As we wait for the king to be revealed, let’s return to the gospels and discover some of the things Jesus had to say about His coming kingdom; the kingdom of which we are now its citizens. We have already seen that it does not fit the mold of military might or political power usually attached to the word “kingdom.” So what are some of its characteristics?
For one, in fitting with the secret king, it is going to be a secret kingdom. “Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come’ “ (Mark 4:26-29).
Many of Jesus’ parables start with “The kingdom of God is …” His stories and word pictures give us so many visuals of the kingdom of God. In this passage, the kingdom of God is like a seed secretly growing in ways the farmer is unaware of. It just does its thing. And soon a harvest is produced. The “seed sprouts and grows and the farmer knows not how” suggests the secret nature of this kingdom.
We also see that the seed – the kingdom of God – is growing by itself. “The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head” (Mark 4:28). By itself is translated from the Greek word automatos; the Greek root of our English word, automatic. We are all familiar with the word “automatic” used to describe things that seem to run “by itself”, like an automatic transmission or an automatic dishwasher.
I love this idea of automatic. The point is that the kingdom of God is so unstoppable that it appears to be growing automatically. And we know from the rest of Scripture that God is causing the growth that appears to be automatic. As Jesus proclaimed, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
Does “automatic” mean that there is nothing for us to do in the kingdom of God, no work for us to join in on? No, there is plenty for us to do. There is plenty of seed for us to plant and water. Just look at Paul’s example, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (I Corinthians 3:6). Again, there is work for us to do, but the growth is totally of God’s doing, often in ways that are powerful and unexpected.