In Matthew 13 Jesus tells his followers, in a series of parables, what the kingdom of God is like. Jesus describes it in ways that we don’t expect a ‘kingdom’ to be described:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” (v31)
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast” (v33)
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” (v44)
“The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.” (v45)
“The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.” (47)
As followers of Jesus, we get to know these descriptions and we often think about them separately, but we can ponder how they fit together: We might understand kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed and the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for pearls – but we know that a mustard seed is nothing like a merchant looking for pearls… so why is Jesus giving us such diverse images?
Perhaps he’s offering us different images because each of us sees things differently: Are you a gardener? Are you a baker? Are you someone who stumbles across treasure? Or are you a treasure hunter? Or maybe you’re someone who fishes for a living?
And of course, some of us will relate to different images at different times…
But there’s more to what Jesus says than simply relatable images:
The mustard seed and yeast tell of how small things can have great effect.
The hidden treasure and the pearl tell us about how we hold on to things of great value.
The net tells us how the kingdom is open to all who would enter, but also that a time of harvest and judgement is coming.
It’s a story of a kingdom that has small beginnings (in a stable in Bethlehem), that grows, that is offered to all people, and is of such great value to those who come to know it that they hold on to it, and that a time is coming when it will be complete, and all the good will be kept, and all the bad will be discarded.
But think about those five images that Jesus gives – is there one you particularly relate to? Does one plant itself in your thoughts? Does one raise your dough? Do you treasure one above the others? Or does one net you in?