Parables of the Kingdom Refs
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In his teaching, Jesus told many parables about the kingdom of God. These simple parables teach us how valuable and important the kingdom is, how it grows and that a clear invitation is extended to all.

Matthew 18:21-35

The parable of the unforgiving servant
Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive his brother. Jesus replied by likening the kingdom of heaven to a servant who was forgiven much but was unwilling to forgive another. The message for Peter (and us) was clear-the kingdom of God will be closed to us if we do not forgive. Other details are given but the parable is told (as most parables are) to convey only one major point.

1. In what way is the kingdom of heaven like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants?
2. The unforgiving servant was owed about three months wages-a large debt for anyone. How did this debt come about? Should we have large debts?
3. In what ways is this parable relevant to us? For example, do we all have an impossible debt to pay? If so, who is the other servant who owes us something, yet is not said to owe the king anything? [Hint: remember why the parable was told.]
4. The unforgiving servant was thrown into prison until he could pay back all the debt. Had he really been forgiven that debt? What does forgiveness require?

What the kingdom is and who is invited
Jesus told many parables to make his message easy to listen to and easy to remember, but impossible to understand without effort. About one quarter of the parables Jesus told relate to the kingdom of God, showing how important the subject was to him.
Matthew 13:13-17; Mark 4:33-34

Through simple stories Jesus conveyed God’s message that the kingdom was more valuable than anything else. Matthew 13:44-46 Jesus spoke to Jews who knew that God had chosen Israel long before to be his special nation and had made them his kingdom. The nation had rejected God as their king to make themselves like the other nations around, who had visible kings. Jesus was now speaking about a kingdom coming, the kingdom of God expected by all the Jews waiting for a Messiah. This time God had chosen to build a kingdom in a different way, less visible, but more enduring.

Jesus told parables of the kingdom showing that all who heard the gospel were invited to enter and in this showed the inclusion of the Gentiles.Luke 14:15-24 The invitation was extended to all because those invited first (the Jews) did not choose to accept the invitation.

The kingdom-now
We can think of the kingdom of God as something which has been growing from the time of John the Baptist. Jesus spoke of the kingdom as seed being planted and growing into a fully grown crop ready for harvest. The action of yeast in working through a lump of dough is another description used by Jesus to show this growth of the kingdom.
Matthew 11:12 , Mark 4:26-29, Matthew 13:33

A mustard seed, said Jesus, is very small, but it grows until it is large enough for birds to perch in. This, too, gives a picture of the growth of the kingdom. We are all called to be part of this growth now.

For us, the kingdom of God must start now, in preparation for when Jesus proclaims himself king in Jerusalem. Jesus is our king already. In a sense, we are in the kingdom of God right now, if we let him be active in guiding and leading us. Only with the training of our characters now will we be fit for entering the kingdom when Jesus returns.

The kingdom-future
Although the kingdom exists now in some ways, the kingdom will only be fully realised in the future. A picture of judgement is consistently given where some are joyfully welcomed and given a reward, while others are rejected and punished. In his compelling stories, Jesus warned that the entrance criteria would be strictly enforced and no-one would enter without satisfying the judge. Each person must give maximum effort in showing love, both for God and for our neighbour.
e.g. Matthew 13:24-30,36-43,47-50; 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27. Matthew 22:1-14; 25:31-46

Another warning is also given about the kingdom-it will come suddenly. Matthew 25:1-13 When it does there will be no more time for developing our faith or making great efforts to please God. The five foolish virgins were busy with other things. When the bridegroom came and the door of the banqueting hall was shut, they had missed out. The life we lead now is showing God whether we really want to be in his kingdom or not.

Parables of the kingdom
the sower   different responses to gospel   Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:5-15
the growing seed   God gives growth   Mark 4:26-29
the wheat and weeds   judgement   Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
a mustard seed planted   amazing growth   Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19
the yeast and dough   growth   Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21
treasure in the field   value   Matthew 13:44
a pearl of great value   value   Matthew 13:45-46
a net let down into a lake   judgement   Matthew 13:47-50
a householder’s treasures   value   Matthew 13:52
the unforgiving servant   forgiveness only for forgivers   Matthew 18:23-35
a landowner hiring labourers   one reward   Matthew 20:1-16
a son’s wedding banquet   all invited   Matthew 22:2-14;
a great banquet   all invited   Luke 14:15-24
ten virgins   readiness   Matthew 25:1-13
the talents   rewards for effort   Matthew 25:14-30
the minas   rewards for effort   Luke 19:11-27
a camel through a needle’s eye   difficulty for rich   Matthew 19:23-24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25
a hand to the plough   commitment   Luke 9:62


Jesus told many parables about the kingdom to convey the message that:

• the kingdom is more valuable than anything else-even life itself;
• all are invited to enter;
• the kingdom is growing now, and judgement (the harvest) is coming;
• although many are invited, few will be chosen;
• Jesus will judge individuals and separate those of God’s family from those who are alien to God’s values;
• the righteous will enter the joy of their Lord to share his joy forever.


1. Several parables about the kingdom seem to indicate that the kingdom has already begun (e.g. the parable of grow­ing seed, the yeast, the net, etc.). In what ways is this true?
2. The statement “the kingdom of heaven is like” is used at the start of several parables (see Matthew 13). Does this refer to the entire parable or one small point in the parable?
3. Discuss the idea that the Kingdom of God is anywhere where God works with believers through his Holy Spirit.
See Matthew 11:12; 12:28; Luke 10:9, 17:20-21; Romans 14:17.


1. On what basis are people accepted into the kingdom in the following parables?
• the wheat and the weeds Matthew 13:24-43
• the net Matthew 13:47-50
• the pounds Luke 19:11-27
• the talents Matthew 25:14-30
• the ten virgins Matthew 25:1-13
• the unforgiving servant Matthew 18:23-25
• a son’s wedding banquet Matthew 22:2-14
2. Review the parables in the table on page 217. Which cannot refer to a kingdom which exists now?


• Parables of the Messiah by John Carter (published by The Christadelphian, 1965). All Jesus’ parables are discussed including the kingdom parables.
• Thine is the kingdom by Peter Southgate (published by the Dawn Book Supply, 2nd ed., 1997). This book shows how the kingdom is the basis of our beliefs.
• Studies in the gospels by Harry Whittaker (published by Biblia). A detailed and interesting analysis of all the parables of Jesus.


44. Judgement
45. The kingdom of God

 
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