"What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? ..." (Luke 13:18-19)

"What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches." (Luke 13:18-19)
This statement is not only misunderstood and misinterpreted. It has been mistranslated.

Is Jesus referring to the 'kingdom of God' as a place?

Jesus is not speaking of a place here - implied by the use of "kingdom of God."

The word "kingdom" is being translated from the Greek word βασιλεία (basileia). This word does not refer to a place or location as implied by this text and most other ecclesiastical Bible translations.

As stated clearly in the Greek lexicon, the word means, "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule - 1) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."

Thus we can know that Jesus is not speaking of a realm or place here - such as the spiritual realm as implied with the terminology.

Rather, Jesus is speaking of a person accepting the authority of God. Jesus is speaking of taking shelter in the Supreme Being.

This might thus be better translated as, "the sanctuary of God."

How can this be like a mustard seed?

When we understand that Jesus is speaking of something that provides shelter or sanctuary, we can begin to understand Jesus' parable of the mustard seed.

When the mustard seed grows, it becomes a place where birds and even people can find shelter there. In the case of birds, they can next in its branches. In the case of people, they can lie underneath the tree to find shade there.

God's world provides sanctuary because we can take shelter there. We can rest our souls there and be at peace.

What does planting the seed mean?

Jesus is comparing the process of planting a mustard seed to us developing our love for the Supreme Being.

The process of developing our love for God is like planting a mustard seed because this love for God is being compared to the mustard plant growing into a tree.

This is because as we develop our love for God, that love grows and grows larger over time. Then as it grows, it begins to manifest into greater love for others. This leads to sharing that love we have for God with others.

And it is that love for God that gives us sanctuary. It is that love that gives us and others shelter.

What gives us sanctuary or shelter?

Consider this carefully. Today we find most of us are taking shelter in the temporary flickering things of the material world. We are taking shelter of our money, our jobs, our careers, our families, our house, our health and so on. Each of these things is temporary. We will lose every single one of these things at some point.

Consider money. We make money and then we must spend it. We gain it and then we lose it. In exchange, we get some food and other material things. We eat the food, use the nutrients and crap out the remainder.

But then the nutrients are used by the body and eventually excreted out as well. In fact, our entire body flushes out its composition on an ongoing basis. Science has found that the molecules of our body five years ago are gone - and our body today is made up of completely different molecules.

This means that we lost the body we had five years ago. It's gone. For example, if we are 40 years old and we look back at a photo of our body when it was 17 years old: Are we looking at ourselves? No. The molecules of that 17-year old body are long gone. Those molecules are making up other things in the environment. The molecules of our current body have long replaced those.

This means we lost that 17-year old body and we are wearing a different body now. We couldn't take shelter in that teenage body, and neither can we take shelter in our current body. It will not only recycle molecules - but we'll be left with an old and aching body. And at some point, the body will die and we'll have to leave it behind. So we can't take shelter in our body's looks, or our body's health, or sex, or even in the body staying alive. Cause it won't.

Everything else in the material world is also temporary. We might have bought a hot-rod car when we were 17 for example. Where it is now? Probably long crushed or scraped by an auto-wrecking yard. It is gone.

So what about the car we treasure now? It too will be crushed or parted out one day. It will also be gone. We can't take shelter in it either.

Same with our house. One day it will be demolished or we'll move out. And our job and career. We will at some point have to retire from working. At that point, we will have lost our job and our career. They will be gone too. Can't take shelter in any of these.

But what about our family? Can't we take shelter in our family? Won't they always be there for us?

Think again. Most of us have experienced deaths among our family members. And we all will. In fact, every family member will die and leave us, or we will die and leave them first.

What about the "rapture"?

But won't we meet up with our family members in the "rapture"? Don't be ridiculous. The "rapture" is not a Biblical concept. Nor was it taught by Jesus or any of his disciples, including John in Revelations.

The "rapture" was a theory made up by John Darby in the early 19th century and furthered by C.I. Scofield in the early 20th century. Darby made up this idea - furthered later - that everyone would wait in their graves until Jesus returned. Then those who are "saved" (meaning they joined an approved sect) would float up to the clouds and meet up with their family members, and then float up to the next level and meet up with Jesus. Then they would inherit the earth as everyone else was slaughtered.

This is a speculative fantasy. It looks like neither of these men along with those who advanced the theory in modern times - and made millions from their books and lectures - have ever dug up a grave or old tomb. If they had, they would have discovered that the body thoroughly decomposes within a few decades. Even the bones will turn to soil as the maggots and bacteria eat the flesh and bones and the rest of the carcass at some point. 

Occasionally in the right circumstances, bones can mummify for longer periods but these are extraordinary situations. In most cases, the entire body will decompose to soil at some point.

So how is it that such a body can float up from the grave to the clouds if the body has turned into soil?

And because our family members are based upon these physical bodies - related to the birth of the body - how can we claim to be family members if the bodies have all decomposed?

The reality is that we are not these physical bodies at all. Our composition is spiritual. We are each spiritual beings who each temporarily occupy a gross physical body: Just as a pilot might get into an airplane and fly it. And just as the pilot cannot fly through the sky without the use of an airplane, we require the physical body to access the physical realm.

And just as a pilot must at some point get out of the airplane, each of us must at some point leave these physical bodies at the time of death.

What about our family?

But what about those relationships with family members? Will they also be gone?

Not necessarily. If our relationships with family members were based solely on the physical body - then yes. After the physical bodies have died, there will be no relationship.

But those family members who have developed deeper, spiritual relationships - yes, that deeper element of their relationships will continue. But just not based on the family. Only the deeper relationship will remain.

And the reality is that most family members are in the same family because there was a previous relationship between those souls.

Did Jesus promote family relationships?

Not so much. Certainly, Jesus respected his parents and also supported his siblings. We know that James and Jude - both brothers of Jesus - were followers of Jesus.

But Jesus also discussed that one who wants to follow him must reject the relationships of the temporary body:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate [detest] father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)
As added in brackets, Jesus is not speaking of "hatred" in the sense this word translates. Jesus wanted us to all love each other. Rather, the word μισέω (miseō) is means to detest something. One must detest the relationships of the temporary body - by embracing our spiritual constitution.

As in the verse above, Jesus is also speaking of taking shelter in Luke 14:26. Being a disciple of Jesus meant taking shelter of Jesus - and thus taking shelter of the Supreme Being. As opposed to taking shelter in the family of the temporary physical body. This is also why Jesus said:
“Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Luke 8:22)
Jesus is also speaking of taking shelter in the parable of the mustard tree above. It is not that the mustard seed growing into a tree and birds perching on it is comparable to the "kingdom of God" as though it is a location.

Rather, Jesus is saying that if one takes shelter of the Supreme Being, that devotion and love and dependence upon the Supreme Being will sprout and develop into a sturdy tree that can support and give shelter to others due to the strength and support of the Supreme Being.

Just consider how a small seed can become a large tree. As a seed and sprout, it is dependent upon being watered and cared for. But as it grows stronger, it is able to one day produces seeds and provides shade and support for other seedlings.

It is not that the tree is still not dependent upon having water and sun and other support. These are still necessary to keep the tree alive. But the tree is now stronger and more resilient. It can endure some harsh weather and a year of drought and still make it.

Such is the nature of taking shelter of the Supreme Being. Of relying on God. In the beginning, it must be planted by God's representative (symbolized by "a man" in the parable). Once such reliance upon God begins to grow it is still tender and can be damaged easily - like the mustard seed sprout. But once one's relationship with the Supreme Being - one's dependence upon Him - grows and matures, it becomes stronger and able to withstand challenges.

Where does this strength come from?

As a person advances spiritually - more and more they take shelter in the Supreme Being. They begin to depend on Him more and more.

But as that dependence grows, their own strength grows because God is the source of spiritual strength.

And having more spiritual strength and the ability to help others - is the result of their greater dependence upon the Supreme Being.

Jesus communicated his own dependence on God clearly:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
Jesus also communicated that his teachings came from the Supreme Being:
"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:49)
And Jesus prayed to God:
"Now they know that everything You have given me comes from You." (John 17:7)
These statements - and many others - communicate that Jesus was dependent upon God. He took shelter in the Supreme Being. And that allows others to take refuge him.

Does love for God give us refuge?

Yes, love for God gives us sanctuary. It gives us refuge.

Jesus reveals that within this relationship of dependence lies a relationship of love: Of Jesus loving the Supreme Being and wanting to do what pleases Him.

This is what we all ultimately seek. We all ultimately seek to fall in love with someone and give our lives to them and exchange a loving relationship with them and be able to completely rely on them.

The problem is that we can never find such a relationship among the temporary bodies of the physical world - regardless of whether they are humans or dogs or cats. Because not only are we all unreliable because we are not in control of things: But we also will each at some point lose our bodies - and leave behind those who care about us. This means that we are unreliable in the long run. We might say, "I will be there for you forever," but this is a false statement because we will have to leave them at some point - or they will have to leave us - at the time of death of the physical body.

But the Supreme Being is reliable. He will always be there for us. And we can take shelter in Him because He is in full control. We might not realize this now. Or we might be ignoring this fact. But it is still true.

In fact, the Supreme Being is so beautiful - so gracious and considerate - that He allows those of us who have rejected Him to be able to ignore Him. He has given us this physical world and these physical bodies so that we can seemingly escape our dependent relationship with Him.

That's because He enjoys love - and love must be given voluntarily. So God set up the perfect system to allow us the choice to love Him or not.

Some will demand: 'God if you exist then prove it: Show Yourself to me!'

Just think about such a demand: Let's say that a man and woman were together for many years in a loving relationship, and suddenly the woman just took off one day and ran off with another man. What would the man do? Likely he would be broken-hearted, but life would go on.

But what would such a man do if the woman called on the phone out of the blue years later and said, "Get your butt over here! I want to see you now!" What would the man do? Would he run to the woman just like that - even though the woman ran off years ago and hasn't contacted him since? Would he run for her just because she demanded it?

Certainly not. Such a man would likely suggest to the woman, "Show me that you care for me again, and then I might come see you. I don't want to get hurt again."

Oh, but we don't think that the Supreme Being has any feelings? That He can't be hurt when we reject Him and ignore His existence? That He isn't hurt when we claim that everything is God or we are God? That He isn't hurt when we write books trying to prove He doesn't exist?

Such a notion - that God's heart cannot be hurt (a transcendental hurt) - is saying that God doesn't have a heart. That He cannot love and thus be hurt by a loving relationship.

Such a notion would mean that we cannot exchange a loving relationship with God. And that is inconsistent with Jesus' teachings:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" (Luke 10:27)
Why is Jesus asking us to love God? As stated above, it is because this is what God wanted him to teach us. Why?

Because God does have a heart. He does love and He wants to exchange a loving relationship with us again (He always loved us). He wants us back. He wants us to fall in love with Him again. While He won't be answering to our demands as we might think, He will take a thousand steps towards us for every one step we take towards Him. Because He loves us and is full of mercy.

Such a heartfelt person - the Supreme Person - is lovable. We all seek love because God created us, and He enjoys love. This is why loving Him can make us happy.

And He is not the fearsome God that ecclesiastical, follower-seeking clergy have been trying to make Him out to be. He is loving and caring, and compassionate. He is someone we can give our hearts to.

And while our temporary bodies are destined to suffer in this temporary desert of the physical world - our spiritual selves - our real selves - can take shelter in our innate loving relationship with the Supreme Being. And that relationship will never die. It will only blossom into a large refuge-giving tree.