Growing & Gathering: Principles of the Kingdom

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters four and five of this New Testament book. THE BEGINNING OF THE MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM! JESUS BEGINS REVEALING THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM! As you come to the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by John Mark you will find it essentially recording that which would not come until the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It would be in the fourteenth chapter of the gospel written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus beginning to expound the mysteries of the kingdom of haven unto His disciples and unto those who would come unto, gather themselves around, walk with and follow Him. When you come to the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by John Mark you will find the account and narrative of Jesus beginning to teach and speak forth the mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven—mysteries which had been hidden and concealed since the beginning of creation. We know when reading chapters five through seven of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew that Jesus would deliver what would become known as the Sermon on the Mount, and it would be in that Sermon on the Mount Jesus would not only proclaim and speak of the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven, but He would also speak of the righteousness of the kingdom. What’s more, is that it is in this passage of Scripture we find and read Jesus speaking unto the crowds and multitudes which had gathered themselves before and around Him concerning the kingdom of heaven, as up to that point the only truth and statement that would be made concerning the kingdom of heaven was a call to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. With the Sermon on the Mount Jesus would begin to explain and expound the truth concerning the kingdom of heaven, as concerning the kingdom of heaven there would not only be an underlying righteousness which must needs exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, but there would also be certain attitudes of the kingdom of heaven which would need to be manifested in the midst of the hearts and lives of His disciples. Upon reading the words which are found in the gospel narratives you will find that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus would speak of the righteousness of the kingdom and the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven, while through the parables Jesus would further teach and expound the mysteries concerning and regarding the kingdom of heaven.

            Before we delve into the words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of the gospel which was written by John Mark I feel it absolutely necessary that we turn and direct our attention to the words which Jesus spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount. It is the words Jesus spoke in this Sermon on the Mount that would draw and call men to pay close and careful attention to the truth concerning the kingdom of heaven, for the kingdom of heaven which Jesus was beginning to establish and set up upon the earth would place certain demands and requirements upon those who would seek to enter into it. It is something truly astounding and captivating to think about and consider the fact that although Rome would be the dominant super power, kingdom and empire in the midst of the earth during the days and time of Jesus, it would be Jesus Himself who would come to set up and establish a kingdom in the midst of the empire. SETTING UP A KINGDOM IN THE MIDST OF AN EMPIRE! SETTING UP KINGDOM IN THE MIDST OF EMPIRE! Stop for a moment and consider the fact that the declaration of a kingdom being manifested in the midst of the earth—particularly when Rome would dominate and control much of the known world at that time—would have been incredibly provocative to those who would hear and listen to the words concerning it. At that time Rome would control all of Judaea, all of Galilee, all of Samaria, Tyre, Sidon, and even Jerusalem, and here we have John the Baptist calling men to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand, as well as Jesus preaching the same message. Not only this, but during those days we find One who would not only come preaching of a new and different kingdom being manifested and established in the midst of the earth, but also claiming that He is indeed the Son of the living God. Consider how incredibly provocative these words would and could have been during those days unto the Roman government which had been set up and established in the midst of the land, as not only would there be One who would declare and speak of Himself as being the Son of God, but He would also preach concerning the kingdom of heaven.

            I have to admit that as I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which Jesus spoke—not only concerning the kingdom of heaven being manifested in the midst of the earth, but also His being the Son of God—I am absolutely amazed that Rome itself did not seek to come after Jesus the Christ during those three and a half years of public ministry, teaching and preaching in the midst of Judaea and Galilee. As you read the four gospel narratives you will find the only encounter Jesus would have with a Roman during those three and a half years would be with the Roman centurion whose servant lie home sick with the palsy. Not only do we find this Roman centurion coming unto Jesus on behalf of his servant who lie at home sick with the palsy, but in this particular encounter we find Jesus praising the faith of this centurion, and emphatically declaring that He had not found so great a faith in all Israel. During those three and a half years of public ministry there would be no sign, nor would there be any evidence of Rome having any issue, nor taking any offense with Jesus the Christ. Despite the tremendous claims Jesus would make concerning His being the Son of God, and despite the fact that Jesus would speak of a kingdom being established in the midst of the earth, it would be the elders of His own people, it would be the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees and Sadducees that would take great issue and find great fault with Jesus. What’s more, is that we know that when Jesus had been born in Bethlehem wise men would come from the east having followed the star unto the city of Jerusalem. Upon entering and coming into Jerusalem they would go directly unto Herod and would ask where this One was who was born King of the Jews that they might worship Him. Although there would be no mention of the kingdom of heaven at this time, the thought and idea that a king would be born among them in the midst of the land of Judaea would not only set Herod on edge, but would also set all Jerusalem on edge as well. It would be this idea and this concept of a king being born among the Jews in the land of Judaea and Galilee that would threaten Herod—and would threaten him so much that when he realized he had been deceived and tricked by the wise men, he would proceed to slaughter all those infant males under the age of two. The underlying reason and purpose for this mass genocide and infanticide would be to try and destroy this one who had supposedly been born king of the Jews that he might be rid of him.

            As you read the four gospel narratives which were written concerning Jesus the Christ you will find that Jesus didn’t experience any persecution, any opposition, any affliction from Rome until after He had been condemned by the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of His own people. It wouldn’t be until after Pontius Pilate would give the order and consent that Jesus be tortured and punished that we actually find Rome exercising any authority over Jesus. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and powerful reality, for when and as you read the four gospel narratives you will find that the declaration of the kingdom of heaven would seem to have little to no effect on Rome itself, as there was no indication that such a reality would threaten their existence, their dominion and authority in the midst of the earth. There is absolutely no indication that Rome took offense with Jesus’ claims concerning being the Son of God, nor Jesus’ declarations concerning the kingdom of heaven, and it would be the Jews, and the religious leaders and system of that day that would actually take offense and find fault with Him, His teach and His claim. It would be the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel that would have great offense with Jesus the Christ, and could not handle the awesome and incredible reality that He would proclaim Himself to be the Son of the living God, and that He would speak and teach of a kingdom being manifested within the earth. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the words which Jesus would speak in the Sermon on the Mount concerning the attitudes of the kingdom, as well as the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven which was to be manifested in the midst of the earth:

            “And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: and He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12).

            “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

            “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:1-8).

            “Moreover when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18).

            When you read and study the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives you will find Jesus the Christ speaking candidly and openly about the kingdom of heaven, and the attitudes and righteousness of the kingdom, however, when you come to the parables found in the four gospels you will find Jesus employing a completely different element concerning the kingdom of heaven. In the fourteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, and now in the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by John Mark we encounter the awesome and incredible truth and reality that when it came to Jesus teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven, He would regularly and routinely use parables to deliver and speak truths concerning the kingdom of heaven, and what the kingdom of heaven was like. As you read the parables you will quickly encounter the awesome truth and reality concerning the kingdom of heaven, and what Jesus would use to describe that kingdom. Jesus would use various examples which His audience, His followers and His disciples would have understood that He might teach them the divine mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus would use various pictures, symbols, analogies and imagery which they would have undoubtedly understood during those days. If and as you read the gospel narratives you will find and discover a tremendous amount of language found within the parables, as Jesus would teach and speak unto the people concerning the kingdom of heaven. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you consider that according to the gospel narratives which are found in the New Testament the first parable Jesus spoke made absolutely no reference or mention to the kingdom of heaven, and in all reality might not even have been considered a parable concerning the kingdom. Upon reading the words found in the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the gospel narrative which was written by John Mark you will find that the first recorded parable Jesus spoke was that of one who went out with a bag of seed and who would sow seed as they went. This one who went forth sowing seed would sow seed into various different types of soil and ground, and depending on where the seed fell there would be different results. The parable of the one who went forth sowing seed would sow seed into four different types of soil and four different types of grounds, and where the seed was sown would have a direct impact upon whether or not the seed would bring forth fruit. This is something worth noting and considering, for when you study the life and ministry of Jesus you will find that He was indeed that One who went forth sowing the seed of the kingdom of heaven, and there would undoubtedly have been a variety of different types of responses to the seed, which was the word of the kingdom.

            THE WAYSIDE! THE STONY GROUND! AMONG THE THORNS! GOOD GROUND! As you listen to the words which Jesus spoke within this parable you will find that this one who went forth sowing seed as they journeyed would sow seed in four different types of soil and four different types of grounds. Scripture is unclear whether or not the one who went forth sowing seed was aware of the soil and ground into which they were sowing, and it isn’t until Jesus delivers the meaning and interpretation of the parable that we actually understand what He meant when He spoke unto them. The question I can’t help but ask myself and wonder when reading these words is whether or not there were any during those days and any during that time who not only heard the words Jesus spoke, but who also understood the words He spoke. At the end and conclusion of the parable we find Jesus emphatically declaring unto those who would listen to and hear Him speak that those who had ears to hear, let them hear what He was speaking unto them. It is these words concerning having ears to hear, as well as these words concerning hearing what Jesus spoke unto them in parables. It would be at the conclusion and outset of this parable, and before Jesus would reveal the interpretation and meaning of the parable He would emphatically declare unto those who had ears to hear to hear the words which He was speaking unto them. This is actually something I can’t help but think about and consider, for these words seem to suggest and speak of a wonderful and powerful invitation that was given to those who heard the parable to seek out and seek after an understanding of what was being spoken. The fact that Jesus would speak forth these words calling for those who had ears to hear to hear what was being spoken unto them seems to wonderfully and powerfully suggest that He was giving a powerful invitation to hear what He was speaking, as well as to understand the words which they had heard. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus spoke these words—not only would He reveal the mystery unto His disciples, but He would also issue a powerful invitation to His hearers and His audience to hear and listen to the words which had been spoken unto them.

            It is beginning with the tenth verse of this chapter we find Jesus speaking with His twelve disciples concerning this parable which He had spoken unto the crowds and masses. While the twelve disciples were alone with Jesus they would ask Him privately concerning the meaning and interpretation of the parable, which is actually quite interesting considering these were men who had walked with and followed Jesus the Christ. We know from the words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew that the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke unto the crowds and multitudes in parables—a question which Jesus would proceed to quote from the prophet Isaiah to describe why He would teach men concerning the kingdom of heaven using parables. Here in the tenth verse of the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by John Mark we find that it was while the twelve were alone with Jesus they asked Him concerning the parable that they might understand the meaning of it. In the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the disciples coming unto Jesus and asking Him why He spoke unto the crowds and multitudes in parables, but what we also find within this narrative is Jesus speaking directly unto them and revealing the meaning of the parable. We find in both the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the gospel narrative written by John Mark Jesus speaking and revealing unto the disciples the meaning of the parable, which would seem to indicate that the disciples themselves did not yet understand the meaning of the parable. The disciples heard the words which were spoken within the parable, and they heard Jesus invite those who had ears to hear to hear what was being spoken unto them, and yet Jesus would Himself reveal the meaning of the parable unto the disciples. It would be beginning with the tenth verse of the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by John Mark that we find Jesus speaking directly unto the disciples concerning the parable. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular chapter beginning to read with and from the tenth verse:

            “And when He was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of Him the parable. And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:10-20).

            KNOW YE NOT THIS PARABLE? HOW THEN WILL YE KNOW ALL PARABLES? These questions not only strike at the very heart of the disciples’ understanding of this parable, but also their understanding of all the other parables which Jesus would speak. You cannot read the words found within the gospel narratives and not encounter the awesome and incredible reality that when speaking unto the crowds and multitudes concerning the kingdom of heaven He would speak unto them in parables. What I find to be truly intriguing when you read the words found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by John Mark is that it wasn’t merely unto the twelve disciples whom Jesus would speak and reveal the meaning of the parable. It would be very easy to think and consider that it was only given unto the disciples to hear and understand the meaning of the parables, and yet within this passage we find and read that it wasn’t just the twelve disciples who were given to know the mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven. In the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find him writing and recording how the disciples came unto Jesus and asked Him why He spoke unto the crowds and multitudes in parables, and it would be very easy to read these words and think about the fact that it was only the twelve disciples who would hear and receive the meaning and understanding concerning the parable of the sower, the seed and the soil. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply isn’t the case, as in the gospel narrative written by John Mark we find and read how when Jesus was alone those which were with Jesus together with the twelve disciples would ask Him concerning the parable. This is actually important to note and point out, for the text in the gospel narrative written by Mark suggests that when Jesus revealed the meaning of the parable unto those disciples who were together with Him—it wasn’t merely the twelve disciples. What makes this particular encounter with Jesus so incredibly powerful and captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that the revelation concerning the mystery of the kingdom was not only given unto the twelve disciples who had forsaken everything to follow Jesus, but the revelation of the mystery of the kingdom of heaven was given to those true disciples and those true followers who would walk with and follow Jesus during those three and a half years of public ministry.

            As I sit here today I can’t help but think about a clear and present contrast between those disciples who would received and hear the mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven, and those who would turn back and no longer walk with Jesus. If you take the time to read the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John—specifically in the fifth and sixth chapters—you will find in the fifth chapter many of the Jews seeking to persecute and slay Jesus because He not only healed on the sabbath, but also because He made the claim that God was His Father, thus making Himself equal to God. In the sixth chapter we find and read a powerful narrative concerning a great number of disciples who walked with and followed Jesus, and yet who turned back and walked no more with Him because of the words which He spoke. If you take the time to read the fifth and sixth chapters of this gospel narrative you will find the Jews seeking to persecute and slay Jesus because of the words which He spoke, and you will find a number of disciples who at one point walked with and followed Him turning back and no longer walking with Him. These disciples who had walked with and followed Jesus would turn back and choose to walk no more with Him—not because of the miracles which He had performed, but because the words which He spoke. I sit here today and I can’t help but see a powerful contrast between those disciples who would not only hear, but would also understand the divine mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven, and those disciples who would hear the words which Jesus the Christ would speak, and would choose to turn back and walk no more with Him. The words which we find in the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by John Mark seems to wonderfully and powerfully suggest in addition to the twelve disciples there were also disciples who walked with and followed Jesus whose eyes were granted to behold that which the prophets and ancients sought to see, and whose ears would hear that which they longed to hear.

            The narrative that is found in the fourth chapter of the gospel written by John Mark is something that is truly remarkable, for as you begin reading with and from the tenth verse you will not only find the key with which to unlock all the other parables, but you will also find and discover the reality that beyond the twelve disciples there were others who would be granted to know, to hear and to understand the mysteries surrounding the kingdom of heaven. It would be unto those who were before and round about Jesus the Christ at the time this parable that was spoken who would hear directly from the lips of the eternal Son of God mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven. The disciples which were present on this particular day would be those who would hear the initial parable of the seed, the sower and the soil, and as Jesus was speaking unto them concerning this parable he would clearly indicate that this initial parable would be the means of unlocking all the rest of the parables. There seems to be every indication within these verses that the parable of the seed, the sower and the soil is the key which would be used to unlock all the other parables Jesus would speak—including parables which would be recorded directly within this passage. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that after Jesus would reveal the mystery of this parable He would proceed to speak forth other parables concerning the kingdom. It’s truly something worth mentioning when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that this initial parable would make absolutely no mention of the kingdom of heaven, and yet the words found and contained therein would in fact be the key to unlocking all the other parables. It would be this parable of the seed, the sower and the soil that would help to unlock the mysteries surrounding all the other parables, and when Jesus responded unto His disciples on this particular occasion, He would speak directly unto them confirming the details of this parable. Their understanding of this parable was absolutely crucial and critical for understanding all the other parables, as the seed would be the word of the kingdom, and all the other parables would directly reference and speak to the kingdom of heaven. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the following words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples and those who were gathered unto Him concerning the interpretation of this parable:

            “And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is down; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:13-20).

            With these words Jesus wonderfully and powerful reveals the meaning of the parable—a parable that was not only designed to speak concerning the seed which was sown into the hearts of men, but also the result, the effect, and the outcome of the seed which was sown into the hearts men. We can clearly see from these words that the seed was indeed the word of the kingdom of heaven which the enemy and adversary can and will immediately seek to snatch and steal away. The apostle Matthew writes and records how the enemy seeks to come in and snatch the seed that was sown into the hearts of those who hear but don’t understand it, and in the twenty-fifth verse of this passage we find Jesus declaring that unto those who hath not, from them shall be taken even what they had. In verses twenty-four and twenty-five of this passage of Scripture we find and read Jesus declaring unto His disciples that they need take heed what they hear, for with what measure they meted it would be measured unto them. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to describe and declare that unto those who heard more would be given. Jesus would go on to describe how unto those who have to them would it be given, and to those who have not that which they had received would be taken away. It’s interesting to considering this in light of the interpretation of the parable of the seed, the sower and the soil, for Jesus would declare how there would be those who would indeed hear the word of the kingdom, and yet the enemy would immediately come in to steal away that which they had received and heard. In the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find and read how those whom the enemy would steal away that which was sown and given unto them would be those who heard the word of the kingdom and yet did not understand. It’s incredibly interesting to think about and consider that which threatens the growth of the seed within the hearts of those into whom it was sown. The seed which was sown by the wayside would represent those whom the enemy and adversary would seek to come in and steal away that which was sown, while the seed which was sown in the stony ground represents those into whose hearts the seed of the word of the kingdom would be sown, and they would immediately receive it with gladness. Because these individuals have no root in themselves, they endure for a season and a time, but afterward when persecution and affliction arises for the sake of the word they are offended. The seed which is sown among thorns represents those who hear the word, and yet the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things enter in and choke the word.

            What makes the parable of the sower so absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about it is it seems to fall directly in alignment with the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples as they were leaving Jerusalem and the disciples asked about what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the opening verses of the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find the following words which were spoken by Jesus and written and recorded by the apostle Matthew:

            “And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).

            The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will find Jesus continuing to speak concerning the kingdom of heaven, as in verses twenty-six through thirty-four we find additional records and reference concerning the parables Jesus would speak concerning the kingdom of heaven and what it was like. In all reality, one of the greatest things I love about the public ministry of Jesus the Christ is that He took the time to speak concerning the kingdom of heaven. It would have been one thing for Jesus to simply declare that the kingdom of heaven was near and at hand, and it was something else entirely to expound upon the realities and mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven. In verses twenty-six through twenty-nine of the fourth chapter we find Jesus going on to describe the kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and would sleep, and rise up night and day, and the seed would spring up and grow, and he has no idea or understanding how. Jesus would go on to declare that the earth brings forth fruit of itself—first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear. Once the fruit is brought forth, that man which cast the seed would put forth the sickle, because the harvest has come. Within this parable we uncover some tremendous truth concerning the kingdom of heaven, and how the kingdom of heaven can best be described using the analogy or harvest, the analogy of fruit, the analogy of seed being sown, the analogy of increase, and the analogy of that which has been brought forth being gathered within the harvest. SOWN! GROWING! REAPED! GATHERED! If you want to truly understand the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven it is absolutely necessary to recognize and understand this concept of growth and gathering, for the kingdom of heaven cannot be understand without and apart from these two principles. The kingdom of heaven must needs be strongly considered in light of the realities of growth and gathering, for it is the divine and perfect will of the Father that what has been sown produces fruit and is able to grow in the midst of the earth, and that what has been grown is able to be gathered. In fact, if you come to the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find him writing and recounting the words which Jesus would speak concerning the harvest being representative of the end of the world, and that there would be a great gathering that would take place. Consider if you will the words which are found in the thirteenth and twenty-fifth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

            “Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good see in thy field? From whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:24-30).

            “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the hoes: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:36-43).

            “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).

            It is quite obvious and evident within these passages of Scripture that the kingdom of heaven is centered around the themes of growth and gathering, and that the growth is determined by the seed which was sown, and the soil in which the seed was sown. When Jesus described the kingdom of heaven He would go on to describe it as a mustard seed which was the smallest seed in the earth, and yet it grows to be a mighty tree in the midst of the earth that not only produces fruit, but also provided shade and covering to and for others. If you want to truly understand the reality and concept of the kingdom of heaven you must needs understand it in terms of this growth, for not only would the mustard seed grow and become a mighty tree, but so also in the parable of the seed and the sower would you find and read concerning the seed which was sown in good ground bringing forth fruit—some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, and some an hundred fold. I am absolutely and completely convinced that the kingdom of heaven cannot truly be understood without and apart from understanding this concept of growth and gathering, for the seed is sown that it might produce and bring forth in the earth, and what grew in the midst of the earth would produce fruit. It would be that fruit which would be gathered at the time of harvest, for you cannot separate gathering from the harvest. This concept of gathering and harvest is something which Jesus would speak of during His time of public ministry, for if you read and consider the words which are found in the final verses of the ninth chapter, as well as the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle John you will find Jesus speaking of growth, of gathering, and of harvest, and how the ultimate reality of the kingdom of heaven is that it produce and bring forth that which can be gathered together. What we must realize and recognize concerning gathering and harvest is that there will indeed come a time of reaping, there will indeed come a time of gathering, and there will indeed come a time of harvest. It is absolutely impossible to understand the kingdom of heaven without and apart from recognizing is that which is living, as that which is organic, and that which can best be understood in terms of sowing and reaping, as well as gathering and the harvest. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the final verses of the ninth chapter, as well as the words which are found in some of the final verses of the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John:

            “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and ever disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38).

            “In the mean while His disciples prayed Him, saying, Master eat. But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours” (John 4:31-38).

            In the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus emphatically declaring unto the disciples that the harvest was truly plenteous, but the labourers were few. The LORD would then instruct and invite the disciples to pray unto the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into the harvest. When speaking unto the disciples in Sychar of Samaria Jesus would further instruct the disciples to lift up their eyes, and loo kupon the fields, for they were white already unto the harvest. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of these awesome and incredible truths, for what we find in these two passages of Scripture are wonderful and powerful declarations concerning the harvest, and the harvest was truly plenteous, but the labourers and workers were few. What makes the words of Jesus in the ninth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew so absolutely incredible and captivating is when you think about the fact that immediately after Jesus would invite His disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He send forth labourers into the harvest He would send those twelve disciples out into the midst of the harvest that they might preach the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven, that they might heal the sick, that they might raise the dead, that they might cast out unclean spirits, that they might cleanse the lepers. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words regarding the harvest, for one of the main and underlying focal points of the kingdom of heaven is indeed and as in fact this concept of the harvest and the gathering of that which has grown and that which has been brought forth in the midst of the earth. In order to truly understand the kingdom of heaven you must needs recognize and understand that the kingdom of heaven has at the very heart of it the principle of sowing and reaping—and not only sowing and reaping, but also the principle of gathering at the time of the harvest. We cannot truly understand the kingdom of heaven without and apart from recognizing the principle of gathering and reaping—and not only gathering and reaping, but also the awesome and wonderful truth that the kingdom of heaven has at the very heart of it the principle of growth and bringing forth fruit before and in the sight of the living God. The ultimate objective of the kingdom of heaven is that the seed of the word of the kingdom would be sown within and throughout the earth, and that that seed would find those places where it can indeed bring forth that which the eternal Father desires.

            LIVING AMONG THE TOMBS! LIVING AMONG THE DEAD! WHEN LIFE INVADES THAT WHICH THE TOMBS HAVE HELD SWAY OVER! NOT ONLY WOULD JESUS RAISE THE DEAD FROM LIFE, BUT JESUS WOULD ALSO DELIVER THIS MAN FROM THE PLACE OF THE DEAD! SCRIPTURE IS UNCLEAR HOW LONG THIS MAN SPENT LIVING AMONG THE DEAD, BUT ON THIS PARTICULAR OCCASION JESUS WOULD COME INTO THE GARADENES, AND HIS PRESENCE WOULD BRING FORTH THIS MAN WHO HAD DWELT IN THE MIDST OF THE TOMBS! DWELLING AMONG TOMBS AND BOUND IN CHAINS! As you continue reading this particular portion of Scripture you will encounter and come face to face with Jesus and His disciples having just come through a tremendous storm which came upon the sea they had just crossed over. It’s actually quite remarkable and astonishing when you read the words found in these chapters, for both chapters speak to the tremendous authority that is found in Jesus the Christ. In the final verses of the fourth chapter you will read of Jesus initially sleeping in the midst of the storm which threatened the ship and the lives of the disciples therein—or at least that’s what the disciples thought. The disciples found themselves in the midst of a storm with Jesus sleeping in the midst of it, and they thought the storm could have sway and authority over them. It is absolutely necessary that we think about and consider this awesome and incredible reality, for even though they found themselves in the midst of a storm, and even though they found Jesus sleeping in the midst of the storm, the storm would and could not have any authority over them. Even though Jesus was sound asleep in the midst of the ship—perhaps as a testament and sign unto the disciples of the rest and peace and peace that is not only found in Him, but also in His heavenly Father—the storm which came upon them would and could not have any authority over them. I have often read this passage of Scripture and marveled at the fact that Jesus spoke to the storm—spoke to the wind, spoke to the waves, and spoke to that which the disciples thought would threaten their lives—and after He finished speaking to the wind and the waves, everything became peaceful and calm as the sea would become as smooth as glass. I have often been fascinated with the fact that Jesus spoke to the midst of the storm, however, within this narrative we find Jesus sleeping in the midst of the storm. After Jesus would be awakened by His disciples we find Him standing up in the midst of the storm—standing in the midst of the storm to confront the storm—and speaking directly to the storm. It would be as a direct result of Jesus standing in the midst of the storm and speaking directly to it that both the wind and the waves would obey the authority that was found within His voice, and the authority that was found within His command.

            I absolutely love the narrative that is found within this passage of Scripture, for it aptly and clearly demonstrates the awesome and tremendous truth—not only of Jesus sleeping in the midst of the storm as a demonstration and manifestation of the peace and rest that is found in Him, but also how the disciples themselves could sleep in the midst of the storms. There is something truly powerful about sleeping to the storm—I would dare argue of the same weight and significance of speaking to the storm—for to sleep in the midst of the storm demonstrates and manifests a wonderful and powerful confidence, trust, peace, rest and faith that is found within the person of the living God. For Jesus to sleep in the midst of the storm demonstrates the faith, the trust and the confidence He had in His Father who was in heaven knowing that His Father was in complete control. The fact that Jesus was able to sleep through the storm is a truly wonderful and powerful testimony to the trust and confidence He had in His Father, as well as a demonstration and manifestation of the peace and rest that can be found within Him. Jesus was able to sleep in the midst of the storm—not only as a sign and manifestation of the rest and peace He had in the protection of His Father, but also as a sign and demonstration of the faith and confidence He had within Him. We would like to point to Jesus’ standing in the midst of the storm, and as He stood there in the midst of the storm He would speak to the wind and the waves and command them to be still. What we fail to realize is that within this narrative—before Jesus ever spoke unto the wind and the waves to be still, He would speak to and address His disciples calling them into a place of faith, trust and confidence in His Father in heaven, and to not doubt, nor be afraid. We must needs pay close and careful attention to this reality, for the words which we find in this passage not only point to Jesus’ speaking unto the storm of fear and the storm of doubt within the hearts and minds of the disciples, but also speaking to the physical storm which the disciples felt threatened their existence and threatened their lives. While it is true that Jesus’ sleeping in the midst of the storm spoke to and revealed the great peace and rest He had within His Father, and the great faith and confidence He placed within Him—it would be Jesus’ standing in the midst of the storm to confront it, and Jesus’ speaking to the storm to address that would demonstrate the authority and the power in both His voice, as well as His command. What a truly wonderful and powerful demonstration of the rest and peace that is found in the living God in this passage through Jesus’ sleeping in the midst of the storm, and what a wonderful and powerful demonstration of the authority that is found in the person of Jesus Christ as He not only stood in the midst of the storm to confront it, but also spoke directly to the storm as He commanded both the wind and the waves to be still.

            It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the words that are found within this passage of Scripture, for the final verses of the fourth chapter show us a Jesus who was able to sleep in the midst of the storm before standing in the midst of that same storm as He would speak to the wind and the waves. There is a powerful demonstration and manifestation of the authority that is found in the voice, in the commands, and in the word which Jesus spoke, as He would speak directly unto the wind and the waves commanding them to be still and to cease their raging. When you come to the fifth chapter of the same gospel narrative you will find Jesus and His disciples coming unto the other side of the sea into the country of the Gadarenes. Immediately after Jesus came out of the ship there came out of the tomb a man who had an unclean spirit. Stop and think about the fact that Jesus and His disciples had just come through a storm which raged upon the sea, and now what we find is an immediate confrontation with an unclean spirit. Having just come through a storm in the physical and natural realm, Jesus would now encounter something in the spiritual realm which would manifest itself in the physical realm. Scripture reveals of this man with the unclean spirit how he had his dwelling among the tombs, and how no man could bind him with chains. Oftentimes this man would be bound with chains and fetters, and this man—undoubtedly endowed with strength from the unclean spirit that was present within him—would pluck asunder the chains which were upon him, and break the fetters in pieces. What’s more, is that Scripture reveals concerning this man that no man could tame him, and night and day he would be in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones. Undoubtedly this man would come unto Jesus crying out for relief, crying out for deliverance, crying out for help from that which  not only tormented, but that which also possessed and oppressed him. What is worth noting about this man is how the unclean spirit forced him to live his life—namely, dwelling among the tombs, bound with chains and fetters, and crying and cutting himself with stones. Please don’t miss the tremendous importance of this reality, for it powerfully demonstrates how the unseen spiritual forces of darkness seek to not only keep us bound, but also seek to keep us among the dead rather than among the living.

            ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE AMONG THE DEAD THAN YOU ARE THE LIVING? There is not a doubt in my mind that this man might have been more comfortable among the dead than the living, for Scripture reveals how he had his dwelling among the tombs, and how night and day he was either in the mountains or in the tombs. It is important for us to read the words found in this passage of Scripture, for it powerfully demonstrates and points to the reality that there is a very real adversary present within this world in the unseen and spiritual realm who not only seeks to cause us to have our dwelling among the dead, but also seeks to keep us bound. BOUND AND LIVING AMONG THE DEAD! BOUND, CRYING OUT AND LIVING AMONG THE DEAD! This man had within him an unclean spirit, and yet as we continue reading the words found in this passage of Scripture we encounter and come face to face with the awesome reality that when Jesus asked the unclean spirit what his name was, it would respond by saying “Legion, for they were many.” There is not a doubt in my mind that this man was violently and cruelly tormented and oppressed by this unclean spirit, as the unclean spirit would force him to have his dwelling among the dead, as the unclean spirit would force him to be bound in chains and fetters, and would force him to cry out atop the mountains. On this particular day, however, Jesus would show up in the Gadarenes and would speak to the unclean spirit that was present within this man, and would bring deliverance within his heart, within his soul, and within his mind. Jesus would speak to the unclean spirit within this man—completely and utterly unafraid of the spirit, and even the legion that was present with this spirit. Ultimately Jesus would command the legion of unclean spirits to enter into a herd of pigs, and as a direct result of this command the herd would violently run down the hill toward the sea and would be drowned in the midst of it. What makes this passage so incredibly powerful is when you think about and consider the fact that later on in the passage—after the legion had been brought forth and cast out from the midst of this man—those of that region would come unto this man and would find him sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind. SITTING, CLOTHED, AND IN HIS RIGHT MIND! Please don’t miss the awesome and powerful truth that surrounds such a statement, for this man would experience a wonderful and powerful deliverance from the Lord Jesus Christ, as Jesus would speak to the legion with the same voice and the same authority as when He spoke to the storm. Having just spoke to the storm upon the sea, Jesus would now speak to a legion of unclean spirits which tormented and oppressed this man.

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the wonderful and beautiful truth that not only was Jesus able to speak to the storm which raged in the midst of and upon the sea, but now we also find Jesus speaking to this legion of unclean spirits that this man might finally experience deliverance in the midst of the storm. What a truly powerful Jesus the Christ and Lord we serve and worship—One who can stand in the midst of the storms to confront them, and one who can speak to the storms to command that they be still. What a truly powerful Jesus the Christ and Lord we serve and worship—One who can stand toe to toe with the unseen, spiritual and demonic realm that is present within this world, and who can speak to unclean spirits commanding them to cease their tormenting, their affliction, and their oppression of men. Jesus was unafraid of this legion which was found in the midst of this man, and Jesus would speak directly unto the legion and command it to come forth from the midst of this man that he might be completely delivered and set free from that which tormented and oppressed Him. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and wonderful reality, for it is this awesome and wonderful reality that speaks and points to the tremendous authority that is found in Jesus to not only speak to storms in the physical realm, but also to speak to that which oppresses and torments us. What a truly beautiful picture it is to think about and consider this Jesus who can speak to storms which we may feel threaten our lives and threaten our existence, and can speak to that which torments, afflicts and oppresses us. Jesus Christ the Lord has the authority to speak to that which threatens and that which afflicts and oppresses us, and can not only bring us through the storms we face within this life, but can also deliver us from that which oppresses and afflicts us as well.

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