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.
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?
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?
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.]
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?
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
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
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.
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
||different responses to gospel
||Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:5-15
|the growing seed
||God gives growth
|the wheat and weeds
||Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
|a mustard seed planted
||Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19
|the yeast and dough
||Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21
|treasure in the field
|a pearl of great value
|a net let down into a lake
|a householder’s treasures
|the unforgiving servant
||forgiveness only for forgivers
|a landowner hiring labourers
|a son’s wedding banquet
|a great banquet
|| Luke 14:15-24
||rewards for effort
||rewards for effort
|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
Jesus told many parables about the kingdom to convey the message
• the kingdom is more valuable than anything else-even
• all are invited to enter;
• the kingdom is growing now, and judgement (the harvest)
• 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
• 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
The statement “the kingdom of heaven is like”
at the start of several parables (see Matthew 13). Does
this refer to the entire parable or one small point in the
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
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
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.
45. The kingdom of God