Summary: Four paradoxes of God’s kingdom from the parables of Jesus.
Life is filled with paradoxes. Now a paradox is simply a statement or idea that appears to be contradictory. One of the most famous ancient paradoxes was described by a Greek author named Epimenides. Epimenides tells us of a Cretan who utters the words, "All Cretans are liars." Can you see the paradox? If the Cretan who says all Cretans are liars is telling the truth, then his statement is false, because he’s not lying and he’s a Cretan. But if the Cretan is lying about all Cretan being liars…well you can see how this paradox turn your brain into a pretzel.There are paradoxes in most areas of life. There are paradoxes in philosophy.
Perhaps the most ancient of paradoxes were penned by the Greek philosopher Zeno, who lived in the fifth century before the birth of Jesus. University philosophy classes still use Zeno’s paradoxes today as examples of philosophical paradoxes. For those who learn their philosophy from TV, Star Trek is a great place to learn about paradoxes. Especially in the Next Generation version of Star Trek the characters often use paradoxes to destroy enemy computers.
There are also paradoxes in science. One of the classic paradoxes in science comes from the realm of physics. We’re told by physicists that light behaves as if it were waves under certain circumstances, and as if it were particles in other circumstances. Yet light can’t be both waves and particles; that’s impossible logically. I’m told that quantum theory has helped to explain this paradox but that it hasn’t resolved this paradox completely completely.
Then there are also paradoxes in everyday life. I came across this list of several. We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers, wider freeways but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences but less time. We have more college degrees but less sense, more knowledge but less judgment. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, but not life to years. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We build more computers to hold more information that we print on more paper than every before, but we communicate less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, tall people and short character, steep profits but shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses but broken homes.
You get the idea.
If real life is full of paradoxes, it shouldn’t surprise us that the spiritual life has certain paradoxes in it as well. It’s not because the our spiritual lives are less rational than philosophy or physics. It’s simply that life is more complex than our ability to reason.
Today we’re going to talk about the paradox of God’s Kingdom. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Mark called Following Jesus in the Real World. Today we’re going to look at four parables of Jesus, and each parable contains a paradox about God’s Kingdom.
1. A Lamp (4:21-23)
Let’s begin by defining what God’s Kingdom is. I’m referring to the way Jesus Christ used this phrase, and we know from the Bible that the coming of God’s Kingdom was central to Jesus’ message. God’s Kingdom doesn’t refer to a particular location, but it focuses on God’s rule and reign as the King of his creation. The Bible pictures God as ruling and reigning in heaven, with everything and everyone in heaven living under his rule.
However, here on the earth it’s another story. Here on earth we as humans rule and reign over our own lives. We reign through our decisions: who to marry, what to buy, where to work, what kind of people we want to become. We reign through our governments structures, through the United Nations and our courts, through organizations like labor parties and businesses. Often we as humans use our own power to rule and reign in destructive and selfish ways, which is one reason why our world has so much suffering and evil in it. God created us and created our world for us to have this ability to rule and reign, but we’ve taken what God intended for good and turned in into a mess.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS THE INTRODUCTION OF GOD’S RULE AND REIGN FROM HEAVEN INTO HUMAN HISTORY. Jesus claimed that God’s Kingdom entered human history through his life, death and resurrection. Since the entrance of God’s Kingdom, there now exists here on earth two realms: The kingdom of God and the kingdoms of humanity. These two kingdoms live parallel to each other, as people choose which kingdom to align their allegiance to and decide which kingdom’s values will govern their lives.
But this won’t last forever, because there will come a time when the kingdom of God will be consummated on this earth, toppling all earthly kingdoms. This is the time described in the book of Revelation when the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah (Rev 11:16). This occurs at the end of human history, when Christ returns again.