In this week’s scripture from Matthew 13, Jesus goes on something of a parable binge as he piles on one simile for the kingdom after the next: seeds, yeast, treasure, pearl, and a fishing net. Mostly all of this points to the apparent littleness of the kingdom— the kingdom can hide in plain sight. Tiny seeds disappear into the soil, yeast becomes indistinguishable from the larger lump of dough, the whole thing can be stumbled upon below the soil in some random field. The kingdom is real and will, in the longest possible run, be the ultimate reality for us all.
But in the meanwhile, you could almost miss it. In fact, if we bring Matthew 13 alongside the epistle reading from Romans 8, we see how Paul needs to reassure his readers in Rome that nothing can separate them from God’s love. Paul needs to do that precisely because there are so many big things in this world that surely look as though they could do the job of removing us from God’s grip. History is loud and noisy with persecutions and troubles and hardships and famines and wars.
The newspaper does not generally proclaim the kingdom of God but instead trumpets all that is happening and going wrong with the kingdoms of people. And a lot of what goes wrong with earthly kingdoms surely can feel threatening to us Christians and definitely looks larger and more powerful than most of what goes on at your average church where the kingdom is preached. But nothing can finally touch the reality of God’s kingdom and our citizenship in it. Jesus told these parables not just in order to describe the kingdom for us but also to reassure us: even when it seems weak or hidden, the kingdom is the greatest reality of them all and it is our joy if by grace we have the eyes to see it.
Simply put, Jesus said things like, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.” Stun people with how generously you serve. And again, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” More gospel love grows on a turned cheek than a clinched fist. This is the power of the good news unleashed in a world that knows neither how nourishing God’s love in Christ really is nor how transforming God’s grace can be.