Glimpses of the Kingdom of God

Martin Luther sang, “A mighty Fortress is our God,” but Jesus declared, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” (Matthew 13:31).  Martin Luther compared the kingdom of God to “a bulwark never failing,” but Jesus compared God’s kingdom to “yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour” (Matthew 13:33). 

We long for the assurance that God’s kingdom is great, powerful and impenetrable—a “fortress” or “bulwark.”  But Jesus speaks of God’s kingdom entering our world in small and unassuming ways.  It comes like a mustard seed—the smallest seed known to the people of Palestine at the time.  It comes like yeast or leaven which a woman mixed into a batch of flour. 

The kingdom of God entered our world in the unassuming form of a baby in a manger, then in the unassuming form of a carpenter’s son from Nazareth.  It continued in the world through a small and unassuming band of disciples who initially hid away in fear following Jesus’ crucifixion.  It continues on even today in small and unassuming ways in and through common, ordinary people like you and me.

Though the kingdom of God begins in small and unassuming ways, it does not remain small.  The kingdom becomes like a tree that provides shelter for the “birds of the air.”  It brings nourishment and flavor to those who are hungry.  As Thomas G. Long puts it, “One cannot see the kingdom pervading the world, but when its covert fermentation is accomplished, the bland flour of the world will have been transformed into the joyous bread of life.” 

As people who are taught by Jesus to pray, “Thy kingdom come,” and who seek to be faithful followers of the King of kings, we too are part of the small and unassuming ways in which God is establishing his kingdom and making a difference for the good in the world around us.  William Willimon shares an example: 

“Philip Haille wrote of the little village of Le Chambon in France, a town whose people, unlike others in France, hid their Jews from the Nazis.  Haille went there, wondering what sort of courageous, ethical heroes could risk all to do such extraordinary good.  He interviewed people in the village and was overwhelmed by their ordinariness.  They weren’t heroes or smart, discerning people.  Haille decided that the one factor that united them was their attendance, Sunday after Sunday, at their little church, where they heard the sermons of Pastor Trochme.  Over time, they became by habit people who just knew what to do and did it.  When it came time for them to be courageous, the day the Nazis came to town, they quietly did what was right.  One old woman, who faked a heart attack when the Nazis came to search her house, later said, ‘Pastor always taught us that there comes a time in every life when a person is asked to do something for Jesus.  When our time came, we knew what to do.’”

That was the kingdom of God providing shelter for those in need.

In their book Fearfully & Wonderfully Made, Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand add further perspective: “

“After World War II, German students volunteered to help rebuild a cathedral in England, one of many casualties of the Luftwaffe bombing.  As the work progressed, debate broke out on how to best restore a large statue of Jesus with His arms outstretched and bearing the familiar inscription, ‘Come unto Me.’  Careful patching could repair all damage to the statue except for Christ’s hands, which had been destroyed by bomb fragments.  Should they attempt the delicate task of reshaping those hands?  Finally the workers reached a decision that still stands today.  The statue of Jesus has no hands, and the inscription now reads, ‘Christ has no hands but ours.’”

We are the hands of Christ in the world today.  Jesus would have us be the small and unassuming spreading of the kingdom of God.


One response to “Glimpses of the Kingdom of God”

  1. Therese Harper says :

    I love this so much, Tom!! Thank you!! Richard Rohr has suggested that we come to know God as The All Vulnerable One before understanding Him as All Mighty God. I think that reflects better who Jesus shows us who God is.  Therese

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

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