What topic or subject did Jesus talk about most frequently? If your answer was a topic concerning love or morality or faith or forgiveness, you would be wrong. The central theme of Jesus teaching, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, was “The Kingdom of God”. We should recognize that the terms “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God” mean one and the same thing. Mark mentions ‘Kingdom of God’ 14 times. Luke mentions it 32 times. And in Matthew’s Gospel, the phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ appears 32 times, and ‘Kingdom of God’ appears 5 times.
The Gospel of John only mentions it twice. That’s because John’s main focus in his Gospel is to prove conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God; and John states this fact very clearly in the last two verses in Chapter 20 (30-31). “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that through this faith you may have life in his name.”
In the Gospel of Matthew, we find Jesus using parables to describe the Kingdom of God. And in these descriptions we can find valuable life lessons.
Jesus said “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’“ (Mt 13:24-30)
So how are we, as children of God, supposed to live our lives? Should we separate ourselves from those whose lives exemplify evil? The Gospel says no! Jesus’ parable says that we are to live and bear fruit amongst those weeds.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.” (Mt 13:31-32)
That parable tells us that this tiny little mustard seed, with its tiny little beginnings, will bloom into extraordinarily large results. Similarly, the tiny little seed of faith that we plant will have miraculously and mysteriously large results.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until the whole batch was leavened.” (Mt 13:33)
This parable illustrates a similar aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Spirit of God that resides within us, the Children of God, when combined with the world, will produce results that will affect everything and everyone. All things will be affected by the presence of God’s Spirit, as it is manifested in the lives of us, His children.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again”, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” (Mt 13:44-45)
The treasure found in a field, and the pearl of great value, both illustrate the fact that it is worth any price to become a part of the Kingdom of God. Take note, however, that in both of these parables, this price is paid with joy. The cost is not seen as a sacrifice, but rather as a great blessing, the most wonderful thing that could happen to a person.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it was full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away.” (Mt 13:47)
This parable emphasizes a different point. The parable points out the fact that the net cast into the sea, as represented by the Church, while gathering for the Kingdom of God, will collect both the good and the bad along the way. However, it is not up to us, the Church, to do the sorting. That separation must wait till the final judgment, and that judgment belongs exclusively to God.
Therefore, our job is to bear fruit where we are planted. Our contribution may seem small and insignificant but the harvest will be large. We may not be aware of it, but our fidelity to God will influence all those we come in contact with. To be counted as a citizen of God’s Kingdom is a treasure beyond measure, so we are to live and witness and leave all judgment to God.
REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary.