The Lord Jesus spoke His parables in order to illuminate the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Jewish people of Christ’s time eagerly anticipated the establishment of a divine kingdom. Having been subjugated to foreign powers for centuries, the Jews longed for the restoration of the ancient kingdom of David.
Christ had to express in parables the mysterious and spiritual nature of His kingdom. His kingdom would not come as His contemporaries supposed it would come. The Kingdom of God was established on the throne of the cross.
So it is all very well and good for us now, with two millennia of perspective, to tsk-tsk Christ’s ancient audience for the shallowness of their ideas about the Kingdom of God.
They wanted the kingdom to have an army, and a just economy, and a handsome king on parade. They wanted seats of honor, and tax breaks, and leafy fig trees to lounge under on the hot days.
The Lord had to teach them that He reigns from the inside out; He reigns invisibly before He will make Himself visible again; He rewards His subjects with peace through bitter trials, rather than with leisure and comfort in this life.
Christ’s audience certainly needed these corrections. But their fundamental desire for a divine kingdom—their desire for the world to be right and holy and truly beautiful—this is an area in which they can correct us.
They longed for a perfect nation on earth. The lesson of the cross has taught us that such hopes are vain, and can be dangerous. But does this mean we should not hope for a perfect nation? Without the burning desire for a divine kingdom, what do we have?
We have the pitifully low horizons of our contemporary world. We have people who let their children play video games all summer.
Give me an Israelite zealot who would cut my throat for breaking kosher. I will take him over John Tesh any day.
The Apostles thought they would sit on thrones in the Temple courtyard after the Roman procurator was expelled from the Ansonia fortress in Jerusalem. They were wrong. But they were a great deal closer to the truth than the gossiping idlers of today who concern themselves with nothing more noble than who will star in the movie version of the Casey Anthony trial.
The parables of Christ serve to purify and clarify our desires for truth, justice, and order in the world. But if we have no desire for truth, justice, and order—well, as the Lord would say, we are very far from the kingdom of God.