What is the Kingdom of God Like?
What three words did Jesus use to describe his mission? This potent phrase was recorded 85 times in the Gospels. He used it time and again to help people grasp the framework of what God was establishing. Yet most Christians, including those who regularly worship and participate in Sunday School, don’t know the answer. Jesus, who embodied God’s best for the world, showed the very meaning of what these three words reveal.
The answer is powerfully expressive but elusive to understand unless we see how all the dots are connected to Jesus’ life and mission by the image—“Kingdom of God.” Interchangeably, Jesus would also use “Kingdom of Heaven”. These two terms carried the same meaning. God’s heavenly kingdom was being established through Christ. With each teaching, miracle, conversation and action, Jesus highlighted how people would grasp the kingdom if they would first be grasped by the king of the kingdom. That is why he asked the two questions in Luke 13:18, “what is the Kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?” Immediately, he answered his questions by telling two brief parables (Luke 13:19-21). The parable of the mustard seed illustrated the kingdom may initially look small and insignificant. But the smallest of seeds will grow into the landscape’s most towering plant. Then Jesus spoke of leaven’s power to transform bread from the inside out. The leaven -or yeast- works as the growth agent within the dough, enabling more bread to be formed than would be the case without the leaven.
Through these two brief parables, Jesus explained how the kingdom of God grows from the gospel. What was seemingly insignificant to the Roman Empire actually would be the leaven that would change the empire from the inside out. The one who seemingly was an unimportant poor carpenter from Nazareth actually was the Messiah. His gospel was the kingdom’s seed that would be planted in the souls of people, and the soil of their character would be transformed as towering agents of godly change.
The Kingdom of God is the will of God working its way into the world. Where there is a king, there is a kingdom that represents his sphere of influence. On earth, we live in a sin-sick world, and this sickness infects us in tragic ways. So, the Kingdom is a realm where we are born again by being born from above (John 3:1-18). And the king loves us in a way so we can fulfill his kingdom commission to “love one another as I have loved you. And by this shall everyone know that you are my disciples…” (John 13:34-35). This kingdom ethic carries God’s power to change the world.
Pastor Les Hollon