Jesus Explains the Kingdom of God to Tadpoles
Jesus spent quite a bit of time talking about the kingdom of God (Matthew calls it the kingdom of Heaven), speaking in metaphors and parables about what it is like. In fact, Mark 4:34 declares that he didn’t speak to them except in parables, reserving the secret of the kingdom for his disciples (v.11). I find Jesus’ methodology of teaching so fascinating. God incarnate, finally God is with us, Emmanuel, and yet he still spoke to the people in stories meant to confuse those not on the inside to be able to perceive. Even so, the crowd was still astonished at his wisdom, though not able to conceive his teaching, took offense at him (Matthew 13:54-58).
I wonder if Jesus thought of himself as a frog talking to a bunch of tadpoles.
I can picture Jesus sitting in a little boat, just off the coast of the sea, looking down into the water, wondering how in the world he is going to describe to these people what the kingdom of God is like. He looks up to a bunch of eager faces, ready for another piece of wisdom, another story they had never heard before. He speaks to the people, but perhaps even more so, he is speaking to himself, with a question. “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?” (Mark 4:30)
There is an old Buddhist story that describes the state of enlightenment, involving two tadpoles swimming in a pond. Suddenly, one becomes a frog and decides to swim to the surface and climb onto the land. After quite a while, the frog returns to its younger tadpole friend.
“What is it like up there, where did you go?”
“I went to a dry place.”
“What is ‘dry’?”
“It is a feeling like no other, to have the wind blow against your face and feel the warmth of the sun on your back. Someday, you shall understand what I mean.”
Jesus is describing the incredible kingdom of God to a bunch of tadpoles, most of which will never grow up, never know what it is to be ‘dry.’ Jesus continues. “It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:31-32)
How will these people be able to comprehend a kingdom that, instead of wishing to kill, conquer and extinguish its enemies, is based upon a love for them? Nobody can conceive of a kingdom where the first will become last, and the only way to enter in is to become like a child. What sense does it make to keep on forgiving a brother who continuously sins against them? A kingdom that doesn’t use violence to resist people who attack and take advantage of us will surely never be able to last, in their minds. And a kingdom who’s King gave up all his riches for poverty, humbling himself to the point of death, so his followers might become rich, is just inconceivable for these tadpoles.
The only way to know what it feels like to be ‘dry,’ to be able to describe this incredible kingdom, we must first grow some frog legs, and start living above the water. It starts out as small as a mustard seed, but large shady branches are soon to come.