“You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders” – Mark 4:11
The fourth chapter of Mark and the thirteenth chapter of Matthew contain a group of parables which describe the secret of the Kingdom of God. A parable is a story drawn from the everyday experience of the people designed to illustrate the central truth of our Lord’s message.
In Scripture, ‘secret’ has a precise meaning explained by Paul —
“Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. But now as the prophets[a]foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him.” – Romans 16:25-26
Remember the image in Daniel —
“In your vision, Your Majesty, you saw standing before you a huge, shining statue of a man. It was a frightening sight. The head of the statue was made of fine gold. Its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs were bronze, its legs were iron, and its feet were a combination of iron and baked clay. As you watched, a rock was cut from a mountain, but not by human hands. It struck the feet of iron and clay, smashing them to bits. The whole statue was crushed into small pieces of iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold. Then the wind blew them away without a trace, like chaff on a threshing floor. But the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth.” – Daniel 2:31-35
The image represents the series of nations that were to dominate the course of world history. The meaning of the stone is given in these words —
“During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. 45 That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.” – Daniel 2:44-45
We must now turn back to the Gospel of Matthew and bring these ideas together. John the Baptist was announcing that the Kingdom of God was coming and he understood this as the same sudden coming of the Kingdom foretold in the OT. These would experience the Messianic salvation of the Kingdom of God. The others would be baptized with the fires of the final judgement. John makes his meaning clear in the following verse. He says the Messiah will sift and separate people in the way similar to a farmer threshing and winnowing his harvest to keep the good grain and discard the chaff. The Messiah will cleanse His threshing floor, gathering the grain into His barn )salvation for the righteous) but sending the wicked into the fiery judgement. (Mark 3:11-12)
So when John started to question Jesus from prison, John was no reed shaken by the wind. John’s problem was that Jesus was not acting like the Messiah whom John had announced.
“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” – Matthew 11:3
Jesus replied that He was the Bearer of the Kingdom and that the signs of the Messianic Age of prophecy were manifested. And yet Jesus said —
‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’ – Matthew 11:6
What Jesus meant is this — ‘Yes, the Kingdom of God is here. But there is a secret – a new revelation about the Kingdom.
Each of the parables in Matthew 13 illustrates this secret of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is yet to come in power and great glory. Yet it has now come in an unexpected form. It is actually now present among people in the present evil Age, bringing the blessings of The Age to Come.