Jesus often spoke of His kingdom—a divine realm where His peace, joy, and love rule. It’s not a place we can see with our eyes here on earth—at least, not yet. But we don’t have to depart this world to experience it, either. No wonder believers find it hard to picture this spiritual yet physical reality. If even Jesus wondered aloud how to explain it (Mark 4:30), what can we know for sure about this kingdom?
Illustration by Adam Cruft
Jesus has been traveling around the Judean countryside with His disciples, staying in local homes and preaching to large crowds who are both drawn to and puzzled by His teachings.
Some teachers refer to the “already” and the “not yet” of the kingdom. How do you experience this concept in your own faith journey?
Jesus said, “Unless someone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), implying the faithful can see it. And Paul wrote that God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). His use of the past tense indicates that believers have already been placed in the realm of light. Yet the Lord said to keep praying for the arrival of God’s kingdom (Matt. 6:10). With these seeming contradictions in mind, reread 13:31-32. What does the Parable of the Mustard Seed tell you about the “already” and “not yet” state of the kingdom?
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21). But it’s not clear whether His words meant “inside you” or “among you.” How do you think each one of these can be true? Use the example of the mustard seed or yeast (Matt. 13:31-33) to express your thoughts.
We might think that when God is growing something, it will grow perfectly. But Christ’s story of the wheat field (vv. 37-43) adjusts our expectations of the world and helps us rest quietly in Him. Does the parable change how you feel about God’s sovereignty? Pause to reflect on verse 43. Savor its message for a moment or two before moving on.
CONTINUING THE STORY
Jesus has been sharing parables with a large crowd. But a few He told only to His closest followers (v. 36).
Why do you think the Lord might have saved the parables of hidden valuables (vv. 44-46) for His disciples? Consider how the words treasure, hidden, joy, and sells (v. 44) relate to your own experience of faith in Christ. What were you willing to “sell” (let go of) to obtain the treasure?
The parable of the pearl in verses 45-46 continues to emphasize the profound value and light-filled beauty of the kingdom. It also reiterates the roles of time and commitment. Why is it significant that the merchant did not obtain the pearl right away?
Jesus suggested that disciples of both the Law and the kingdom would have vast treasure (v. 52). If we look at the grammar of the original Greek, the text implies that other people are necessary for our growth—and that we’re necessary for theirs. What can you offer your fellow believers?
Right now, the kingdom of heaven is a constantly growing, spiritual place.
It is where we praise and serve God with other believers while dwelling in the unity of Christ. It’s also where we privately enjoy His presence deep within our heart.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
The pearl is perhaps the Lord’s most alluring symbol for the kingdom of heaven. Revelation 21:2 tells us that God’s completed kingdom will include a beautiful city called new Jerusalem. It will be built of many-colored gems, but its 12 gates—through which the people of God can freely enter and exit—will be made of pearls (Revelation 21:20-21).
Today, pearls can be created through cultivation, but in Jesus’ time, they were rare and extremely costly. Hunters endured the dangers and rigors of diving and might open thousands of oysters before finding one that contained the sought-after treasure. The Greek for “disciple”—mathētēs—indicates the follower of Christ is a learner who, with the Lord’s help, expends “the mental effort needed to think something through.” Ask God to guide you as we explore Christ’s metaphor more deeply.
Unlike other gemstones, pearls are created by mollusks to address an irritation deep in their flesh; we could say they are a beauty that results from suffering. How is this like God’s work in us?
In Matthew 7:6, Jesus urges us to value the treasures of our faith and share them wisely. What are some ways we can avoid “throwing pearls before pigs”?
Harvesting a pearl requires that the mollusk be opened, which kills it. How does this reflect Christ’s sacrifice?
Take a moment to give thanks—that our Savior died for us, but also that He lives again and we shall see Him at the end of the age.