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Jesus taught mainly in parables. There are a few places in the Gospels where he speaks more directly, mainly to the disciples, but for the most part his teaching was done through parables (stories).

As you may know, the New Testament, including the Gospels, was originally written in Greek; Koine Greek, effectively a Greek dialect, which evolved from classical Greek. When Greek scholars at universities around the world look back at the fragments of very early manuscripts of the Gospels, in some cases dating from the 2nd century, they are not just checking that our modern translations are accurate and read well, they are also looking for something else – evidence of Aramaic. Aramaic was the language that Jesus spoke in daily life (Hebrew was reserved solely for worship in the time of Jesus). Eventually Aramaic contributed to the development of Arabic. Hence, in a very limited sense, Aramaic is a very old, now extinct version of Arabic. The way the Koine Greek is written, the phrases that are used and the structure of the sentences, suggests that the origin of the parables is oral, and that they were originally spoken in Aramaic.

Across 2000 years, from spoken Aramaic to written Koine Greek, and then, eventually, in the 16th Century to English (amongst many other languages) we have Jesus’ words in the parables, coming down through the generations to inspire us and, if we’re open to it, to guide us.

Jesus presented a picture of the world as it could be. One of his favourite phrases was “The Kingdom of God”. He uses it in several parables, including two lovely ones from Mark’s Gospel, the “Parable of the Growing Seed” and the “Parable of the Mustard Seed” (Mark 4: 32–34). “The Kingdom of God” is almost a catch phrase, especially in the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. We sometimes misinterpret it to mean just the idea of heaven, however, we probably misinterpret it in that way because Matthew in his Gospel actually translates whatever the original Aramaic phrase was as “the Kingdom of Heaven”, even in the parables which are otherwise almost identical across those three Gospels. I think the phrase in Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels “The Kingdom of God”, is more helpful, because it doesn’t just mean the idea of heaven, that beautiful, peaceful place we hope we will go after we die – no, it means something more: a world of peace and beauty now. It means a place of equality and justice, a place where all people live together in harmony, providing for each other, feeding each other across continents and nations, being generous, not exploiting poorer people or nations. It’s a picture of heaven here on earth. It’s an anticipation of heaven.

The evidence we have of Jesus, mainly in the New Testament – although there are a few other sources which tell us a little bit about him – suggests that he was no fool. He seems to have known that his radical message of love for everyone would, eventually, attract the unwanted attention of the Roman Empire. He also seems to have known, judging from our parables today, that this radical message of transforming the world would not happen quickly.

Thus, we have these two simple, but rather lovely parables about the Kingdom of God quietly and slowly growing, like seed growing into a crop in a field or like a tiny mustard seed, one of the smallest seeds in the world, growing into an impressive plant. However, creating the Kingdom of God takes time; there will be setbacks. It’s interesting to engage in philosophical debates in that respect. Occasionally people challenge me with a question like, “How could there possibly be a God, if there is still so much suffering and pain in the world? Surely that is the whole point of Jesus? Surely it is the whole point of God?”

The only response that makes any sense to me, one reason I still believe in God, actually, is because the universe that God created has its own integrity. God does not stop people from making poor decisions; God does not intervene, well generally not directly. I think we can certainly seek guidance and peace through prayer and meditation – but God does not stop us from making poor decisions, certainly not by force. If I close my eyes and walk across Hackney Road, praying for God to protect me, it will probably not end well! On the other hand, if I pray that God will guide me, that I may be more generous to those in need, well, “Now that’s a prayer” as Morgan Freeman, playing God, says to Jim Carey’s character Bruce in ‘Bruce Almighty’.

If we are open to it, if we pay attention, if we listen carefully, God does guide us. The Kingdom of God does grow.

In my short career as a 17 year-old farm hand on a wheat and sheep farm up near Clare, owned by a relative of the famous Hawker family, I learnt a few things. I learnt that Border Collies are the most intelligent dogs in the world. If you haven’t seen a well-trained sheep dog in action, believe me, it’s worth it. They are little champions. They were worth more to the farmer than I was, as it turned out! Another thing I learnt was that, when a farmer is harvesting a golden wheat crop, driving a big combine harvester (the machinery of choice on our crop farms across the country), there is no happier person in the world. I learnt that the seeds are sown in the topsoil in the early autumn while the earth is still warm; the autumn rains arrive, we all hope and pray, and the winter and early spring rains rain steadily. Then, in very early summer the farmer hopes and prays that the rain will ease and the crop ripens, ready for harvest. Was there a happier person than my boss driving his combine harvester on a summer’s day, that I can still picture in my mind as if it were yesterday? Not that day.


In Term 3 we will once again be offering the sacrament of Confirmation to the Senior School students (Years 7 and above). If your son is interested in being confirmed in the Anglican Church, perhaps even baptised first, please email me to register him for the program at

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain