Distant memories of school assembly held in a decrepit gymnasium hooked me into this article. A battered out of tune piano accompanied our daily hymn while prefects kept young pupils in line with a hard slap from a hymnbook across the back of the head. When I recited ‘… thy Kingdom come, thy will be done…’ (Matt. 6:10) it meant nothing. In fact I doubt if anyone at assembly, including our bearish headmaster, had much interest in what the ‘Kingdom’ alluded to.
While the parables are at the heart of Jesus’ teaching, this exploration of what He meant by the phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ maintains that the theme of Kingdom is woven through the whole of Jesus’ ministry. ‘We can therefore understand it only in the light of that preaching as a whole.’1
I will first contextualise Jesus’ ministry within the framework of Israel’s plight. Although Jesus doesn’t mention ‘Kingdom’ in the parable of the Sower I am going to refer to it since Snodgrass believes it is ‘the parable about the parables,’2 and Wright argues that it speaks of the Kingdom. I will also explore the parables of The Mustard Seed, The Leaven and include the Lords Prayer.
At the time of Jesus’ birth in 6 – 4 BC Rome was Israel’s overlord. ‘The great promises of forgiveness articulated by the prophets of the exile3… had not yet been fulfilled.’4 Jewish expectation (Isa. 16:1-5; Jer. 23:1-8; 30: 21; Psalms 72:1-20) was that God would one day send a Messiah to fulfil his covenant. ‘It is in Daniel … that we find the strongest statement of what the climax will be… the arrival of God’s own Kingdom… trumping the rule of all pagan powers.’5
1 Ratzinger, J. (2007). Jesus of Nazareth. London: Bloomsbury, 62.
2 Snodgress, K. (2008). Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 145.
3 Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
4 Wright, N.T. and Borg, M. (1999). The Meaning of Jesus. New York: Harper Collins, 32.
5 Wright, N. T. (2012). Imagining the Kingdom: Mission and Theology in Early Christianity. The Scottish Journal of Theology, 65 (4), 385.