Even ordinary things point to the kingdom of God

Jesus' parables help us to see that the kingdom of God is all around us.
Our Faith

Growing up in Nigeria, my two brothers and I often sat around our mother and listened to her tell us stories. My mother was an enthusiastic storyteller. One thing I can still remember about the stories she told us is that they always conveyed important life lessons. Like many African mothers, she always ensured that while we enjoyed the stories, we did not miss these lessons.

According to the gospels, Jesus also loved to teach using stories. We call these stories parables. In the last few weeks, in the gospel readings for the liturgical year, we have been listening to Jesus teach us about the kingdom of God using seven parables. But why does Jesus need to use so many parables to describe just one reality? Is one parable not enough?

I think there are at least two reasons why, in Matthew 13, Jesus uses seven different parables describe the kingdom of God.

First: the kingdom of God is an inexhaustible mystery. No single definition can exhaust it. No single description can capture the depth and breadth of the mystery of the kingdom of God.


But even more importantly, Jesus wants us to realize that although the kingdom of God is a hidden mystery, so many ordinary things point us to this mystery.

As a good teacher, Jesus’ aim in the gospel is to describe the kingdom of God in such a way that his immediate listeners could relate. And he did this by simply looking around his environment for things with which they were already familiar. For instance, many of his disciples were fishermen. So, he told them the parable of the large net cast into the sea. Wars and raids were common in Palestine at the time of Jesus, and people would often bury their treasures as they fled their homes, hoping to return for them. Sadly, many never returned. So, it was not uncommon for an individual to suddenly come upon treasures buried in a piece of land. Jesus was thinking of this, and his listeners were thinking of this as well, when he told the parable of the treasure hidden in a field.

As Jesus says to us in Luke 17: 20, the kingdom of God is in our midst. Not only are we all part of this kingdom; many things around us point to it, too. If only we open the eyes of our hearts, we will see that the kingdom of God is all around us.

The kingdom of God is in the smiles of people we love. We see it in the calmness and bliss of a child reposing in his mother’s arms—and even in the agitation of crying babies. We see it in the many sacrifices parents make for their children daily, and children’s love and gratitude toward their parents. We see it in the love spouses have for one another. We see it in families cherishing and caring for their most vulnerable members. We see it in the laughter of friends as they gather to share food and drinks. We see it in the determination of Christians working for peace, fighting for justice and freedom. We see it at every mass as we gather to break the one bread of eternal life and drink the cup of salvation together.

Our mission as Christians is to proclaim, by word and example, the love and beauty of the kingdom of God.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/James Smetham, Christ Preaching to the Multitudes


About the author

William Orbih

William Orbih is a Ph.D. fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and a Ph.D. Candidate in the department of Theology (World Religion, World Church). His scholarly interest is at the intersection between theology (ecclesiology), politics, and decolonial African literature.

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