“The kingdom of God has come near,” Jesus said. “Give up your kingdom-building and believe the good news.”
That’s where Jesus started in his teaching work.
Technically, he said “repent”. But at least part of repenting is quitting what you are doing that’s going away from the kingdom of God and start going toward the kingdom of God.
When the disciples started going toward the kingdom of God, they needed to know what that meant. And Jesus taught them with word and with deed.
The way he interacted was teaching. The people he treasured, the troubles he attended to, the ways he spent his time and attention were teaching. He was teaching them how to be disciples.
And he spent time talking, too. Telling stories that would help them understand, with pictures and with application. We don’t know all of the stories, of course, as much as we wish we could. Mark tells us that “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them.” But we know some of the stories. Seed sown, seed growing, seed thriving. And we know that the other stories were similar, not some secret truth that we’re missing out on.
A kingdom that starts inauspiciously, with a leader walking around telling stories that are not understood the first time. It’s not a kingdom that demand that people come to it. Instead, it has come near. Jesus walking and talking, engaging and withdrawing, planting ideas and hopes and images that will, eventually, grow.
You can imagine it, actually. For the Eleven, years later, reflecting on all these stories and events: “OMG. THAT’S what he meant? How awesome is that!”
And the listeners to this Gospel, living in Rome, seeing that approach to empire and thinking, “There is hope.” This isn’t an obvious kingdom.