As Christians it is easy to look around and grow frustrated with the current state of affairs both in the church and in the world. Every night the eleven o’clock news is filled with examples of the worst kind of sin. More and more it seems as if people are opposed to the message of the gospel. In light of this opposition churches all over the place have compromised the message of the Gospel. Add to this the fact that Islam is supposedly the world’s fastest growing religion and it just seems as if the spirit of this age seems to be winning out. The kingdom of this world seems to be far more significant than the Kingdom of God. This leaves us asking the question “why?” If this is supposed to be the kingdom of God then why do things seem to be so bad? Why does it seem like the Kingdom is so insignificant when compared to the kingdom of this world?
We find the answer to these questions in Mark 4:30-34. However, before we look at what that passage says we need remind ourselves of exactly what the bible means when it speaks of the Kingdom of God. The first thing that we need to understand is that there are two distinct aspects of the Kingdom of God. You might call the first aspect God’s universal reign. The bible is clear that God controls all things and reigns over the universe. Psalm 103:19 puts it this way, “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” The second aspect of the Kingdom of God is what some have called the “mediatorial” aspect of the kingdom. From the beginning it was God’s plan to use human beings to rule the earth on His behalf. We were created in the image of God, and we were to be His agents on this earth. However, when Adam sinned it became impossible for mankind to fulfill this role by ourselves. We became rebels against God rather than agents being used by God. This is why Jesus had to come. He had to fix what we ruined with sin. He came and became the perfect mediator of God’s reign, because He was God. He reestablished God’s Kingdom. However, before he could physically reign over the earth He had to die as a sacrifice. He did this so that we could be a part of His Kingdom. Even now, as we wait for Him to return and rule on this earth, He is growing His Kingdom. He is waiting for all of His people to be saved, so that they can rule with Him.
It is encouraging for us to think of all that Jesus has done for us, and the way that He has furthered the Kingdom of God. However, there are still times when it just doesn’t fell like the Kingdom is growing. In fact, many of the people who followed Him during His earthly ministry probably felt this same way. Additionally, Mark’s Roman readers would have certainly felt this way (NERONIAN PERSECUTION). Jesus understood that this could be a problem, and He addresses it in Mark 4:30-34:
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
In this passage learn that we must not grow frustrated with what we perceive to be insignificant growth in the Kingdom of God. Here Jesus teaches us the important principle that by its nature the Kingdom of God starts “small” and grows to be “great.” (vv. 30-32) Additionally, this passage contains an example of this very principle being lived out. (vv. 33-34)
We will look at these aspects of this passage over the coming days.