Here is a link to the whole our series on the keys to the kingdom. Thanks to Jim Baker for doing this and to Bob Robinson for hosting the link at his site. And below is the full text.
KEYS TO THE KINGDOM
We begin today a series on the relationship of the kingdom of God to the Church and I do so for several reasons:
First, I have long wanted to sort out the evidence in the Gospels and Epistles again. I did some very serious work on kingdom in the 80s and 90s but have felt a need to return to that same evidence with new questions.
Best book on kingdom: See GR Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God .
Second, many today have chosen to prefer ?kingdom? over ?church? in a way that is not unlike this idea: as I like Jesus instead of the Church, so I like kingdom instead of Church. This concerns me, and it concerns me deeply. It plays off the distinction between kingdom and church in a way that is out of line with what the New Testament says.
Third, in the history of the Church, many have either equated or come close to equating kingdom with the Church. E.g., Augustine, many Roman Catholics (and I assume Eastern Orthodox), and in some ways in the Reformed traditions. Today?s rather cavalier playing off of these two concepts, then, needs to be more respectful of these Church traditions, even if it disagrees with them. (It bothers me when folks dismiss this view without really even knowing about the history.)
Fourth, Dispensationalism has at times (what it is now is no longer what it was) made a radical distinction between kingdom and Church, not unlike our ?second? point, but with a different set of factors: kingdom being more related to Israel and God?s governance in earthly terms and Church being a spiritual organism. The second group tends to eliminate Israel from ?kingdom of God?, sees kingdom as justice and peace and good government in this world, and see the Church in other terms (though I?m not always sure where this group might be on this question).
Fifth, George Ladd?s famous discussion in his NT Theology (chp 8.), the book on which my generation cut its teeth, defines ?kingdom? as a dynamic relationship with God and therefore the kingdom ?is never to be identified with the church? (109). This is a non sequitur in my judgment, but it is also our QED ? what we are looking at in this series.
1. NT does not equate believers with kingdom. But he presses on both Matt 13:41 and 16:18-19. But, we?ll look at this too.
2. The kingdom creates the church. This assumes the point and explains church as following the kingdom.
3. The church witnesses to the kingdom. True, but beside the point. One can reverse it: kingdom people witness to the church.
4. The church is the instrument of the kingdom. Same weakness; it is explaining the point rather than proving the point.
5. The church is the custodian of the kingdom. Same.
Here we go then? creates, witnesses, is the instrument, and custodian are not arguments but explanations ? each assumes that the two are not the same and explains the one vis-a-vis the other. I want to challenge this but I want to challenge it by looking at the texts in the Gospels to see if these explanations are the best explanations.
Sixth, to a different subject: the singular background to ?kingdom? for Jesus must be kept at a general level for now: kingdom arrival, as Jesus teaches it, must mean the fulfillment of Old Testament and Jewish expectations for the society God has always intended for Israel/God?s people. [The idea that ?kingdom? means simply ?heaven? in life beyond death is a reduction; there is continuity between kingdom and heaven, but the two are not synonyms though many seem to use the terms this way.]
There are tons of things to say ? they?ll all come up in the series and in the comments you will offer. Tomorrow I begin with Mark 1:15.
There are 85/eighty-five distinguishable references to ?kingdom? in the Synoptic Gospels. There are more references, but there are overlaps between Matthew, Mark and Luke that permit us to narrow the references to 85. We?ll look at each one. Here is my breakdown if you?d like it:
Matthew (cutting out Mark and Q references): 32
Luke (cutting out Mark and Q references): 22.
We begin with Mark 1:14-15, with Mark?s summary description of Jesus? ministry: ?14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ?The time has come,? he said. ?The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!? (See also Matthew 4:17, the parallel.)
1. Mark assumes that his readers know what ?kingdom of God? means. We can assume that he means the kingdom as expected in the Old Testament and Judaism.
2. The kingdom message is the gospel message (v. 14 ties to v. 15).
3. When Jesus says ?is near? he means ?on the horizon.? This word does not mean ?already arrived? but on the verge of arriving. There is a subtle difference here but we should maintain it. There is an eschatological expectation here: the Big Day is about to arrive!
4. One enters into this kingdom/gospel message of Jesus by ?repenting and believing the gospel.? This is not said in so many terms; it seems, however, the only expectation. Jesus announces the near-arrival of the kingdom; he calls those who want to enter it to repent and believe his gospel message.
5. The implication of this summary is that there will be a set of followers around Jesus who can be called Jesus? kingdom community. It is true that there is a ?dynamic? at work; but that dynamic is society-forming and not just a dynamic at work in individuals.
Now a point I want to make that I?ve made on this blog before: Jesus rarely uses ?church?. Twice, to be exact. What are we to make of this?
1. Did Jesus announce the kingdom but it was the church that formed in its wake?
2. Did Jesus preach a bigger vision (kingdom) that the Church narrowed (church)?
3. Did Jesus use one term (kingdom) for God?s society and NT writers used another term (church) for God?s society?
I think #3 deserves serious consideration. #1 is in some sense true; #2 deserves to be challenged. (Could it be that we have not defined ?church? big enough?)
See GR Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God .
We turn today to two texts, Mark 3:24 and 4:11. Here are the texts:
3:23 So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: ?How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
This text uses ?kingdom? in proverbial fashion. It is set up next to ?house?. A good suggestion here is to see ?kingdom? referring to a political kingdom, say one like that of Pilate (a Roman one) or Antipas? (a more Jewish one).
Mark 4:11 reads, in context:
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, ?The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
? ?they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!?. ?
1. Jesus chooses riddle-like parables to explain what he means by kingdom. He doesn?t define it; he plays with it by using images.
2. Jesus? disciples, those who have seen and perceived, those who have heard and understood, and those who have turned and been forgiven (see 1:15) have now grasped to some degree the ?secret? of the kingdom of God. [Those who define ?secret? tend to guess too much for me at this point in our discussion.]
3. The ?secret of the kingdom? is the ?kingdom itself.? That is, ?secret of the kingdom? probably means the ?secret which is the kingdom.? (Standard grammatical explanation.)
4. To connect ?secret? to kingdom means that kingdom is in some sense connected to a kind of knowing others don?t have.
5. Clearly, kingdom describes the community of repentant, perceptive, understanding followers of Jesus.
Our kingdom series now moves to Mark 4:26, the fifth reference to kingdom:
Mark 4:26 He also said, ?This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain?first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.?
1. Jesus chooses to play with kingdom as a term by casting up an image of what it is like.
2. Point: the kingdom is like the situation of a farmer who plants and waits; he doesn?t do anything and he doesn?t comprehend it, but the seed finally grows.
3. An emphasis here is on ?All by itself? ? and most take this to be an image of God-at-work. Human effort is played off God?s work.
4. Harvest normally refers to judgment in the teachings of Jesus.
5. This parable does not demand quietude or passivity; instead, it focuses on God?s ?under the ground, mysterious work.?
6. Still, the farmer does something: he plants. (And he is concerned and humble and patient.) Planting probably refers to preaching gospel.
7. Kingdom here is the work of God that has ?above the ground? manifestations.
8. Kingdom describes the work of God, now both below and above ground, that will result in a final judgment.
9. The work of God is the gospel message of Jesus at work now.
See GR Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God .
Mark 4:30, much like our parable from yesterday, deserves to be quoted as well in context:
Mark 4:30 Again he said, ?What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.?
There have been two major interpretations here: one focusing on gradual growth and one on contrast. The first emphasizes the gradual growth of the kingdom until it takes over (often connected with postmillennialism) and the second the major contrast between present appearance and final glory. I prefer the second one. (I haven?t mentioned this book of mine: A New Vision for Israel ; it is my textbook on the teachings of Jesus in historical context.)
1. The present manifestation of the kingdom is like a mustard seed and leaven: inauspicious, quiet, small.
2. The future manifestation of the kingdom is out of proportion to its present manifestation: thus, it will be magnificent and glorious and all pervasive.
3. Shade for birds probably refers to Gentile inclusion in kingdom (cf. Ezek 17:23; 31:6; Dan 4:10-12; Ps 104:12).
4. Work now, Jesus saying, in spite of how inconspicuous it looks because Pay Day is Coming!
5. Kingdom of God seems to refer here to the present humble state of God?s work among God?s People.
Here?s a tentative proposal: kingdom of God refers to the gospel, the good news of the inconspicuous underground/above ground work of God, in the present, among those who repent and believe in Jesus. These people ?get it? (comprehend) and are restored and forgiven. This work of God is leading to a grand and final harvest-like judgment.
Again, see GR Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God .
Mark 9:1 is one of those texts that has baffled interpreters for centuries: And he said to them, ?I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.? What does this tell us about the kingdom and, if anything, about the kingdom?s relationship to the church?
1. There are a few texts that, while we cannot treat each one here, deserve to be brought to together because each emphasizes what can only be called the ?imminency? of the kingdom of God. That is, Jesus teaches that there will be something dramatic and it will happen soon. Those texts are Luke 19:11; 17:20; Mark 13:20-22 and especially Mark 9:1; Matthew 10:23 and Mark 13:30.
2. The question always leads to this: What is it that will happen imminently? The views vary wildly and widely.
3. Mark 9:1 says the kingdom of God will come with power. Some see this as:
The Transfiguration (which happens six days later in Mark 9:2-13): this view is at least contextual if it is also a rather immediate event when one would have thought Jesus was predicting something a little further down the road.
The Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD (here ?with power? would be close to ?in judgment? or ?in vindication? and ?in enthronement?).
4. Also in context: these words assure the disciples that, like Jesus, suffering will eventually be swallowed up in victory. Thus from Mark 8: 34 ?Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ?If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father?s glory with the holy angels.?
Matthew?s parallel is very much along the same line of thinking: Son of Man coming and kingdom coming with power are connected.
5. If one follows the contextual flow from chp 8, the kingdom coming with power is connected to the Son of Man coming in his Father?s glory with the angels.
6. I draw this tentative conclusion (tentative because this is a complex saying and it would take pages and pages to work out any resolution): kingdom here refers to the act of God in judgment in 70AD which, as I understand ?Son of Man coming,? refers to the inaugural enthronement of Jesus before the Ancient of Days. (I have my doubts that this text refers only to the Transfiguration and there were no angels at the Transfiguration. There is perhaps here an elasticity to ?kingdom with power? that could include any significant display of God?s saving and judging power at work ? transfiguration, cross, resurrection, Pentecost, 70AD and Parousia.)
7. Kingdom and Church? It does not appear to me that anything is said unless we see in ?Son of Man? not only Jesus but all the saints with him. In which case then Mark 9:1 would indicate also the vindication of the Saints of the Most High. The themes here are judgment, power, enthronement, rule, dominion, glory, etc.. And it is imminent.
8. What then does kingdom mean here? A decisive, significant act of God in saving and judging and enthroning. Whatever it means, it happened in the lifetime of some of his disciples. Therefore, before 90 AD at the latest. I think it is best to see it referring to the act of God in judgment and vindication at 70AD.
Mark 9:47, our 9th reference to kingdom, reads as follows in context: ?42 ?And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where? ?their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.? 49 Everyone will be salted with fire.?
1. Here kingdom refers to a place or a condition into which someone enters. (This could be a ?relationship? but this is probably not enough.)
2. The kingdom in this text, by being connected to Gehenna (the symbol of final condemnation), probably refers to something in the future. (E.g., Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God )
3. Entering into that kingdom is the most important thing in life and anything in one?s way must be hurdled and any load to heavy to shoulder must be discarded.
4. Treatment of children is the moral issue that gives rise to this saying.
5. Kingdom here is nearly synonymous with ?life.? So, life and kingdom are in contrast with Gehenna and hell. Hell is a place of unquenchable fire.
6. Now, is this Eternity or Kingdom on earth? The context is not entirely clear. Since ?hell? is normally taken to be an eternal condition, many take this to refer to the kingdom of eternity. In which case it would be either millennial earthly manifestation type of condition or an eternal condition.
7. Regardless, whether earthly or eternal (they are in continuity with one another), that kingdom is a society where God?s rule is established. Kingdom here seems to refer to a place or a condition where God?s will is supremely established and practiced.
I cannot think the expression ?kingdom of God? can ever mean anything other than a set of conditions in which God?s rule is carried out among his people. Kings need people (kingdom) and that involves a society where God is king and God?s people are God?s subjects.
8. Still, the focus of this text is moral: nothing must stand in the way.
Our next text is actually two texts: Mark 10:14-15. Here it is: ?13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ?Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.? 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.?
1. Jesus says that the kingdom belongs to children who respond to him.
2. Jesus says one receives the kingdom.
3. Those who ?receive? the kingdom also ?enter? the kingdom.
4. The ?futurity? of the kingdom, so it seems from this text, is Everyone?s Future: when one responds to Jesus one enters into the kingdom; when one receives the kingdom one enters the kingdom.
5. Is this futurity the eternal kingdom? It is possible to read these two texts as promising a place in the (yet future) kingdom into which no one had yet entered as Jesus was speaking, but I think this view places too much emphasis on time.
6. The emphasis here again is moral: respond as you are supposed to and you enter into the kingdom of God.
7. Hence, the kingdom here is God?s saving grace, God?s holy grace, God?s will ? however one wants to summarize it ? into which individuals enter. Thus, kingdom is connected to a people that populates it.
8. Hence, also, the kingdom is experienced (only) by those who receive it, who respond to Jesus as the children responded to him. That is, who respond to Jesus by receiving him or by trusting him or by following him.
Mark 10:23-25, three more references to kingdom, say about the rich young ruler?s response to Jesus: 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ?How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!? 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ?Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.?.
1. From the young ruler?s question (v. 17), we can infer that ?eternal life? and ?kingdom? are connected terms. This does not mean ?kingdom? means ?heaven? since ?eternal life? is a dynamic expression of the life of God at work in Jesus and his people that carries into eternity. Still, the question the rich young man asked was about inheriting eternal life. I doubt the man was asking about a better life on earth; I doubt he was asking about a relationship with God; I doubt he was asking about a dynamic in the now. I suspect, in other words, he was asking about entrance into life with God beyond the grave. This is the implication at the end of this passage for sure.
2. Or, perhaps, he is inquiring about Jesus? well-known message about the coming kingdom of God, which he may have understood as earthly/millennial type of thing, and he was asking about that. I take that to be just as likely. Still, the man?s question is about the future manifestation of God?s kingdom.
3. Jesus said it was difficult, very difficult, nearly impossible, perhaps impossible, for the rich to enter into the kingdom because their riches were an obstacle. For Jesus, since he thinks anything too heavy must be discarded, the singular call for this rich man was to give up his riches to the poor if he wanted to enter into the kingdom (when it arrived).
4. For Jesus entrance into the kingdom required a moral rigor or a level of commitment or a deep discipleship ? I know of no other way to say what Jesus is getting at here. He says it is very difficult to enter the kingdom and the only ones who do are those who have given up all to follow him. The disciples of Jesus are even taken aback by Jesus? words.
5. Once again, kingdom is future in some sense and it is also entered only by those who do what Jesus says. This is a gift from God (v. 27). Jesus reveals that those who are giving up things for Jesus will be blessed by God both now and, in the future, with eternal life.
6. Here kingdom refers to eternal life, to salvation, carried forward into the present and flowing into eternity. Kingdom refers to that society wherein God?s will holds sway and those who do what Jesus teaches enter into that kingdom. King, will, society.
Our 15th reference to kingdom is found in Mark 11:10 but we need the immediate context too: 4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, ?What are you doing, untying that colt?? 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ?Hosanna!? ?Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!? 10 ?Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!? ?Hosanna in the highest!? 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve..
1. The anticipation of the crowds, including the disciples according to Luke 19:37, is eschatological: they see in Jesus the arrival of the one who comes in the name of the Lord. This is messianic and it is Davidic ? it is the arrival of royalty.
2. Jerusalem is the center of this expectation; the expectation is ruggedly earthly. It concerns peace in the Lukan parallel (19:38).
3. The one who comes in the name of the Lord is the one who brings what? ?The coming kingdom of our father David.? This, my friends, is the very heart of anything and everything said about kingdom in the Gospels. The expectation of David?s kingdom frames everything the disciples around Jesus expect and Jesus gives them that ? but not as they expect.
4. Yet, at some level, they are mistaken for the kind of kingdom expected is not quite what Jesus brings. Instead, the kind of kingdom he brings will not be by way of the sword or the throne, but by way of the cross and a church and a coming kingdom.
Here are some themes that arise this week out of the texts we have examined:
The kingdom is the long sought-after kingdom of David as it was expected to come at the close of the Age. That kingdom will come with power by the end of the lifetime of his disciples.
The kingdom is intimately connected to Jesus.
The kingdom is populated by those who are attached to Jesus; by those who receive the kingdom and who enter the kingdom. These people discard anything that hinders their entrance into that kingdom.
The kingdom is connected to the eternal life of eternity.
Mark 12:34, in context, reads: ?28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ?Of all the commandments, which is the most important?? 29 ?The most important one,? answered Jesus, ?is this: ?Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.? 31 The second is this: ?Love your neighbor as yourself.? There is no commandment greater than these.?
32 ?Well said, teacher,? the man replied. ?You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.?
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ?You are not far from the kingdom of God.? And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
1. The scribe?s question appears to be a genuine one ? he wants to know how to put all of the Law into one bundle of clarity. Jesus? clarity is what I call the Jesus Creed : love God and love others.
2. The scribe?s attempt not only to restate Jesus? point but also extend it lead us, so I think, to his heart: he gets it. Yes, Love of God and love of others is the heart of the Torah and they ?more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.? This puts the scribe with some of the prophets who also called Israel to the heart inside the ritual.
3. Jesus? response touches on kingdom of God: this man?s response reveals that he is not far from the kingdom ? and it is not hard to see that ?not far from? might be a litote (deliberate understatement) to say this: ?You are in, brother.?
4. I infer that ?entrance? into the kingdom involves perception of the essence of God?s will as taught by Jesus and commitment to that Jesus.
5. Some see the ?not far? to be descriptive only (not a litote). That is, this response reveals the scribe is close ? very close ? to entrance into the kingdom of God. He gets it; he?s on his way ? that sort of thing. (There is no reason to be dogmatic about this for we can?t tell from this grammar if it is a litote or a description; furthermore, both views are consistent with things Jesus teaches.)
While ?kingdom? is found twice in Mark 13:8 ? ?kingdom will rise against kingdom? ? and neither of those is about Jesus? kingdom, the usage here is part and parcel of what the word ?kingdom? means because they are what ?kingdom? has to mean: namely, kingdom refers to a society with a king, king?s will, king?s people, and some kind of land boundary. And so when Jesus refers to ?kingdom of God? that meaning carries over to some degree. But our concern today is with Mark?s 19th reference, found in Mark 14:25. In context:
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ?Take it; this is my body.? 23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 ?This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,? he said to them. 25 ?I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.? 26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives..
1. Here clearly kingdom is a state of affairs or a set of conditions that is yet future to the last supper: ?I will not drink again ? until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.?
2. The apostle Paul expounds this expression in 1 Corinthians 11:26 with these words: ?For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord?s death until he comes.? That is, for Paul the ?drink anew in the kingdom? refers to the coming of the Lord. Whether Paul had a ?Near? Expectation for such a coming or a ?Far? Expectation is not really at issue for understanding Jesus ? what matters is that Jesus? expectation for the coming kingdom was very early connected to the expectation for his coming.
3. That future kingdom can be ?symboled? with the image of a Great Banquet. You know probably the many times Jesus ?symboled? or ?imaged? the future kingdom as a banquet. I discuss that image in my book, A New Vision for Israel .
4. The future kingdom is the resumption of former fellowship.
5. All Lord?s supper occasions are anticipations of the future Banquet.
6. The kingdom here is future ? a future set of conditions in which God?s will is established for God?s society ? and participation in the Lord?s supper is a present expression of faith in that kingdom and a present participation in that kingdom.
This last point, to be honest, could be drawn out into all kinds of points ? if Lord?s supper anticipates kingdom, what does that tell us about kingdom? It?s a good question; I shall imagine today many of you chatting about this over coffee or with friends somewhere.
The final reference in kingdom in our earliest source, the Gospel of Mark, is found in Mark 15:43 and it ties back to Mark 12:34 (Monday?s post). Here is the reference in context: 42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus? body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid..
1. Joseph of Arimathea is portrayed here as a pious Jew, not unlike Simeon of Luke 2. Both Matthew 27:57 and John 19:38 state that this man is a ?disciple? of Jesus. He is connected to Nicodemus in John?s Gospel, connecting him at some level then to John 3 and the nighttime interview of Jesus by a secret would-be disciple, and he is also part of the inner religious establishment in Jerusalem. Joseph is well off. His action here is risky.
2. We can infer that ?waiting for the kingdom? is not simply a nice way of describing the pious among those who did not actually follow Jesus but is instead a short-hand expression for disciple. So, when it says he was ?waiting for the kingdom? we can infer he was a disciple of Jesus. Disciples await God?s kingdom. As RT France (Mark ) puts it: kingdom ?is intimately bound up with the mission of Jesus, so that [he] must be on Jesus? side.?
3. Again, as with Mark 14:25, the kingdom here is a set of conditions ? king, will, society, land, etc ? in the future for which disciples wait in hope. Hope for the future manifestation of God?s will (upon earth?) is inherent to genuine discipleship.
We looked at the references to kingdom in Mark; we now turn to the passages found in both Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. Many Gospel scholars call these passages in Matthew and Luke (but not in Mark) ?Q? ? a letter beginning the German word ?Quelle? meaning ?Source.? That is, the Source both Matthew and Luke used in addition to using Mark. Whether you agree or not doesn?t concern me ? the first passage is another one of those that are not ?Jesus? kingdom? but we should pause briefly with it.
In Matthew 4:8 (par. Luke 4:5) we read: ?Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 ?All this I will give you,? he said, ?if you will bow down and worship me.? Here we have kingdom meaning the reign of a king, over a kingdom of subjects where his/her will rules and where there are boundaries to the land ? expanding or shrinking as they might be. It is my belief that we make a momentous mistake if we don?t factor in this simple sense of kingdom into all our discussion of what Jesus means by kingdom of God.
Now to Q:
Matthew 5:3 (par Luke 6:20): ?Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.? Luke is different, and his difference is more than a meaningless distinction: Blessed are the poor.? Full stop.
1. Jesus promises kingdom of God to those who are poor ? now ? those who are poor in spirit ? now. Every good Gospel teacher will tell you that Jesus probably used the Hebrew word (or Aramaic equivalent) ?Anawim? ? meaning the pious poor who, like Simeon and Anna and Mary, his mother, were socially destitute and who waited for the Messiah to come to liberate them, restore Israel to its proper place, end poverty, end oppression, and establish God?s will and kingdom. Jesus jumps into that Israelite expectation and says, ?I agree.?
2. The kingdom here is probably future ? at least it is future to the poverty of the poor right now.
3. But, many say the present tense of ?is? ? in ?theirs is the kingdom of heaven? ? indicates they?ve got the kingdom now as they follow Jesus and enjoy the community of Jesus that cares for the poor. I don?t know that one can decide from the evidence in the Beatitudes which of these is the right one with certainty, but the focus of the rest of the beatitudes is futurity. I?m inclined to think this is promise, but even if that is accurate, the point is not ?hold off, hang on, for good days are coming? but ?it?s now being set in motion.?
4. Which means this ? very important ? the future kingdom where God?s society will be established in love, peace, and justice, is now making its way into the present in those who follow Jesus. No one can promise a future kingdom to the poor who doesn?t work for those poor in the here and now to instantiate that kingdom now.
5. A theme here and elsewhere: for Jesus kingdom reverses everything observable now in this world. Hope, then, rules among those who follow Jesus. Hope for a future of God?s kingdom. A hope that simultaneously motivates behaviors and vision now.
We now come to a second ?Q? text: Matthew 6:10. If Jesus ever defines kingdom of God it is here:
? ?Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
1. Since this is classic Hebrew parallelism, one can infer that kingdom coming and God?s will being done are complements to one another. So much so that in this case one might say ?kingdom? is ?God?s will being done.?
2. Anyone who takes the time to compare Matthew?s version of the Lord?s Prayer with Luke?s version of the same knows that only Matthew has the lines about ?your will be one on earth as it is in heaven.? Some think Matthew ?redacted? the Q saying; most think that extra bit is inherent to the first bit so that is genuinely historical at some level even if it is not verbatim.
3. The crucial element here is not if Matthew added it or if Jesus said it this way on another occasion but this: kingdom, if defined by the ?your will be done? line, is about God?s will being ?done on earth as it is in heaven.?
4. Kingdom then is future in some sense but it is a future that will be manifest on earth. Kingdom is the earthly manifestation of God?s will. This fits with the Jewish Qaddish prayer that forms the background to the Lord?s Prayer: ?May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time.?
5. Jesus? vision is kingdom vision.
6. That coming kingdom would mean:
Justice, peace, love, righteousness, etc.
End of oppression
Judgment on the enemies of God
Vindication for the oppressed friends of God
Society encircling Jesus
7. ?Brief as it is, no more comprehensive prayer than this can be prayed.? GR Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God , 151.
8. This prayer shows that kingdom coming on earth is an act of God.
A favorite text for man is Matthew 6:33 (Q par. at Luke 12:31). Here it is in context: 25 ?Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28 ?And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ?What shall we eat?? or ?What shall we drink?? or ?What shall we wear?? 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own..
What can we learn here?
1. Seeking the kingdom puts one in a position to participate in God?s blessing of provision. How does God provide? Since manna doesn?t appear to be the norm, one would have to say that the provision of God looks more often like Matt 10:9-13 than anything else. Namely, the provision is made through the gracious giving of kingdom people.
2. Is the kingdom present or future? Hard to tell; one might say that seeking it ushers one into or one could say, and this seems more likely to me, one orients herself or himself toward the kingdom and, by orienting oneself toward that kingdom, one finds oneself in company with others of the same hopeful orientation.
3. Those who seek the kingdom like this are not like the Gentiles; and Gentile here is defined stereotypically as those who live for materiality, pleasure, and things.
4. Kingdom is here intimately tied to ?righteousness? and this word means ?the behaviors God expects of Eikons and his people.? So, yes, ?justice? is a good translation, but so is ?righteousness.? What is behind both is a King who clarifies his will through Jesus (Matt 5:17-48 is the pristine example). So, to seek righteousness is to do what Jesus teaches. Justice ? I say this all the time ? is not defined by the US Constitution or the Enlightenment sense of rights and duties but by God?s will as taught by Jesus.
It seems to me that kingdom here is the future kingdom, the kingdom where God will reign through Christ over the kingdom society in which God?s will is established.
Yet another ?kingdom? reference (from Q) can be found in Matthew 8:11 (par. Lk 13:29). Again, the full account: When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 ?Lord,? he said, ?my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.?
7 Jesus said to him, ?I will go and heal him.?
8 The centurion replied, ?Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ?Go,? and he goes; and that one, ?Come,? and he comes. I say to my servant, ?Do this,? and he does it.?
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ?I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.?
13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, ?Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.? And his servant was healed at that very hour..
1. Kingdom is future. How far into the future? Is this imminent or is this the Eschaton, the End of History? Many, of course, naturally take this one to be those who will sit with Jesus in the kingdom, ie heaven. There are reasons for this, not the least of which are that the Old Testament and the Gospels connect Eternity (in some sense) with the Great Banquet.
2. But this text isn?t so compliant on this score. Why? The idea of v. 12 is that there are some ? namely, the ?subjects of the kingdom? ? who will be tossed out. What does ?tossed out? mean?
3. My suggestion, not one I?m willing to die on a hill for, is that this text might well be referring to 70AD. That is, Jesus predicts that the day is soon coming when the kingdom?s natural inhabitants will be turned out while the followers of Jesus, Jew or Gentile, will be ushered into the kingdom. Now it is not hard to connect 70AD with a full-blown Gentile mission, as can be seen in Matthew 22. So, whether you agree or not, the point is worthy of serious consideration.
4. Now to our issue: What is the kingdom here? Once again it is hard to know: it all rests on the meaning of the word ?kingdom? and the images connected to it in this context.
5. Faith, or human response, is about one?s relation to Jesus.
6. The ?east and west? probably refers to Gentiles coming into the kingdom at some level, though some have suggested this is the Diaspora Jews returning to Zion.
7. Clearly, some are in and some are out.
Here are the words of Jesus from Matthew 10, our next reference to kingdom in the Gospels: 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ?Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ?The kingdom of heaven is near.? 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep..
1. The message the twelve missionaries are to preach is summed up in these words: ?the kingdom of heaven is near.? The same is found at Luke 9:2 where it is connected as well with healing.
2. This message is the same message John (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus (4:17) preached. Thus, part of this point is continuity: from John to Jesus to the Twelve we have one message; that message is that the kingdom has drawn near.
3. The terms ?is near? means future, perhaps imminently future, but still future. This term does not mean ?already here? but ?near, very near, so near its presence is being felt.?
4. Alongside this ?message? (kerygma) is act: healing, raising dead, cleansing lepers, exorcising demons, living by faith in God?s provision.
5. Do we look back too? Is the kingdom Jesus preaches and tells his disciples to preach the kingdom that gathers in the ?lost sheep of the house of Israel?? If so, this kingdom is not concerned with Gentiles or Samaritans, but the ?lost sheep? ? whoever they might be.
6. The praxis of missioners is to enter a community, find someone worthy ? someone who responds to this kingdom message and actions ? and settle there. So, there is community formation involved in this missional work. (Opposition too!)
It seems to me we are back to two things: (1) what the word ?kingdom? meant in the Jewish world (esp here) and (2) how Jesus has used this term up to this point. My contention is that we thrust back on these themes: God as King, Davidic kingdom expectations (think Magnificat, Benedictus, Nunc Dimittis), God?s will, God?s society, God?s society doing God?s will, etc.. Land is involved in such expectation.
OK, now stepping up to the plate in the kingdom game is a notoriously disputed text. Here it is in context: 11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 He who has ears, let him hear..
The Lukan version of this is slightly different and here it is: 16 ?The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law..
1. Unquestionably, the kingdom is present in this text.
2. A timeline makes this clear: ?from the days of John Baptist until now, the kingdom has been forcefully advancing.? That means it has been storming its way along since the days of John. But this means John was not really part of the kingdom since Jesus says that those who are ?least? in the kingdom are ?greater than he.? There is a definite time change, not so much with John ? who is the hinge ? with Jesus. It is with Jesus that kingdom arrives in some sense. (How? we?ll get to this below.)
3. Kingdom?s arrival means kingdom?s opposition. The forceful men, so I think, are best typified by Herod Antipas who put John to death. These folks are trying to stop the kingdom. This means we have a clear shot at Roman empire and complicity with Jewish leaders.
4. Now Luke?s Gospel adjusts this slightly ? and speculating here what the original Q looked like probably will win no converts ? but it is clear that Luke?s Gospel presents the advancing of the gospel under the image of evangelizing and preaching the good news.
5. Then Luke changes the response from one of opposition to one of aggressive penetration into that kingdom circle.
6. The kingdom of God here describes the circle around Jesus who are right now responding to his good news (evangelism), following him, growing with him, and adding one person at a time to his circle of followers.
Matthew 12:26 is yet one more non-Jesus kingdom. ?If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?? So we move to Matthew 12:28, one of the most popularly quoted statements of Jesus: 25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ?Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you..
Luke?s version varies only slightly: But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you..
1. Here the kingdom of God is present. The verb ephthasen/has come upon refers to a present experience in the here and now.
2. The indicator of the kingdom?s presence is exorcism; better yet, liberation as a result of exorcism.
3. It is Jesus who brings this liberation; kingdom?s liberation comes through Jesus.
4. Does this mean that wherever there is liberation there is kingdom? No. Wherever there is liberation as a result of Jesus? liberating power there is kingdom.
5. Are the exorcisms tokens of the final? eschatological signs that kingdom is coming? manifestations of what things will be like?
Here is a word of Jesus from Matthew 13: ?33 He told them still another parable: ?The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.?
This parable is attached to the parable of the mustard seed, and the big issue has to do with whether or not these parables are parables of ?growth? (describing how the kingdom will grow and eventually take over the world) or parables of ?contrast? (describing humble beginnings as contrasted with great endings).
New book: Klyne Snodgrass has for twenty some years been working on a handbook on the parables of Jesus and it is now out (Stories with Intent ). It?s a must-have for students and pastors. I?ll be posting on it later.
1. To compare kingdom of God to leaven is an oddity. Leaven (not yeast; leaven is fermented dough, a patch left to be used in the next batch) is not only unclean but it is also so insignificant, and this seems to be a major point of Jesus: it looks small, it looks humble, it looks insignificant.
2. To what would Jesus have been referring to, if we think concretely? The kinds of followers around him, the kind of background he had, the kind of ministry he carried out, the kind of response he was getting, and the kind of death he would die.
3. Leaven permeates, so the parable must also be referring to the permeative potency of the kingdom of God Jesus embodies and spreads.
4. There is here an organic growth as well ? slow, painless, inevitable, keeps on working.
To what does the kingdom refer here? The power of affects and effects by Jesus and his kingdom message on those around him. Which means, there is also a growing number of followers around him ? growth is about growth
We have now finished the references to kingdom in Mark (and parallels) and Q. Now we turn to references to kingdom found only in Matthew. We begin with Matthew 3:2: In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, ?Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.? 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
?A voice of one calling in the desert,
Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.? ? .
1. John the Baptist preaches the same message we have seen of Jesus. Is this a way of drawing John into Jesus? orbit or a way of showing continuity? Is is a summary capsule, in Jesus? words, or more of the wording of John? We?ll probably not know.
2. Proximity in time (and in a sense space) creates urgency for response: since the kingdom?s arrival is imminent, it is time to respond by repentance.
3. Which means sin and the system have got to go if one wants to participate in the kingdom.
4. John is the figure announced in Isaiah, which means John?s message anticipates the message of Jesus ? which puts back in the old observation we have been making routinely about kingdom: kingdom and Jesus are inseparable.
5. What John is announcing is not just a cute metaphor but, as Isaiah?s sweeping announcement shows, the Return of the glorious one, of God, to Zion. (Think about that one for a bit.)
6. Isaiah also tells us that the whole world will see this happen.
Our next reference, the 33d separable reference to kingdom, is Matthew 4:23 (and I?ll tie this with #40, 9:35). Very important little sketch of Jesus? ministry by Matthew: Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
1. This passage finds its complement in 9:35. The two of them together surround the Sermon on the Mount and chps 8-9 (miracles, discipleship) to make this section into one grand presentation: ?Here is Jesus.?
2. The news going around everywhere might ? just might ? be an allusion to all flesh of Isaiah 40 hinted at in Matthew 3:2.
3. Most importantly, Jesus? ministry is three-fold:
b. Preaching kingdom
c. Healing one and all.
4. Kingdom, so it seems to me, refers to the power of God at work in Jesus in this ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing. Kingdom may only refer to the preaching part, in which case we are not given clues.
5. At the minimum, we have to see kingdom in its word-sense: it refers to a King, to a King?s will, and to a King?s society. Now present in some sense, or at least now being announced.
6. I think #4 may be a fuller sense but I think one has to connect kingdom to healing and to this massive attraction to Jesus ? showing again the christological focus of anything close to kingdom.
The beatitudes, Jesus? blessing of specific kinds of people, twice promise the kingdom: I include them all, since the first and last beatitude are kingdom:
3 ?Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
1. Both the poor in spirit and the persecuted for righteousness are promised the kingdom.
2. The promise in each beatitude is not so much a present benefit but a future benefit that promotes hope in the person. Which is not to say the hope doesn?t make a difference in the now, but it is still future.
3. This kingdom is future ? how far off we can?t tell, but it is future.
4. ?For righteousness? refers to those who suffer at the hands of others because they live righteous lives ? that is, they are people whose character and behaviors conform to the will of the king (as taught by Jesus). (Notice again that Jesus and kingdom are inseparable.)
5. What is that kingdom? Let me take a stab: God?s society where the injustices of this world will be undone. Is it heavenly or earthly? I would say ?earthly? but ?ideal.?
One of the most noteworthy references to kingdom can be found in context at Matthew 5:19: 17 ?Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven..
1. Jesus is being accused of breaking the Torah; Jesus says that, actually if truth be told, he is not breaking but fulfilling the Torah ? bringing it to its divinely-intended goal. (He sees the Torah as the preliminary glimpse of God?s will and he is the fullness of it.) Notice again how central Jesus is.
2. Those who follow and teach Jesus? teachings will be great in the kingdom; those who don?t will be ?least? (which is a gentle way of saying ?not at all?).
3. Kingdom is future; kingdom is entered in that future by following Jesus in the now.
4. To enter that kingdom one must not follow the Pharisees and scribes, or at least not behave as they behave.
What is kingdom here? Evidently, God?s society: king, king?s will as taught by Jesus, king?s people who follow Jesus, future society where it will all be right.
The following text puts the kingdom into the future: Matt 7:21 ?Not everyone who says to me, ?Lord, Lord,? will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ?Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?? 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ?I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!?.
The passage comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount and functions as the ground for the warning to respond by doing what Jesus has taught in chps 5?7. The text following this one supports the thrust of this passage.
1. As with other references, ?kingdom? is not overtly defined so we are left to the meaning of the term ? and here one falls to the default position: Davidic kingdom and its future, final manifestation.
2. Entrance into that kingdom is the focus of this passage: entrance is limited to those ?does the will of my Father who is in heaven? ? and one can assume the will of God as revealed by Jesus since doing his teachings is the focus of the next passage.
3. Some will be banned from that kingdom. Jesus is no universalist.
4. Some banned will call Jesus ?Lord, Lord? ? they at least know Jesus? role in history.
5. Some banned will appeal to their charismatic deeds ? prophesying, exorcising demons and doing miracles.
6. Those banned will be told by Jesus that he has never known them and that they were evildoers.
OK, the words of this text teach that entrance into the kingdom is based on doing God?s will.
Here is a most interesting text in our consideration of what Jesus means by ?kingdom.? It is interesting because, though it is not strictly a Jesus/kingdom text, it sheds light: Matt 8: 10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ?I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.?.
1. The Q parallel at Luke 13:28 does not have ?sons/subjects of the kingdom.? It is probable, though never close to certain, that Matthew has added this expression. So, we gain a clue to what Matthew (at least) means by the expression ?kingdom.?
2. The point of this text is that Gentiles respond and fellow Israelites do not respond to Jesus.
3. The ?subjects of the kingdom? are most likely, then, Jewish contemporaries of Jesus who are not responding to him. (Very consistent stance on Jesus? part here.)
4. But this means that kingdom subjects can be banned from the future kingdom.
5. Which means in some sense that Jews are subjects of the kingdom (of some kind) but may in the end not be in Jesus? kingdom.
Our next text, #41, is from a parable of Jesus: 18 ?Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.?.
1. Kingdom is something about which Jesus preaches ? so it has content. One can infer, in general, that ?kingdom? is the overall message of Jesus ? about God, about himself, about God?s work through him, about the cross, about his vindication, about discipleship, etc..
2. The Evil One opposes Jesus? kingdom message by snatching perceptions from those who hear it but do not comprehend it. Cosmic conflict is inherent to kingdom theology.
3. Jesus? preaching of the kingdom is like sowing seeds ? this refers to his routine preaching of that message.
4. Response to Jesus? kingdom/seed message requires reception and production; those who respond properly persevere and live in accordance with Jesus? teachings about wealth (v. 22).
Here?s yet another interesting parable about Jesus? teaching on the kingdom: Matthew 13:36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ?Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.? 37 He answered, ?The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 ?As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear..
1. Jesus sows the seed of the kingdom of God by preaching and creating followers.
2. In the world ? the field represents the world ? there are two kinds of people: kingdom people and non-kingdom people (?sons of the evil one?). This is apocalyptic language designed to draw boundaries.
3. Cosmic conflict theme: Satan sows weeds among the kingdom people (in the world).
4. The final judgment will separate the two ? kingdom from non-kingdom people.
5. The kingdom comprises both kingdom people and non-kingdom people. The non-kingdom people, though, have been surreptitiously sneaked into the kingdom.
6. The only kingdom happening, though, pertains to the kingdom people.
7. I?d be careful here but this needs to be considered: there is world here (=field) and world is not the same as ?kingdom.? Kingdom is in the world.
8. The sons of the evil one are cast away, those surreptitiously sneaked in, and the ?righteous? (followers of Jesus? those who respond to the seed/kingdom message?) will shine in the Father?s kingdom. Future, clearly. After judgment (of some kind).
A short one: 44 ?The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field..
But full of ideas. We will begin Feb 22 a series on the parables of Jesus by going week by week through Klyne Snodgrass?s big ole book on the parables (Stories with Intent ). (So, some thoughts will be postponed until then.)
1. Kingdom is like a treasure.
2. Kingdom is like a treasure that is buried in a field.
3. Discovery of this treasure generates joy in the finder.
4. This treasure is so valuable he sold everything he had ? an allusion perhaps to surrendering one?s possessions or materialism as a disciple.
5. The kingdom is worth everything one has.
Another parable opens up kingdom discussion: 45 ?Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. What do we learn about the kingdom?
1. The point of this parable seems to be the inestimable worth of the kingdom, and therefore
2. The rightness of giving up everything for it.
3. If one begins with ?sold everything,? one could then suggest the kingdom is the community or society wherein one finds a total reversal of socio-economic conditions.
4. If one begins with ?great value,? then one would be led to see the kingdom as something like the presence of God?s salvation and the need to abandon everything in order to enter it.
5. The kingdom here is neither clearly present nor future, but instead is something available for those who turn toward it.
The next parable about the kingdom of God is found in Matthew 13:47-50: 47 ?Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth..
1. The kingdom is compared with the experience of fishing with net and how the fishing operation works: dropping down, hoisting up full of fishes, dragging to shore, and separating.
2. The focus of the parable is not on fishing nor on the mixture of folks the kingdom fishing attracts, but on the judgment at the end of the age.
3. Those who do not respond to the kingdom will be judged ? and here I see the primary focus to be the experience folks have with 70AD when Jerusalem was sacked but the secondary (and larger) context to be the inevitability of consequences for one?s respond to kingdom. In other words, the point of the parable is that all will be judged.
4. The intense anguish spoken of parabolically here intends to communicate regret and the impossibility of returning to undo one?s non-response.
Our next kingdom text (#49 if you are counting) is found in Matthew 13:52. In context: 51 ?Have you understood all these things?? Jesus asked.?Yes,? they replied. 52 He said to them, ?Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.?.
1. I?m not convinced the disciples did understand Jesus but they said they did. There?s not much in the parables of Mark 4 or Matthew 13 that leads one to think they really did comprehend what Jesus was saying. Still, whether they did or not, Jesus builds on their ?yes.?
2. Those who comprehend the kingdom are like a teacher of the Torah. (The ?like? element is assumed.)
3. Those who comprehend kingdom have the capacity to bring out ?new? and ?old.?
4. The storeroom is either the Bible (Hebrew Bible for the disciples) or Israel?s history (Bible plus events since then).
5. The ?both? is important: followers of Jesus both adhere to the ways of God in the past and strike forward into new territories.
6. Unlike the sacred tradition folks, Jesus advocates newness (and this was probably controversial focus of the parable).
Today we enter a text that has been a source of controversy. So, let me quote it in full and offer just a few brief remarks:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ?Who do people say the Son of Man is?? 14 They replied, ?Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.? 15 ?But what about you?? he asked. ?Who do you say I am?? 16 Simon Peter answered, ?You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.? 17 Jesus replied, ?Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.? 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
1. Jesus evokes a confession from Peter. Jesus responds ? and most of this is only in Matthew?s Gospel ? and uses kingdom.
2. I consider this important, but not all agree: church and kingdom are laid side by side in this text: ?And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.?
3. Does this equate the two? Not at all. Does it distinguish the two? Perhaps. But what it clearly does is connect the two: Jesus is building his Church and Peter is given the keys to the kingdom. I cannot but think kingdom and church overlap in some sense.
4. The Church, since it is Jesus? work, will not be thwarted by the Enemy or by Death.
5. Peter, somehow, has keys; keys are used to lock and unlock doors and gates; Peter is the one given the charge to open and shut doors or gates.
6. What are these keys for? It says to bind and loosen ? and keys and binding/loosing, like church and kingdom, are laid side by side as if they are nearly the same thing ? and this has a variety of meanings, the most popular of which seems to be the capacity to render judgment for the church on what to believe and how to practice discipleship.
7. The future perfects ? ?will be bound/will be loosed? ? shows that when Peter renders judgment, and this is passed on to the other disciples in 18:18, he will be rendering a judgment already decided in the heavens. Thus, the passage says Peter will be guided by God?s Spirit to render divine decisions.
8. You can?t get away from it: here is considerable authority to the apostles (which extends for us to the NT) and to God?s Spirit guiding the church. This text does not endorse the Eastern Orthodox or the Roman Catholic; instead, it promises guidance to the apostolic community. That guidance, as extended into our day, will have to be rooted into that apostolic guidance in what I prefer to call the ?primacy? of Scripture.
Another kingdom text can be found at Matthew 16:24-28: 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ?If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father?s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.?.
1. If the Messiah suffers, those who are connected to him will also suffer; discipleship takes its cues from Christology.
2. Losing with Jesus is winning with God.
3. The Son of Man will come into his Father?s glory (this does not say ?return? to earth as many assume) with angels and hand out rewards to his followers. This text assumes Daniel 7.
4. The warning is this: some standing with Jesus ? at that point ? will not die before something huge happens.
5. That ?huge? is seeing the ?Son of Man coming in his kingdom.? Again, ?coming? does not mean ?descend,? though it could; it could also mean ?ascend.? Inasmuch as Son of Man is the principle figure, and since Dan 7 is the background, the motion of that Son of Man should be our first inclination. That would mean the Son of Man?s ?coming? is an ?ascent? into the presence of the Ancient of Days in order to receive glory and kingdoms. It?s in your Bible, go ahead and look up the motion of the Son of Man in Daniel 7.
6. Within 30 or so years the disciples will see this happen. What happened in that time? The most likely interpretation (for me) is 70 AD as an event that demonstrates the Messianic status of Jesus and which establishes Jesus as Lord. The sacking of Jerusalem vindicates Jesus and those attached to him.
Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ?Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?? 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: ?I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 ?And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 ?Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell..
1. To understand the meaning of ?kingdom? in Matthew 18:1 (and vv. 3, 4), we need to consider in its context of 18:1-9.
2. Here ?kingdom? has some kind of substantive relationship with the words ?enter life? and ?eternal fire? and ?fire of hell.?
3. The focus is on entering into the kingdom; and that means kingdom is in some sense not entered into for those persons to whom he is speaking. Thus, in some sense it is future. But, an emphasis here is on the conditions needed in order to enter: those who enter are those who are humble and those who discard what impedes entry.
4. With the near parallel thoughts in 18:8-9, futurity seems clinched. Even those who are followers are not guaranteed spots without the necessary conditions met. Jesus gives a rather terse response to his followers who inquire about greatness.
5. Still, as one orients one?s life toward this Jesus who leads into the kingdom, that kingdom begins to make itself manifest in the here and now.
6. The kingdom in this passage, again not clearly defined, seems to me to be the eschatological conditions of promise.
A parable describing kingdom: Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ?Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times??22 Jesus answered, ?I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 ?Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt?…
26 ?The servant fell on his knees before him. ?Be patient with me,? he begged, ?and I will pay back everything.? 27 The servant?s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 ?But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ?Pay back what you owe me!? he demanded. 29 ?His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ?Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.? 30 ?But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 ?Then the master called the servant in. ?You wicked servant,? he said, ?I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn?t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?? 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 ?This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.?
1. The kingdom is like this parabolic world of debt and forgiveness and unforgiveness.
2. Entrance into the kingdom correlates with one?s being forgiven and that forgivenness generating forgivingness on the part of the one forgiven. Much like Matt 6:9-15.
3. Final forgiveness, which is where the parable concludes, correlates with forgiving others.
4. The kingdom is inhabited by persons who are forgiven and who forgive.
Matthew 19:10 The disciples said to him, ?If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.? 11 Jesus replied, ?Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.?.
1. This statement about becoming eunuchs ? renouncing sex and living an ascetic lifestyle ? ?because of the kingdom of heaven? needs to be set alongside the pearl of great price and the treasure buried in the field. In other words, what this saying tells us is that the kingdom is so valuable some choose to renounce life?s normal pleasures and relations.
2. It is hard to know if the kingdom is present or future here; since it isn?t clear, we should probably avoid thinking we can know.
3. The kingdom, impending or present, impinges so much on one?s life that one directs all of one?s passions toward it.
4. Asceticism is a choice; a desirable choice according to Jesus in Matthew 19:12 end.
Our 50th kingdom text is found in Matthew 20:1: 1 ?For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 ?About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ?You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.? 5 So they went. ?He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ?Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing??
7 ? ?Because no one has hired us,? they answered. ?He said to them, ?You also go and work in my vineyard.? 8 ?When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ?Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.? 9 ?The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ?These men who were hired last worked only one hour,? they said, ?and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.? 13 ?But he answered one of them, ?Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn?t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don?t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous??
16 ?So the last will be first, and the first will be last.?.
1. Again, kingdom is parabolized: it is like the situation of a man hiring workers at different times and calling them all into the office for pay at the end of the day where each person gets the same pay. Some grumble; some are thrilled. The owner replies rather pointedly that he had lived up to his bargain and so had they. Further, he has the right to pay what he wants. And he calls attention to his generosity (NIV). And the last line shows that the point of it all is that the last are first and the first last ? a kind of turning of the tide.
2. The parable is much disputed; we?ll look at it later this year when we proceed through Klyne Snodgrass? new book on parables (beginning tomorrow: Stories with Intent ).
3. We are concerned with kingdom: the kingdom is like this situation somehow. How so? It is like a generous owner handing out more to some than to others, though each gets both what he/she deserves and the same as others. Or, it is not like one thinks ?justice? is for this owner isn?t concerned with quid pro quo. Or, since God is generous, the focus is on the inclusion of those who are presently excluded from kingdom realities.
My own view is that this parable critiques a justice system based on merit ? that one gets, and should get, what one has earned. Jesus teaches that God?s grace deconstructs the simplistic justice system (without denying the justice system as having value).
20 Then the mother of Zebedee?s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 ?What is it you want?? he asked. She said, ?Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.?.
1. Overall, this statement is simple: Salome (traditonal) wants her sons to sit next to Jesus in the kingdom. That kingdom is the Davidic kingdom of Jewish hope.
2. This kingdom suggests an earthly reign where there are thrones, etc..
3. The desire provokes consternation on the part of the other disciples and piercing words by Jesus ? words even James and John don?t quite comprehend. Those who seek the kingdom, Jesus says, are not those who seek to dominate, rule and wield power. Instead, kingdom seekers serve one another in love.
4. Jesus?, the Son of Man?s, self-sacrifice on the cross embodies the proper stance of those seeking the kingdom of God.
Our next text is Matthew 21:31. In context: 28 ?What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ?Son, go and work today in the vineyard.? 29 ? ?I will not,? he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 ?Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ?I will, sir,? but he did not go. 31 ?Which of the two did what his father wanted?? ?The first,? they answered. Jesus said to them, ?I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him..
1. In a context about ?who?s in and who?s out??, Jesus tells a parable to dramatize the situation.
2. The parable essentially teaches what can be found in the Sermon on the Mount, and esp what comes to a head in Matthew 7:13-27: it?s about doing what Jesus says. It?s about righteousness.
3. The parable is also consistent with the essential response required by Jesus: repent and believe (Mark 1:15) ? that is what Jesus critiques a group (Pharisees?) for not repenting and believing in him.
4. Entrance into the kingdom is by way of (1) repenting and (2) believing in Jesus.
5. Entrance is not secured by simply confessing Jesus or by intention or by claim (21:28-30).
Our next text is in the middle of a parable, found at Matthew 21:31-45: 43 ?Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.?.
1. The parable is about response to the Son; thus, the parable has a christological focus.
2. The ?kingdom? here is something that Israel?s leaders or Israel presently possesses. This reminds me of Matthew 8:5-13 where the ?sons of the kingdom? will be kicked out of the kingdom at the End.
3. The kingdom the leaders/Israel presently possesses will be taken from the leaders/Israel and given to others.
4. Who are the others? It could be Gentiles (?a people? is translation for ethnos) or the ?collective people? who do the fruit ? an image for doing what Jesus teaches. The kingdom will be given to them ? there is here an church-focus to the kingdom. Kingdom is here connected to the people of Jesus.
5. V. 44 brings back into view the christological focus again: the stone is Jesus and that stone will be the Final Judge.
We now look at another kingdom text, this from Matthew 22:1ff: 1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 ?The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come..
1. This parable is about the wedding invitations; they invite a bundle of folks who choose not to come; so they invite the marginalized.
2. The parable has striking similarities to the workers in the vineyard with the abuse of the messengers.
3. Here are the crucial words of the parable:
?8 ?Then he said to his servants, ?The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.? 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.?
4. The wedding was filled with folks ? some good and some bad.
5. One man who was not properly attired was expelled.
6. Those who will enjoy the banquet are the chosen; many are invited but few are chosen.
In this parable, the kingdom is like a big banquet ? and this image evokes the final kingdom of God. The parable focuses on who will be in and who will be out. The ?in? group is the chosen. Theology shapes who it is that wears the proper wedding attire. In my view, those who have followed Jesus, who are related to Jesus, who repent and believe ? that sort of thing. It smacks of fanciful to see this as being attired in the righteousness of Christ since that sort of language is not found in the Gospels.
Matthew 23: 13 ?Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men?s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to..
1. The Pharisees think they are helping people enter the kingdom; they are not.
2. The kingdom here is seemingly future and it is a ?place? into which folks enter ? like entering into a building.
3. Pharisees ? those who oppose Jesus and those he opposes ? will not enter into the kingdom; they block others from entering into the kingdom.
4. Those who follow the Pharisees also will not enter.
5. The kingdom here could also be presently realized to some degree ? maybe those who are not following the Pharisees are in and they are not in.
What is kingdom here? Let me take a stab: it is that state of affairs (salvation state of affairs?) into which Jesus ushers people, about which he preaches, and into which he calls those who are interested in following him.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come..
1. ?This gospel of the kingdom? assumes meaning from reading Gospels. So, one must simply fill in the lines: I believe it is the message of Jesus about the society of God being established, a society marked by justice, peace, and love; it is a society surrounding Jesus.
2. The gospel is the gospel about the kingdom; this gospel is being preached and it will be preached throughout the world to Gentiles.
3. The End comes when the kingdom has been preached throughout the world.
Matt 25:1 ?At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep ?..
Here again? parable ? we anticipate fuller discussion when we get to Klyne Snodgrass? treatment of this parable.
1. The kingdom is compared to a wedding at which five virgins were ready to see it all and five were not.
2. The overriding theme here is judgment and being ready for the event.
3. I?m not so sure it does much good to speculate what ?oil? means ? it means they were ready ? but whether or not it refers to Spirit or something like that is speculative.
4. Kingdom is future; the point is to be ready for it when it comes.
How is one ready? By having oil ? which means? attitude, commitment to Jesus, and behavior consistent with such.
Matthew 25:31 ?When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 ?Then the King will say to those on his right, ?Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.?.
1. We have here clearly a parable about the Eschaton, whenever one thinks it might begin.
2. That kingdom is the time when Jesus begins to reign.
3. That kingdom involves a final judgment of all.
4. That kingdom judgment separates sheep from goats.
5. The sheep will enter the kingdom.
6. They enter because they have identified with and shown compassion to ?the least of these my brothers?. Thus,
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
I do not think it is likely these ?brothers? are simply Jewish contemporaries of Jesus; I believe it refers to the missioners of Jesus, and a good solid parallel is Matthew 10:40-42:
40 ?He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet?s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man?s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.?
We now turn to Luke?s Gospel?s special uses of ?kingdom.? Technically, this is the 64th reference to kingdom in the Gospels and it comes at Luke 1:33. This one is from Mary: 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, ?Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.?.
1. This kind of text clarifies the whole expectation theme for the 1st Century Jew: the kingdom Mary anticipates is the Davidic kingdom; that means Israel; that means Land; that means Jerusalem; that means stuff that is very earthy.
2. Her son, Jesus, will occupy that throne.
3. His throne will be an eternal throne.
4. His kingdom is eternal.
While it is clear that Mary will ?revise? what she says here as she sees her Son unfold his kingdom vision, not the least of which is the cross and a humble gathering of folks, the themes of this vision of Mary remain central: justice, peace, love, earthly kingdom manifestation ? society in which God?s will is finally established.
Luke 4:42 At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, ?I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.? 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea..
1. You must take into consideration Mary?s vision to comprehend what Jesus is saying here; that Davidic expectation is what shaped everything about the word ?kingdom? in Israel?s prophetic expectations.
2. So, when Jesus starts preaching ?kingdom? he?s preaching the fulfillment of Davidic expectations.
3. Which means: earthy, Land, Jerusalem, society, Jesus at center, peace, justice, love.
Luke 8: 1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod?s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means..
Again, Jesus is preaching kingdom?
1. Davidic kingdom expectations have to be factored in as that which shapes the mind of those who listen to him: society in which God?s will is established and done.
2. Cosmic power is at work in Jesus as he preaches kingdom ? Satan is being overthrown.
3. Political power shifts are at work.
4. Gender inclusion is at work.
Do you think vv. 2-3 are indicative of kingdom realities?
10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ?Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.? 13 He replied, ?You give them something to eat.? They answered, ?We have only five loaves of bread and two fish?unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.? 14 (About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, ?Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.? 15 The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over..
There are plenty of things to say about this brief comment in Luke 9:11 about kingdom.
1. Kingdom is something Jesus talked about with everyone, including crowds of what appears to be total strangers.
2. Kingdom is here probably to be connected to healing ? showing that kingdom is fulfillment of all those grand and glorious hopes in the Old Testament.
3. The feeding miracle is connected, at some level, with manna and provision by God. The evocations from this can be manifold.
4. Feeding the 5000 (males) shows that the kingdom is a meal, is a feast, and is feast to which all sorts are invited.
Here are some of Jesus? most demanding kingdom-words: 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ?I will follow you wherever you go.? 58 Jesus replied, ?Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.?
59 He said to another man, ?Follow me.? But the man replied, ?Lord, first let me go and bury my father.? 60 Jesus said to him, ?Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.?
61 Still another said, ?I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.? 62 Jesus replied, ?No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.?.
1. These specific commands to would-be followers are particular instances of the parables of the pearl of great price and the treasure found in the field.. In other words, the kingdom is so valuable it is worth giving up everything for.
2. Jesus is the kingdom?s agent: he is the one who reveals and commands. Living like Jesus (v. 58) and following Jesus and proclaiming the kingdom are more important than other obligations in life. This is strong stuff.
3. Jesus? followers are expected to destroy anything that impedes the task ? the relationship with Jesus and doing the work of the kingdom.
The kingdom here, as it always is, derives from OT Davidic dynasty expectations. But, it is also here a claim on a person?s life and a claim proclaimed to others. That claim penetrates so deeply one can have no other claim and remain faithful to the claim.
Here these words of Jesus about the kingdom from Luke 10: 8 ?When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ?The kingdom of God is near you.? 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ?Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.? 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town..
1. Once again, as in Luke 9:11, kingdom is connected to the power of God at work to heal folks of physical diseases. This theme derives from the OT and from expectations that the kingdom of God, when it arrived, would end all suffering and disease ? etc.. So, kingdom is naturally connected to healing.
2. Kingdom is not only something Jesus proclaims, embodies, and enacts for others, it is something he has given to his followers who also proclaim, embody and enact that kingdom.
3. Kingdom proclamation is both the announcement of redemptive relations and of warning of judgment ? if the people don?t turn, they will see bad days.
4. The kingdom of God ?is near? most likely refers to Jesus? expectation, along the lines of Mark 9:1 and Matt 10:23, that something big-time will happen very, very soon. (I believe this comment refers to 70AD.) In other words, the work of God?s special redemption is so imminent things are already being seen ?as if? it is already here.
The 72d separable kingdom text is found at Luke 12: 32 ?Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also..
1. Here the kingdom is something Jesus? followers are given by the Father God.
2. Because ?treasure? is virtually equivalent here with ?kingdom,? we are probably wise to see kingdom as something in the future ? a future state of affairs when God?s will is perfectly established among his people and probably on earth. Jesus? followers will enter into that kingdom. I leave it as a possibility, though, that kingdom here is present. I doubt that view, but it is not at all impossible.
3. Those who enter the kingdom, so it appears from just this text, are those who have sacrificed for the poor. Kingdom is in some sense compensation for suffering in this world. (Do you think this is in this text?)
4. Kingdom value and one?s possessions are connected ? the latter reveals the former.
Luke 13:22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, ?Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?? He said to them, 24 ?Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ?Sir, open the door for us.? ?But he will answer, ?I don?t know you or where you come from.? 26 ?Then you will say, ?We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.? 27 ?But he will reply, ?I don?t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!? 28 ?There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.?.
1. OK, there?s no getting around this: those who are ?going to be saved? and those who are ?in the kingdom? are equivalents here.
2. OK, there also no getting around this: Jesus isn?t a universalist; he?s an exclusivist at some level. Only those who follow him, who are not evildoers, and who know Jesus and are known by Jesus will find entrance into the kingdom. This is a good approximation of what Jesus means by the ?narrow door.?
3. This means kingdom is for the followers of Jesus; kingdom is connected to discipleship and not to general, benevolent, universal good and justice.
4. Some who think they deserve entry ? no doubt those who think they are saved or how have assurance etc ? will discover they won?t be permitted entry. Jesus says this to disrupt those who are listening.
5. Make sure you are one of those who enter into the kingdom. How? Turn to Jesus, listen to him, follow him.
We are now heading around the corner into the homestretch in this series on kingdom. There are 85 discrete references to kingdom in the Synoptics and we have examined 73 of them. We are now at #74 and I anticipate 6 more posts on kingdom ? which will go on simultaneously with our ?Preparing for Pentecost? series. Ah, I say to myself, a little more Bible won?t hurt us! Here?s our text today: Luke 14:15 and I include the necessary context.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, ?When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.?
The Parable of the Great Banquet
15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ?Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.? 16 Jesus replied: ?A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ?Come, for everything is now ready.? 18 ?But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ?I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.? 19 ?Another said, ?I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I?m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.? 20 ?Still another said, ?I just got married, so I can?t come.? 21 ?The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ?Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.? 22 ? ?Sir,? the servant said, ?what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.? 23 ?Then the master told his servant, ?Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.? ?
1. Here?s something those who were with Jesus must have learned: Don?t ask Jesus a question! or Watch what you say to Jesus! An innocent person ? and the ?one of those at table? most likely indicates someone who did not become a follower ? says to Jesus after hearing him say that the kingdom will include many unlikely people, ?Blessed is the person who will eat at the feast in the kingdom God.?
2. It is possible the person is saying this: ?Not only are those who invite the unlikely blessed, but blessed is anyone who gets to eat in the kingdom.? Jesus? response then is to drill home the point that inclusion is the name of his kingdom game.
3. Which means exclusiveness needs to be seen for what it is at times: haughtiness or a sense of entitlement.
4. Those who think they are invited may discover, at the End of the Day, that they are not invited.
5. So, how does one know? Does not the next section in Luke give an insight for answering that question? The answer is this: those who will eat with Jesus in the kingdom are his followers.
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 ?If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters?yes, even his own life?he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 ?Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ?This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.?
31 ?Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
34 ?Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
?He who has ears to hear, let him hear.?
We look today at three kingdom references (Luke 17:20, 20, 21) that are, in my estimation, some of the most misconstrued texts in Jesus? kingdom message. Here they are in context:
20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ?The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ?Here it is,? or ?There it is,? because the kingdom of God is within you.?
22 Then he said to his disciples, ?The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 Men will tell you, ?There he is!? or ?Here he is!? Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 ?Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 ?It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 ?It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot?s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.? [37 ?Where, Lord?? they asked. He replied, ?Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.?
1. First off, this text does not say the kingdom of God is some kind of little divine spark in the soul of each person. It is not about the kingdom being ?in your heart? or ?in your spirit?. The expression is plural: ?the kingdom is within you [plural].? This view trotted its merry way among the 2d Century Gnostics and then was picked up in modern liberalism and in such folks as Elaine Pagels.
2. Second, ?within? is an unusual expression and is most literally translated ?among? rather than ?inside.?
3. The context is a question about time and the supposed ability on the part of some to calculate its coming.
4. Jesus denies their capacity to calculate.
5. Instead, Jesus says, ?the kingdom of God is among you [plural].?
Many today render this expression as follows: The kingdom of God does not come according to your apocalyptic timetables and calculations; instead, though you don?t see it, the kingdom is right now present among you [in Jesus] and/or within your grasp [if you respond to me].
At the end of the rich young ruler episode, after Jesus had explained to the man that he was to give up his wealth in order to enter the kingdom, we get this passage in Luke 18:26-30:
26 Those who heard this asked, ?Who then can be saved?? 27 Jesus replied, ?What is impossible with men is possible with God.? 28 Peter said to him, ?We have left all we had to follow you!? 29 ?I tell you the truth,? Jesus said to them, ?no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.?
Two major points:
1. Following Jesus entails surrender of all (heart, soul, mind, strength [resources, including possessions]) to Jesus.
2. Those who follow Jesus like this will be blessed both now and in the Age to Come.
Now a few more observations:
3. Kingdom here is connected to a future kingdom ? I would see a connection to ?the age to come, eternal life? more than just to ?in this age.? It is entirely reasonable, though, to see kingdom as referring to both the ?in this age? and the ?Age to Come.?
4. Surrender to Jesus leads to compensation in this world ? in the company of Jesus? other followers.
5. This text must be connected to Mark 3:31-35, the reconstitution of God?s people in a circle around Jesus, and it is reasonable then to connect the dots with Acts 2:42-47, Paul?s pneumatic community, and John?s fellowship, etc..
A sense of imminent arrival of the kingdom loomed over Jesus? ministry, and we are not fair to the Gospel texts if we ignore that looming. Here is a text (Luke 19:11) that illustrates the sense of anticipation:
11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.
1. What was the ?this? they were ?listening to?? The Zacchaeus episode and Jesus? teaching at his home. ?Today? Jesus said that ?salvation? had come to his house.
2. This excited his audience: ?Well, if such persons as Zacchaeus are entering into God?s people then the kingdom of God must be round the corner.
3. Jesus? response to this point: the parable of the ten minas (Luke 19:12-27).
4. The point of the parable? The king will be gone for awhile. During the time his true servants will develop what he gives them the responsibility to do. That is, they are to invest the money he gives them so that it makes money while he is gone.
5. So, Jesus excited a sense of imminence but the kingdom of God was (really) not imminent.
What did it mean?
I resort, as I always do, to the hope of the Davidic dynasty. That is what I think these folks thought was about to arrive. We see this in Luke 1 as well.
Talk about a hornet?s nest of issues ? our 82d kingdom text (Luke 21:31) is surrounded with them. Here is the text:
25 ?There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.? 29 He told them this parable: ?Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 ?I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 ?Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.?
1. Jesus predicts ?cosmic? disturbances, which I have said elsewhere is best understood to be apocalyptic language for the destruction of Jerusalem and the decentering of God?s people: it will no longer be just a Jerusalem-centered people.
2. The Son of Man ?coming?, so I think, best refers to Jesus? vindication before the Ancient of Days.
3. When these things happen, Jesus says, know that ?redemption? is near.
4. That ?redemption? is then interpreted to mean the ?kingdom of God,? showing that kingdom is future.
5. The moral implication of the coming kingdom is readiness.
6. The Son of Man figures prominently in that coming kingdom ? that is, as judge Jesus will become manifest and present.
What do we learn about kingdom here?
It is a future state of affairs, connected somehow to the Son of Man?s vindication and exercise of judgment.
There are 85 separable instances of ?kingdom? in the Synoptic Gospels; we have three left and two of them are in our text today:
24 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, ?The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
1. Kingdom ethics are not the same as Roman ethics: power and honor shape Roman ethics; service and love shape Jesus? ethics.
2. Jesus ?confers? on his followers a kingdom as his Father conferred one on him.
3. What Jesus seems to be conferring is two-fold:
His followers are permitted at the table: fellowship with Christ
His followers will rule alongside him over the twelve tribes of Israel: judgment
4. Again, kingdom is intimately ? never more so in fact ? connected to fellowship with Jesus and it is also clearly associated with Davidic expectation of an earthly rule of the Messiah; disciples are his viceregents.
Drumroll please. This is our last kingdom text: Luke 23:42. It comes with evocative connections:
42 Then he said, ?Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ?
43 Jesus answered him, ?I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.?
1. The good criminal on the cross petitions Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, and the criminal clearly sees kingdom as eternity at some level ? as Jesus? eternal kingdom.
2. Jesus promises that the man will be with Jesus ?today? in Paradise. ?Paradise? is a typical Jewish term for new creation and the garden of delights opened to those who are God?s people after death.
3. Jesus ? no one else ? promises this man Paradise because he recognizes Jesus as innocent, himself as guilty and in need of mercy, and he sees in Jesus the way into kingdom?s paradise.
4. Notable here is that this all happens ?today? ? in that day at that time. In other words, if we connect Paradise to kingdom, then clearly this kingdom reference refers to a post-death eternal reality.
Has anyone turned this series into a Word document? Let me know if you have.
After our Preparing for Pentecost I will do a series on the meaning of ?wrath? in the NT, but I may have to wait until we get back from South Africa to get it going.