Losing the kingdom
Mary spoke again to her disciples. “You who have known everything, who rule the world, you are still flesh and blood. Beware the dark ones who would rob you of what you possess. Beware your own weakness, the weakness of flesh and blood that would yet lose you the repose of the Father.” And she told them a story. Here it is as in Thomas:
“The kingdom of the Father is like a woman; carrying a jar full of meal and walking a long way. The handle the jar broke; the meal poured out behind her on the road. She was unaware, she knew not her loss. When she came into her house, she put down the jar and found it empty.”
And they asked her what this meant and she explained it. “The woman has the kingdom yet she has remained busy with the things of this world. She has not given time in solitude for the kingdom to grow strong in her. If you neglect the spirit then the spirit will fade and eventually disappear. Then you will go and find nothing. Every day, every hour you must give time for the spirit. For you each day is the Sabbath and the Sabbath is like each day. You must fast from the things of this world so that you do not get entangled in this world and lose your kingdom.”
And she continued. “Beware those who would rob you of the kingdom. These are the dark ones, the devils. They will enter into you and try to steal what you possess for they hate you beyond all mankind.” And she told them another saying preserved in Thomas:
“It is not possible for anyone to go into the strong man's house and take it by force, unless he bind his hands; then he will plunder his house.”
She explained it thus. “You are like the strong man. If you hands are unencumbered then no one can take you by force. But if your hands are bound by the ties and responsibilities of this world, by a wife or a husband, by children and property, then you lose your strength and the devils may overcome you and steal that which is yours.”
Much later the writer of Mark misunderstood this saying and thought the strong man was the devil and that we must bind him to overcome him. The writers of Luke and Mathew copied Mark in this misunderstanding. But they were wrong, for why should we want to plunder the devils house?
Mary continued, “Be prepared for the thief who comes in the night to steal your treasure.” And she added another saying from Thomas: “If the master of the house knows that the thief is coming, he will keep watch before he comes, and will not let him dig into his house of his kingdom to carry off his vessels. You, then, be watchful over against the world.”
And she told them two more sayings
“The kingdom of the Father is like a man who wanted to kill a great man. He drew the sword in his house and drove it into the wall, that he might know that his hand would be strong. Then he slew the great man.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard-seed, the smallest of all seeds; but when it falls on tilled ground, it puts forth a great branch and becomes shelter for the birds of the sky.”
Both of these are in Thomas. And Mary explained them thus. “The great man is your spirit who rules in your kingdom. The assassin is a devil who would destroy your spirit and rob you of your kingdom. First he tries his strength in his own house which is your body. Here he will strike. He will fill you with lust or drunkenness or gluttony, he will give you pains and trembling, he will fill your mind with blackness. If you allow him to succeed then he will prove his strength and he will go on to slay your spirit.”
“The grain of mustard-seed is a grain of evil that enters your heart. It may be tiny and insignificant. Yet if you do not root it out, if you allow it even the tiniest space it grow it will spread rapidly. It will be like the mustard plant that spreads faster over tilled ground than any other weed. And it will serve as cover for the birds of the sky. The mustard weed will choke the good corn and the birds it shelters will eat of the good seed and you will lose your crop and the fruit of your labour.”
Many who came after thought the mustard seed was itself the kingdom of heaven growing in a person. So strong was this interpretation that even the Gnostics accepted it. Yet it is clear there is something wrong with this. The mustard plant is not a noble, mighty plant but a small bush-like noxious weed that spreads rapidly over ploughed ground. As a weed it is clearly intended to be negative - in other sayings weeds prevent the seed from growing or are planted by the adversary. The birds that it gives shelter to are also negative agents or thieves as is shown in the parable of the sower. But the mustard seed that grew from something little became confused with the corn itself and so became for many a symbol of the kingdom.