruments) is the sower. The seed in the parable then, represents the gospel message and all that it includes.

Each person who hears it reacts differently. Not everyone responds with equal enthusiasm. Nor does the Word of God bear the same fruit in each individual it touches.

Those by the Wayside

The people in this first category hear the gospel message, but they are immediately dissuaded from doing anything about it. God’s truth is never allowed to take root in their lives. They are easy prey for the devil, who subtly convinces them to disbelieve what they hear. “Satan comes immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts” (v. 15).

There are many ways by which this happens: A snide remark about the message from a “friend” who is supposedly “in the know “about such things. A sudden change of personal circumstances may lead to a “temporary” diversion which becomes permanent. A minor disagreement about a small point can lead the prospective Christian to “throw out the baby with the bath water.” It could be any number of things, but the result is always the same! The person rejects the gospel of the Kingdom of God before it gets a chance to take root.

On Stony Ground

Persons in this particular grouping advance somewhat further than those in the first category. Their initial reaction to the Word of God is enthusiastic. They are happy to hear the truth preached. They welcome it and may even become baptized. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41).

But unfortunately, their enthusiasm soon wears thin. They: have not root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:17).

These “babes in Christ” never allow their spiritual roots to go down quite deeply enough to draw on the pure, nourishing water of God’s spiritual power (John 7:38-39; Acts 1:8).When persecution comes along, they are not strong enough to withstand it. They have no persevering power in the face of the ridicule and derision of those who do not share their beliefs.

Such people are only willing to obey God as long as it does not cost them anything in terms of personal prestige and respect. Loss of face means loss of everything to them. They are willing to compromise the Word of God rather than suffer for it.

Did not Jesus say in another place: “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24)?

Among Thorns

The third type of person in this parable progresses somewhat further. He too begins to bear fruit and live a life of obedience to Christ. His life changes as he yields to the Word of God. But he too has a “hang-up.” At some point in his Christian life, “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

In order to become unfruitful, he must have at one time been fruitful. Here is someone who has actually begun to bear substantial fruit as a result of God’s Word. He has made spiritual progress. He may have been in the Church for some time. Others may even consider him well established in the body of Christ.

But sooner or later, plain old materialism or sensuality creeps in and smother his spirituality. Perhaps it is a craving for material success in the world of business or industry. A desire to be at the top of the financial heap can divert a person’s focus of attention from spiritual to material things.

For this reason, the Apostle Paul warned the Colossians about drifting into materialism: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). He also said that “to be carnally (physically) minded is death” (Rom. 8:6).

There are many pitfalls which can tear a person away from the abundant life to which God has called him. It could be money, the desire for financial success, another woman or man, a job, or an inordinate desire of any kind. It could be a craving for liquor or food (not that eating and drinking are wrong, but drunkenness and gluttony are) or possibly even narcotic drugs.

Whatever it is, diverts one from influence of God’s Holy Spirit and stifling any further bearing of good fruit.

On Good Ground

This category describes people who are converted and who make continual growth and progress in the faith. They bear the good fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

But not all bear the same amount of fruit. Some are much more productive than others. Many do not realize their maximum potential as Christians they merely get by with a modicum of effort.

Yet it is Christ’s will that we bear much fruit. Those who are closest to Jesus Christ bear the most fruit. Jesus said: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Which category are you in?

Summation of First Parable

In briefest summary, this first parable is a simple, earthy story drawn from daily life in Galilee. While the audience did not understand its meaning at the time it was given, Jesus later privately explained it to His disciples. It can now be understood by anyone to whom God wishes to reveal its meaning. The story is timeless in its application.

It applies to four types of people who hear the Word of God. All responded differently. The fourth group bears fruit until the day they enter into the Kingdom of God at Christ’s return. A simple, yet profound, message concerning the Kingdom!

The Wheat and the Tares

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.

“But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good see in your field? How then does it have tares?’

“He said to them, an enemy has done this. The servants said to him, do you want us then to go and gather them up? But he said, ‘No lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.’ Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ “(Matt. 13:24-30)?

The second parable is also taken from a description of typical rural life in the province of Galilee. Any farmer of the day would have known about tares (darnel). They were weeds which grew with the wheat and looked very much like it as long as the wheat remained in the blade stage. When they grew to maturity, however, they were readily distinguishable.

This is a simple illustration pointing out the fact that both the converted and the uncovered have to coexist in the same society until the time of the great harvest of lives at Christ’s return. During that time Jesus Christ will make a separation between those who are His and those who are not.

The best account of this parable is found in Matthew 13:24-30. (The explanation is given in verses 36-43). Each element of the parable has vital meaning. Notice Matthew’s explanation:

“The field is the world; the good seed (true Christians) are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one (Satan compare John 8:44, I John 3:8); the enemy that sowed them is the devil (the god of this society, II Cor. 4:4), the harvest is the end of the world; and the reaper is the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world (Greek: aionos, meaning “age”).”

This parable graphically shows the fate of those who insist on following the devil when they know better! Those who are incorrigibly wicked will be thrown into a lake of fire and be burned into ashes (Mal. 4:3).

John spoke of this in the book of Revelation: “And death (the dead) and hell (the grave hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14-15). In order to die twice, one must first live twice. This means a resurrection must occur.

This is not immortal life as a “soul” in an ever-burning hellfire it is a complete extinction and oblivion forever! And this is doctrine!

The Lamp Under a Bushel

“And he said unto them, is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested: neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man have ears to hear: let him hear” (Mark 4:21-23).

This parable had an especially significant meaning for the disciples. Jesus had told them earlier: “Fear them (the people) not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops” (Matt. 10:26-27).

The gospel message is the light that shines in a dark place. Christ was the Light of the world (John 1:9). Christians are to light the world with their example and with their message (Matt. 5:14-16). It is the work and the duty of God’s Church to proclaim the mysteries of the Kingdom of God to all the world.

Christ illustrated this important point by showing that if a person bought a candle it would be ridiculous to hide it (or snuff out its’ light) beneath a bushel basket! So, it is with the message of the Kingdom. It is not something for a Christian to clutch to his breast as a personal talisman; it is not his alone to have and to keep.

It is a message that must be proclaimed. As Paul said, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (I Cor. 9:16)!

God has revealed to His Church truths that were kept secret from the beginning of time. Even the mighty prophets of old were not granted the same insight into the plan of salvation that lay members of God’s Church may have today.

Even the angels desire to look into some of the things we may readily know (I Peter 1:10-12). “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Cor. 2:9-10).

Can we hide such truth and light under a “bushel”? God forbid!!

The Grain of Mustard Seed

“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” (Matt.13:31-32).

Again, we use Matthew’s account. This parable shows that the preparation for the Kingdom of God has the smallest of beginning. Yet that ruling Kingdom will ultimate fill all the earth.

Daniel wrote: “And there was given him (Christ) dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14).

The saints will inherit this Kingdom with Christ. “But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever” (v. 18).

We will continue with this series, be watching for it.

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