“Making the Impossible Possible”
I want to start with something funny I found on an internet site: Three men approached the gates of Heaven, where Saint Peter immediately greeted them. “Hello, good sirs, and welcome to the Kingdom of God. We have one rule in Heaven: “Do not step on a duck.” “I’m sorry. Can you repeat that?” questioned one of the men. “Over the years, many misconceptions of Heaven have arisen. Yes, it’s a pretty nice place. But it’s not perfect; it’s close. You see, the only problem is the ducks. If you step on a duck, it will begin to quack, and then all the other ducks will begin to quack, and it’s simply a nuisance for us all.” Saint Peter replied.
The three men looked at each other, shrugged, and entered Heaven. As far as the eye could see, there were ducks everywhere. Almost immediately, one of the men accidentally stepped on a duck. As Peter had said, the duck began quaking, and then the ducks around him began an audible tidal wave of quacks. Soon after the quacks had passed, Saint Peter approached the men in hand with a hag of a woman. Without a word, he shackled the hag to the man that stepped on the duck and left.
The other two men were careful not to step on a duck. Although they tried their best, one eventually stepped on a duck. The same phenomenon arose, and Saint Peter arrived again with a huge Amazonian woman. He shackled the woman to the man and left.
The final man tried carefully and successfully stepped around the ducks for many days and nights. After a while, Saint Peter approached the man with a beautiful woman. He shackled the woman to the man and left without a word. The man was so delighted he audibly said to himself, “What did I do to deserve this?” The woman replied, “I don’t know, but I stepped on a duck.”
Today’s scripture includes five parable stories. We will continue to study the parable stories for a few weeks. Jesus had taught his disciples with many parable stories. His disciples asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:10-11). In the Gospel of Matthew’s view, it is essential to understand the parables as Jesus says at the end of the parable, “Let anyone with ears listen!” (Matthew 13:9).
Jesus used to speak in parables to teach them, especially about the kingdom of Heaven. Many Christians believe in the kingdom of Heaven, but many still need clarification about what the kingdom of Heaven is. Some may think of it like the sky; some may think of it as someplace we may go after death; some may think of it like peaceful moments in the world we currently live in. What do you think the kingdom of Heaven is like?
The kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God are the same, but Matthew uses the term, the kingdom of Heaven, and Mark and Luke use the Kingdom of God. Last week, I mentioned a little bit about how the kingdom of God is not a space, but Jesus himself. One day, Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘there it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). In other words, the kingdom of God means the world Jesus Christ brings and the world God reigns. Therefore, if you believe that Jesus is here and among us, the kingdom of God may be here and among us. Again, if you believe that God is here with us (Immanuel; God be with us), the kingdom of God is already here with us. However, it is still partly because our faith is not perfect yet. Therefore, we may say, ‘The kingdom of God is already here and now, but yet.” The Apostle Paul says, “But, speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). We should grow in love up to Christlikeness to fully see the kingdom of God.
We may understand the kingdom of God more through today’s scripture. We read five parable stories regarding the kingdom of God. They have the patterns: a pair with the parables of the Mustard seed and the yeast, a pair with the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl; then the parable of the net is about the judgment of God at the end of the age, likely the parable of the weeds we studied last Sunday. I bound the four parables in two pairs. Do you find any common themes in each pair of parables?
The first pair, the mustard seed and the yeast have a negative potentiality. The mustard was like wild weeds in Israel, which the people could see everywhere nearby Galilee Lake. It is like nobody cares as nothing significant is founded in it. And for the yeast, Jesus used a pessimistic parable to teach his disciples: “Be careful, the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). So, the Israelites didn’t use the yeast for their bread, and they usually eat unleavened bread, especially on their holy days like “Passover.” So, why did Jesus use the things that looked like unimportant and insignificant images for the kingdom of God? It has a hidden meaning, like Jesus of Nazareth: Nathanael asked his friend Philip, who invited him to see Jesus, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46) There is “no beauty or majesty to attract people” apparently, but “when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (vs. 32). Nobody expected Jesus would be the Messiah, they waited for. He was born in a manger. He grew up in a poor family. He worked as a carpenter in Galilee, Nazareth. However, he obeyed God’s mission to save all humankind and became the Lord, the Savior, and the Redeemer. The mustard seed and yeast also imply Jesus’ disciples, who were poor and uneducated and looked unvalued, but they became paramount Christian Leaders who spread the Good News over the world. And then, how about our church ancestors? Their faithful seeds were planted here for us, and came to us. Look at us now! Well, some may say, “It is a small church; it is a rural church; they have downsized, and so on. Whatever they say, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that our faith is God-Centered. God’s expectation makes the impossible possible. Let God work for us and our church. Accept God as the owner of life and ministry! Only God makes the impossible possible!
Also, let’s look at the second pair of the parables, the Treasure and the Pearl: They seemed very valuable, but were hidden. Not everyone can find them, very few can find them. Don’t you think they are all of us? We already found it. It is the Good News, Jesus Christ. That’s why we are still here today, even though others are not in church so they can be out and enjoy the summer. Those who know the value in our lives do not care about worldly matters. They want to keep their faith in God, even though they sell all their possession. We need to keep our faith in Jesus Christ, enduring efforts to do our best.
Finally, in the parable of the net, Jesus tells us the final judgment. The kingdom of Heaven is like the net used to collect good fish. It is similar to the parable of the weed: at the end of ages, the angels collect the weeds, bind them and throw them into the fire, and gather all the good grains (wheat) to store in God’s barn. The angels come and separate the wicked from the righteous. Jesus says, “Have you understood all this?” The children of God finally shine like the sun in the world and rejoice in Heaven. Thanks be to God, Amen!