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The Unexpected Power and Greatness of the Kingdom of God

July 15, 2012 Series: Gospel of Mark

Topic: Faith Passage: Mark 4:21–34

Open bibles to Mark chapter 1:14-15.

Today we’re going to look at the last 3 parables in Mark 4 and I want to start here because of the topic of these parables: the Kingdom of God. The first 2 parables (sower-few weeks ago and the lamp) are talking about the message of the Kingdom of God and how it’s received. The next 2 parables are about the growth and triumph of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is describing what His Kingdom is like and How it works. He wants His disciples to know what to expect and how to interpret the current circumstances.

Mark 1:14-15-“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Have you ever had the experience of carpooling with a group of friends on a trip? Have you ever volunteered to lead the group? Have you ever been the lead driver and gotten lost? The longer you drive the more concerned you get…and so does everyone else. You know they’re concerned because what was once noisy car full of conversation is now quite with the exception of an occasional whisper. This is so humiliating-the rest of the day you feel like wearing a shirt that says-“Sorry-I’m the moron that made you all late.”

It’s also uncomfortable for the passengers. You don’t know the way either, but you do know that you’re not going the right way. And you get that tense internal struggle. You feel bad for the driver cause their already stressing but you know you’re late and lost. So the questions and suggestions begin and the smart phones come out. What’s the cause of the anxiety? Isn’t it that we know where we’re supposed to be going but we feel like we’re off track?

Well, I think there may have been some of the same confusion and questions about Jesus and His mission. No one seems to be listening-or at least they don’t seem to understand. The question hanging in the background is, “Are we on the right track? Is the Kingdom of God going to be successful?” Because Jesus says at the beginning “the Kingdom is here.” But so far that’s not really the feeling we’re getting. Yes there have been healings and the supernatural but the picture is more of opposition and failure. The leaders are plotting to kill Jesus; His family thinks He’s crazy; the crowds aren’t interested in the message. So in chapter 4 Jesus teaches His disciples (and us this morning) in parables about the Kingdom and He answers the question, “is the Kingdom of God going to succeed?” with a resounding YES.

A Lamp Under a Basket – Mark 4:21-25

Jesus asks a redundant question about a lamp and light. I think most of us can figure this one out. Do you turn on a lamp and then cover it up? Obviously not. Then Jesus says nothing is hidden or secret accept to be seen or exposed. The bible is full of images about light. I want to read one to you from John 1:4-“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Jesus is putting Himself forward as the light. He is the Lamp that has come and is shining the light of the word of God; the gospel.

For centuries the plan of God to rescue His people has been a mystery; it’s been hidden. Now Jesus has come to make His plan known-Jesus, the light of the world proclaiming the good news of salvation. But even now that the light is shining and the message is being clearly proclaimed there are still many who will not accept Jesus because of how they hear the message.

On one hand Jesus is saying, “I didn’t come to hide my message. I‘m here as the light to declare the word, to proclaim the hidden plan of God to redeem men back from their sin and Satan and soon it will be clear.” But at the same time saying, “Watch how you hear, be careful how you listen because the way you hear, or receive, the word is the way you will be rewarded in the end.” Verse 24: “the measure that you use (to measure) will be measured to you”. The way you measure the gospel; the weight you give to His word; the priority that you place on Jesus will be measured back to you. Mark 8:35 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.”

Here’s 2 points for us to take from this parable. 1. Jesus is the light. Jesus needs to always be our focus. When we’re tempted or we sin; when we’re suffering; when we’re prospering; when confused or weary; Jesus should always be our focus. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith. Seek Him first and all these things will be added. He comes first-always! And we need to display the light-preaching the gospel and living the word.

Second, make sure you have ears to hear. Listen carefully. There is a warning of judgment in this parable. According to how you hear and respond to Jesus and His word, you will be rewarded. For those who hear and receive the gospel there will be additional blessing because of Jesus. But for those who don’t receive it; don’t humble themselves before Jesus-they will be stripped of everything and laid bare. I appeal to you unbeliever and Christian alike-If you are not embracing the word of God please turn. It’s His desire and it’s to your benefit that you would lay down your life to Jesus.

Parable of the Seed Growing – Mark 4:26-29

The Kingdom of God is the place where God’s rule and reign is seen, felt and enjoyed; it’s the place of Jesus presence and rule. Scripture tells us that Jesus is Lord over all-He is but not completely yet. If I asked Allen, “Is Jesus Lord of your life?” he would say yes-but not completely. We haven’t been seeing the total Lordship of Christ on display so far in Mark. And we experience the same thing in our lives. We want Him to reign but we often take over and do our own thing and sin. That can be discouraging. That’s what this parable is about. Jesus wants to encourage our hearts.

Again, seed is sown and the seed takes root and grows but the sower is a man. We don’t see all the other soils or any seeds that don’t take root because this parable is about growth; how does the Kingdom of God grow. The process is the same: the farmer sows, the seed grows, the farmer harvests the fruit. But there are a few new elements in this parable.

First, take note of the farmer’s part in the growth of the seed. He sows…and then what? Sleeps and rises, night and day. He doesn’t know how the seed grows. Verse 28-“the earth produces by itself”: greek-automate or automatically. The growth is God’s. God is the one who causes the seed to grow. The farmer sows and then rests and trusts. Yes, we are to tend and cultivate and fertilize and weed the garden but we cannot bring growth. Only God can create new life. Only He is able to soften the hard heart and regenerate the spiritually dead. It is God and God alone who causes growth.

There’s also an element of time in this parable and I think we can sum it up in one word: SLOW. The growth is a process. It happens slowly and invisibly. In the description of the farmer sleeping and rising and of the plant growing in stages (“first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear”) we can see that there’s a process and much time involved in the seed growing to the point of bearing mature fruit that’s ready for harvest. So, in the Kingdom of God growth comes only from God and growth is a process that takes time.

This means 2 things for us: we can’t make it happen and we have to wait. As Americans, these are 2 things we’re not very good at: dependence and patience. Our society is doing its best to train us in the ways of self. But we have to remember that we are not citizens of this world; our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). We belong to the Kingdom of God. For now we live as exiles in a foreign land but we don’t follow the rules of this land: pride, independence and impatience. Self no longer rules us, Jesus does.

But living this way means that we must believe what Jesus is saying. There will be days when you will not see the growth and you will be tempted to despair. Or you might be tempted to take things into your own hands. Those are the times that you must believe that the Kingdom of God is at work-even though you don’t see or feel it. You must trust that the power of God, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you and those around you to accomplish his purposes-the advance and expansion of His Kingdom.

Last week Tim Shorey encouraged us in this-to wait on the Lord; to give opportunity for the Lord to act on our behalf instead of us darting ahead to try to fix and solve everything. This is the way of our Lord-those who wait on the Lord will have their strength renewed. And we do this by trusting in the power of Jesus.

Parable of the Mustard Seed – Mark 4:30-34

Here’s another seed. The main point of this parable has to do with comparison. It’s the comparison between the small beginning and the ultimate victory and triumphant of the Kingdom of God. The parable starts out with the small mustard seed; unimpressive, insignificant and having little value. The Mustard seed represents the small, unimpressive beginning of the Kingdom of God.

The Olympic Games will be starting up in about 10 days. To kick things off, the opening ceremony will include a parade of the athletes representing the 204 countries that will be competing, a performance that will include over 15,000 performers (not including all support persons) and will end with the entrance of the Olympic torch, which was lit on May 10th and will have taken a 70 day, 8000 mile journey with 66 evening celebrations and having been carried by over 8000 people. It will be handed through all the athletes and then the final torch bearer will light the Olympic cauldron, signifying the beginning of the games and it will burn continuously until the end of the final ceremony. An estimated 4 billion people will be watching live.

The kingdom of God didn’t come with a parade-in the person of Jesus Christ. Could the Kingdom have come in a more unimpressive way? Born to an unwed mother in a barn, from a poor family in the poorest of cities, scripture says there was nothing notable or kingly about him. All His disciples were a mess, mostly uneducated, sinners and cowards. Jesus is disgraced and run out of towns, shamed, beaten and convicted even though he was innocent; died on a cross of shame and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

How’s that for the start of your Kingdom rule? The seed died…but it didn’t stay in the tomb. Jesus also rose. John 12:24 says “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Because of His death, the power of the Holy Spirit was released and the His light has gone forth throughout the earth.

You are the fruit of that first seed. Really, it all comes down to this: We, as responsive people to the word of God, are what the advancement of the Kingdom of God is all about. We are the Kingdom moving forward. We aren’t just participating; we are the evidence that the Kingdom is here, is real and is going to ultimately bring about the consummation of all things. What started as the smallest seed will one day grow and overshadow every other kingdom.

Because there is a day coming when the fruit will be ready and the one who came sowing seed; the one who became the seed for us will come again as the harvester and His sovereign authority as King over all will be on full display. There won’t be any question and everyone will know what to do. Every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

This is a call to faithfulness. We’re not going to be judged based on fruit; we’ll be judged for faithfulness. Focus is Christ-the light, embrace and live the word. Depend on him for growth and trust that He is always working (walk by faith not sight). And believe that the King is on His throne.