The Parables of Jesus
Jesus used parables to teach about the Kingdom of God.
Six oranges and a jar of mustard seeds.
Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them. Mark 4:33-34 (NLT)
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Have you ever noticed that when we come together for the children's sermon, we almost always start by showing you an object? After showing you the object and talking about it for a few minutes, we usually say something like, "That reminds me of what Jesus said in our Bible lesson today." Why do we do that? It is to help you to better understand what the Bible lesson means.
Here is an example — suppose that a kindergarten teacher was teaching a lesson about subtraction. The teacher might stand up in front of the class and say, "Six minus two equals four." Of course, that is true, but to a class of young children that have never been taught about subtraction, they might not understand what the teacher meant.
Now, suppose that the teacher showed the class six oranges and said, "I have six oranges. (Count them.) If I take away two of those oranges, how many oranges are left? That's right! There are four left." (Count them.) Now the class would understand that six minus two equals four.
That is the same way that Jesus taught his followers about the Kingdom of God. When he taught, he began by saying, "The Kingdom of God is like..." and then he would give an example. That method of teaching is called a parable. The Bible tells us that Jesus used parables to teach people in such a way that they would understand. In fact, the Bible says, "He never taught without using parables." (Mark 4:34)
In our Bible lesson today, we find one of the best-known parables of Jesus. It is called "The Parable of the Mustard Seed." Have you ever seen a mustard seed? I have some to show you this morning. Look how small they are!
Jesus began his mustard seed parable by asking, "How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of seeds, but it becomes the largest of all the plants in the garden; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade."
Jesus was teaching his followers that the Kingdom of God had a small beginning. How many disciples did Jesus start with? You are right, Jesus began his ministry on earth with a very small group of twelve followers, but as they followed Jesus and told others about him, the Kingdom grew and grew until it covered the whole earth. You might think that you are too small to be an important part of the Kingdom of God, but when we tell others about Jesus, we help the Kingdom to grow to spread over the whole earth. So, when you start to think that you are too small to be important in the Kingdom of God, remember the parable of the mustard seed.
Father, we sometimes think we are too small to be important in the Kingdom of God. Help us to remember the parable of the mustard seed we have learned this morning. If we will tell others about what Jesus has done for us and what he wants to do for them, we can have a part in growing the Kingdom. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.