The Kingdom of God
A (i) Outline the teaching about the Kingdom of God in the parables of Mark’s Gospel
From the parables we have looked at we learn that the Kingdom of God is not just one thing but also many. When Jesus was preaching about the kingdom of God he said four important things about it. Christians today can see the Kingdom of God as a mystery including its growth because it’s hard to understand but it is basically wherever Jesus is. However we do know it is present here and now on earth especially when people change their ways and do good things. We also learn that it will be there in heaven when Jesus offers us eternal life as a reward when we die.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells the story of a sower who
went out to sow corn. When he scattered the seed in the field, birds came and ate them up. Some fell on rocky ground with little soil but the seeds soon sprouted seeing as the soil wasn’t deep. As the sun came up it burnt the young plants. Some of the seed fell among thorn bushes that grew up and choked the plants and they didn’t produce corn. But some seeds fell in good soil and the plants sprouted, grew and produced corn. Jesus concluded, “Listen, then, if you have ears!” In this parable we learn the simple meaning that God’s Kingdom will grow no matter what difficulties it faces. The seeds that fall on each ground represent the different ways people follow God’s message. Although not everyone is able to grasp onto God’s message, in the end, there are always people listen to God’s message and prosper in doing so.
In the parable of a lamp under a bowl Jesus asks if anyone
brings a lamp and then puts it under a bowl or under the bed. He then questions and says “Doesn’t he put it on the lampstand?” Jesus concludes by saying “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open and whatever is covered up will be uncovered.” This parable teaches us that like the lamp, you shouldn’t cover up the Kingdom of God but let it shine out. It also means that you shouldn’t ignore the word of God but let it be with you even in dark times.
In the parable of the Growing seed Jesus went to say “The
Kingdom of God is like this. A man scatters seed in his field. He sleeps at night, is up and about throughout the day and all the while the seeds are growing. However he does not know how it happens. The soil makes the plants grow and bear fruit; first the tender stalk appears, then the ear and finally the ear full of corn.” This parable tells us that the kingdom of God is a mystery. No one knows how long the seed will take to grow but it does grow. Slowly and gradually. Just like the seed, the Kingdom of God grows mysteriously and God decides how it grows and how quickly.
In the parable of the Mustard seed, Jesus tells the story of a
man who took a mustard seed, the smallest in the world, and planted it in the ground. After a while it grew and became the biggest of all plants. It put out such large branches that birds come and make their nests in its shade. The parable tells us of the reward that comes with the Kingdom of God. No matter how tiny it starts off with faith the Kingdom of God will grow to become the biggest of all kingdoms. It also tells us that the Kingdom of God is present for Christians today when they do just one small deed and it will continue to grow.
A (ii) Explain with examples from Mark’s Gospel the differences between a parable and an allegory
A parable is a story with just one hidden meaning. It tends to involve something from real life. For example the Mustard Seed. On the other hand an allegory is a story that has several hidden meanings and everything in the story usually stands for or represents something else for example the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard.
An example of a parable with one meaning is the Parable of the
Lamp under the Bowl. In this parable Jesus questions whether anyone takes a lamp and then covers it up or puts it under a bed. He goes on to say that doesn’t everyone put it on a lampstand? After this Jesus concludes by saying whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open. The hidden meaning here is that we shouldn’t cover up the Kingdom of God and also we shouldn’t ignore the word of God but to allow it to be with you even in dark times. Here we understand the one meaning this parable tries to teach us whereas in the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard we learn several meanings.
An example of an allegory with several meanings is Parable of
the Tenants in the Vineyard. In this parable Jesus tells a story of a man who planted a vineyard and left it to the tenants before going on a journey. When he returned, and the time came to gather the grapes, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. The tenants seized the slave and beat him up sending him back empty-handed. The owner continued to send more slaves but the tenants continued to them up or even killed them. The man had no choice but to send his own dear son who was the only one left. “I am sure they will respect my son,” said the owner. But he was wrong.
“This is the owner’s son. Come on let’s kill him and his property will ours!” the tenants said to one another. The tenants seized the owner’s son and killed him out of greed for the vineyard. Jesus then concluded by saying, “What, then will the owner of the vineyard do?” “He will come and kill those tenants and hand the vineyard over to others.” In this parable when we realise what each part in the story represents we get a clear understanding of what it means. In the story the most important things represent something; the owner of the vineyard represents God and therefore his son represents Jesus. The tenants of the land represent the leaders of Israel and the servants of the owner represent the prophets of Israel.
The vineyard itself represents the world and killing the tenants represents God’s judgement. However in an allegory there are multiple meanings. When the owner first sent his servants this shows how God sent prophets to tell of his Kingdom but the tenants (leaders of Israel) wouldn’t listen. All the wanted was power (the vineyard). God has no option but to send his son Jesus to tell about the Kingdom of God. The leaders of Israel still don’t listen so decide to crucify Jesus. When Jesus explains that the owner will come and kill the tenants he means that this is God’s judgement and that the leaders of Israel will not be in power forever.
A (iii) Explain the use of parables in Mark’s Gospel
In Mark’s Gospel Jesus explains his use of parables. He says that he teaches about the Kingdom of God through his parables. He didn’t want to be seen as a threat to Roman power, which may have misunderstood his message. Also in the Gospel Jesus says that if anyone was interested, they could turn to God and find the Kingdom of God by working out the meaning of this message.
Many people in Jesus’ time could not read or write so listening
to stories was one way they learned. To work out the main point of the story people had to think and look back on it. So basically they had to work out the story for themselves, and this was one of the effects Jesus wanted the parables to have on people. Apart from challenging the listener, Jesus wanted the parables to; force the listener to look at things in a new way, shake the people up and make them reflect on who God is and their relationship wit him and also to maybe turn the listeners values upside down. So sometimes the parables made people feel uneasy because some might have demanded change in people’s lives. However not all parables were like this. While some people found the parables challenging, some people found it fun to listen to stories and work out their meanings, they enjoyed the challenge. For example people would have found the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard enjoyable because it was challenging and interesting to listen to. It was hard to work out the meaning so, if they managed to work it out themselves, people would definitely be pleased with themselves and remember the parable.
The use of parables in Mark’s Gospel reminds us of what it
meant to the early Roman Christians. In those times the Roman authorities were persecuting Roman Christians. The Roman Christians were forced to hide all traces of their worship. They had no option but to worship underground in secret. These parables practically gave the Christians hope, it forced them to be brave and to carry on with their Christian way of life. In a way this can apply to Christians today. Life today can be more tempting and sometimes the parables may seem quite demanding and make us feel a little uncomfortable. However looking at parables can also help us to continue to follow the Christian way of life no matter how irrelevant things in the parable are today. The meanings of the parables should help lead Christians today to a simpler type of life no matter what temptations are faced today and they help us on our way to doing this because they point us towards discovering the Kingdom of God.
B “This earth will never be God’s Kingdom.” Do you agree?
I disagree with this statement and believe this earth can be God’s Kingdom mainly because I believe in God and I believe what is written in the Bible. Jesus is God’s son and he was sent down from heaven to tell of God’s Kingdom. During his time on earth, Jesus made the Kingdom of God present through the outcome of his life and the miracles he performed. He healed people, cast out demons and made people think and see life in a whole new perspective, which clearly made God’s power present. God tried to get to us through Jesus. Throughout Jesus’ life he put others before himself and was even crucified to forgive our sins and save our lives. Many millions of Christians see Jesus as an inspiration and try to copy his example by selflessly putting others’ needs before their own.
Examples of people like this are the people who work for CAFOD and Christian Aid who help improve the lives of people living in Third World countries. Simple deeds like this make God’s Kingdom present. Aside from charities helping the developing world, the Kingdom of God can be present within our communities. For example crime-busting schemes against things like drugs and gun crime. Police try to make life for ordinary people easier even though there are risks. Even people turning away from sin makes God’s Kingdom present. It shows people trying to change their lives for the better. For example people who turn away from drugs and get professional help in somewhere like rehab.
On the other hand some people may agree with this statement
because there is so much suffering in the world of today. This may include poverty that is suffered in the developing world and how many thousands of people die everyday due to starvation and malnourishment. Other reasons include the natural disasters that happen around the world such as earthquakes and the Tsunami that occurred in Asia. The most important argument I think is the war and terrorism happening in parts of the world. Some people may argue, how we can live in a world of peace and harmony when there is so much hatred in it i.e. war, prejudices, racial hatred and so on, and when innocent people are being killed every other day i.e. there is no justice in the world in certain places. Some people don’t believe in God and say if there were a God he wouldn’t let all these disasters and all this injustice happen. Some even argue that Christianity is hypercritical.
People argue how you can possibly know that everything in the Bible is true because it was written so long ago and if, in fact, different things occurred rather than what it says in the Bible. For example I think the Da Vinci Code reveals that Jesus had a relationship with Mary Magdalene. But how are these people to know this. What is written in the Bible is what actually happened there’s no question about it because the Bible is made up of people who were actually there! In my opinion I think believing God can reward people for doing so much wrong in the world and continuing to sin is hypercritical and that trying to change and see different aspects of Christianity is too. In the Bible many people were rewarded for turning away from sin and maybe if we all tried to do that things would be a whole lot different.
In conclusion I believe that this earth can be God’s Kingdom
because in the end we are all part of God’s family regardless of who we are and if we could all resolve the problems in the world together and try to put others’ needs before ourselves then the earth would definitely be a better place to live in. However, I understand things are not always that easy. We can all be tempted at times and can find following all the ways of God challenging. But we shouldn’t give up all together. We should try our best and think hard before doing things in the future we may regret or we know deep down is wrong and then maybe everything good will fall into place for us, and God’s Kingdom will truly be present on earth.