“The kingdom is like a man scattering seed.” “The kingdom is like a grain of mustard seed…the smallest in the ground.”
Really? The kingdom of heaven is like that? As marketing and recruiting go, Jesus violates all the rules. Why not say that the kingdom is like the Wal-Mart empire? Or that the kingdom is like the Bill Gates Microsoft® domain? Or that the kingdom has the influence of facebook?
Because Jesus doesn’t recruit people to the kingdom with appeals to the size of its castles, moats, armies or impressive walls. The kingdom is attractive and desirable because of the goodness of its King.
Here Jesus — following on the heels of his parable of the soils — provides two kingdom principles and two kingdom comparisons.
Kingdom Principle 1: the hidden Christ will be revealed (4:21-23)
Though he spoke earlier about letting his disciples in on the “secret” of the kingdom that the “outsiders” didn’t have, here he teaches that the situation won’t always remain the same. Using the illustration of the lamp, he indicates that whatever God has obscured or hidden or disguised is that way only temporarily. Beginning with the resurrection and ascension, God began to reveal these things.
Because of the structure of Mark’s grammar and Old Testament references, there is good reason to believe that Jesus is the “lamp” that comes in not to remain hidden, but to be lifted up and revealed to all. This will occur when he comes again, when “every eye will see” (Rev1:7) “every knee will bow, and every tongue confess” (Phi2:10). At that point, however, the time for diligent hearing is over.
Kingdom Principle 2: the diligent hearer will be rewarded (4:24-25)
“Listen up!” When men are diligent to listen deliberately and attentively to what Jesus says, God grants understanding and gives even more understanding. Hearing is not like a doorway, whose threshhold is crossed and left behind. Followers of Christ enter the kingdom hearing, and continue hearing to continue entering the kingdom.
Kingdom Comparison 1: the unobserved process (4:26-29)
This parable seems to teach that the sower — distributing the word — casts his seed out and waits until the harvest. He can even sleep well, knowing that even though he doesn’t see and doesn’t understand how the seed works in the soil of human hearts, God is tending to that. Not only that, he isn’t disturbed or troubled by an apparent lack of result. God tends to that, too.
Kingdom Comparison 2: the unexpected result (4:30-32)
From mustard seed that can barely be seen to bush so large that birds nest in its branches, the kingdom exhibits unexecpted — and divinely ordained — results. At some point, what may not look like much now will come to glorious fruition. And the glory of the kingdom is not merely its size, but its inhabitants.
Considering Old Testament references and the allusions Jesus gives here, the glory of the kingdom consists in part of the number of nations benefiting from its reign. People from every tribe, tongue and nation will receive the seed of the Word, be part of the harvest, and find refuge, provision and comfort in the kingdom of Christ.