We started by referencing early Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood Movies where the hero (or anti hero) got their way by force (a large magnum gun). This kind of revenge and justice movie is a theme of Hollywood. Take 5 minutes and see how many movies you can think of that have this as a theme. I’ll get you started, John Wick, The Equaliser, Commando, The Die Hard series, Taken….(Carry on).
To a large part this was the kind of Messiah the Jews were expecting. Someone who would ride in on their white horse and ride the baddies out of town. (Hint: The Romans were the baddies and they ruled by force).
Read Joel 3:12-13 (what kind of Saviour does this sound like ?)
One the struggles for the Jews of Jesus’ time was to ask how come God hadn’t already done this. The question they might ask is :
“If God wants to turn this messed-up world into a city or a kingdom, why doesn’t he just knock some heads together, put all the baddies under a large, flat rock, and get on with the job?” – Robert Farrar Capon
This is what I like to call Loaded Gun Theology. In it the strongest man or woman wins and the most powerful force beats all others.
But the stories that Jesus told about the Kingdom of God tend not to be force stories.
Read Mark 4:26-29
(have you noticed the link to Joel 3? (harvest/sickle language)).
How much does the farmer have to do in this story ?
He goes to bed at night and gets up in the morning – and then he shops at the supermarket, unclogs the sink, whips up a gourmet supper, plays chamber music with his friends, watches the eleven o’clock news, and goes to bed again. And he does that and nothing but that, day after day after day – while all along, the seed that is the kingdom sprouts and grows in a way that he himself simply knows nothing about. – Robert Farrar Capon.
The greek uses a phrase “Automate” for how the seed grows. It grows automatically. What kind of examples of the word Automatic can you think of ?
Not only is there no force here (no loaded gun), the farmer doesn’t even understand how the growth happens.
Just put the kingdom into the world, Jesus says in effect; put it into any kind of world – not only into a world of hotshot responders or spiritual pros, but into a world of sinners, deadbeats, and assorted other poor excuses for humanity (which, interestingly enough, is the only world available anyway) – and it will come up a perfect kingdom all by itself. –Capon again.
Why doesn’t god use force ? The limitation has to do with love. You can stop you 2 year old from making a run for the road (Yes’ that’s loving force) but try it with a 20 year old.
Because God wants a loving relationship, he puts down the loaded gun and draws alongside.
This is what the kingdom of God is like, planted and growing and often not observable.
The Kingdom of God is like a saviour who grows up alongside you, and serves and eventually the seed of his body is planted in the ground, but there is a harvest. He rises and interestingly the word used for “Get up” is the same word used for resurrection.
Read 1 Corinthians 4:67 – Paul is using the same language.
Now have a look at Isaiah 55:8-11 – notice the same theme that Jesus uses. also the assumption that people (the farmer) won’t understand.
Now let move on to the next story, but before we do. Just like you did with the movies, What famous majestic trees can you name ? Oak … (Off you go)
There were many powerful majestic trees that Jesus could have used. Instead he begins :
Read Mark 3:30-34.
This is what a writer at the time of Jesus wrote “Mustard… with its pungent taste and fiery effect is extremely beneficial for health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once” – Pliny the elder (AD23-79)weed
Mustard is a weed. There is humour and shock in Jesus’ story. It would be like saying the Kingdom of God is like gorse. (try that one on for size). The point is that the kingdom of God spreads and grows from the tiny and it will grow and there’s a little bit of twist in that the mustard seed is ‘weedy’;
The theme here is trust. We trust that God will cause the seeds to grow. Our role is to sow seeds like the kingdom of God. Like Paul we can say “I sowed, so and so watered, but God grew…”. This frees us from thinking it’s all about me. It allows us to relax and try a different way of following Jesus, that isn’t about force.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28 (MSG)
The Old testament Scholar Chris Wright says
“It’s not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world,as that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission – God’s mission. – Chris Wright
What do you think that means ?
So tomorrow is another day, what seeds can you sow ? Where can you seek to make the world a better place ? What relationships can you build ? Imagine your typical Day in the Life of you. Who do you live/work/play next to ? What kind of relationship do you have ? What can do you about it?
Pray for the seeds you might be part of sowing – then read the parables again.