The Kingdom (Matthew 13)

When Jesus came, his message was consistently about one thing: The Kingdom. All of his preaching, miracle working, death and resurrection (i.e. everything about him) were tied to the notion of the Kingdom. Check out these references from the book of Matthew.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” … Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:17, 23)

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28)

[After Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, immediately preceding his Ascension] they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:17-18)

It is crucial for us to realize that Jesus came to bring about a political revolution of the grandest, most cosmic of scales. He was the King sent by God the Father to provide salvation and restoration to a world that had given itself over to the domination of sin and death under the tyranny of an Enemy who has been fighting against all God’s goodness from the beginning. Jesus did not come to merely provide good life advice or even to bail you and I out of our particular individual predicaments; Jesus came to bless the world with the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom rule of God was not a novel concept that arrived with Jesus\’s birth. In the beginning Man was blessed / commissioned by God with dominion over creation (Genesis 1:28); Abraham was promised that his offspring would possess (i.e. rule) the gates of their enemies (Gen. 22:17); Israel was rescued from Egyptian bondage and given the covenant at Sinai so that they would work with God as his “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6); David, the man after God’s own heart, was promised a dynasty whose throne would never fail (2 Samuel 7:12-16). While all these promises of kingdom blessing were squandered by those who received them, the prophets of old continually cast the vision that one day God himself would establish his rule on earth as it is in Heaven (Isaiah 52:7-10). Kingdom has always been God\’s plan for salvation and blessing, so that\’s what Jesus came to establish. Clearly, the Kingdom is of the highest importance. But what does it mean for how I am to conduct my life? In Matthew 13 Jesus shows us the Kingdom of Heaven through his eyes. If we want blessing, salvation, restoration, and security from God, we better pay attention to what Jesus tells us here about his Kingdom.

People of the Kingdom are in the World but are not part of it.

The parable of the Wheat and Weeds is a story about a Farmer (who represents the Lord) who plants a crop (people of God) only to have an Enemy (the Devil) sow weeds (people of the Evil One) in his field (the World) overnight. When the sabotage becomes apparent, the Farmer allows the Wheat and Weeds to continue growing up side by side in the field (the World) rather than trying to pull them out from each other. But he promises that when the Harvest comes, the weeds will be separated out and destroyed.

This little story from Jesus highlights the fact that the people of Christ’s Kingdom are going to live right alongside the people of the World. We work, play, and generally share our lives with people who are outside, and in some cases are even opposed to, the Kingdom. This isn’t just some incidental occurrence; the story of the Wheat & Weeds shows that God expects his people to live side by side with the people of the world.

Yet this neighborly proximity must never lead us to conclude that we are the same as the World. We are not. We are children of Heaven, with all the rights and responsibilities, privileges and obligations that holy honor carries with it. The origin, nature, and destiny of followers of Christ versus the followers of Satan couldn’t be more different. We must always live as loving neighbors to our worldly companions but we must guard against becoming like them. Living among the people of the World while remaining distinctly different from them (see John 17:14-16) is a difficult tension for Kingdom citizens, isn’t it? When Jesus concludes the interpretation of the parable (Matt. 13:43), it appears that this tense coexistence serves at least two purposes.

  1. Living in the world but still remaining different from it tests and strengthens the righteous in order to make them shine more brightly than they would have without the struggle of being in a world at odds with the Kingdom (see als 5:10-12).
  2. Living in the world but still remaining different from it illuminates the world with God’s supreme worth and power and goodness (5:14-16). God has left the people of his Kingdom in with the people of the World in the hopes that some will see the light and be saved.

Following Christ is not an escape from the World, but it is a different life from everyone else. 

The Kingdom appears weak but is powerful.

Being a part of the Kingdom of Christ is a high calling but there are many worldly alternatives that call us away from the Kingdom of Heaven by their apparent greatness. Jesus pictures his Kingdom like Mustard Seed and Leaven–two entities that both appear insignificant, are seemingly powerless, easily overlooked and undervalued. But they grow to make a tremendous difference in the spaces they occupy. In the same way, The Kingdom (starting with King Jesus himself) always has been and perpetually will be easily despised, overlooked, unappreciated for its greatness. However, the reality is that, like Mustard Seeds and Leaven in dough, the Kingdom has proven itself immensely powerful, having shaped the entire course of history.

A great many advancements in sociological, political, and economic justice can be tied back to the life and teachings of Christ. (Yes, many evils and injustices have occurred under the guise of being for the Kingdom, but even a cursory comparison to the Scriptures show that those deeds were of the Evil One, not Christ.) More importantly, countless lives have been changed and saved by the power of the Good News that Christ is King over all, sin has been paid for by his death, death has been defeated by his life, and future joy is secure for all who give their lives to him!

Other kingdoms appear and boast of great power yet have become mere footnotes. The Dynasty of King Jesus has become the story that defines all others.

The Kingdom is worth any and every cost.

How much would you give up to become a citizen (or even a refugee) in a kingdom that wins over its contemporaries and is filled with power? We know what the answer: If you think a kingdom is able to save and provide you with what you need, then you give up everything to gain it.

If Jesus’s Kingdom really is the one whose citizens will be empowered to “shine like the sun” (13:43) and if it is powerful enough to fill the empty spaces of Human existence (13:31-33), then it is worth whatever it may cost us to enter. Jesus often would challenge people to embrace this reality in meaningful, real life terms—sacrificing family allegiance, social status, personal wealth, among other things (Matt. 4:18-22; 8:18-27; 16:24-26; 19:16-30). Some saw the value of the Kingdom and gave up what was required; others couldn\’t let go of their world and walked away without the Treasure Jesus offered. 

Like the Treasure and Pearl, the Kingdom must be our greatest treasure, our singular pursuit, our life-prize. Whether you have been searching diligently for God’s things or if you simply stumbled upon the treasures of Heaven, each of us are called to ‘sell out’ every worldly possession and pursuit and make the Kingdom the one thing to which every other aspect of life is subjugated.

The Kingdom is the most important choice of your life.

The last parable in this set–The Dragnet–is similar to Wheat & Weeds except instead of emphasizing the shining of the righteous, it focuses more specifically on the devastating destruction of the “wicked”, those outside the kingdom. Weeds get thrown into the furnace. Ground without seed and dough without yeast lies empty and flat. The Lazy and Fearful will never receive true riches. In the same way, all who stand against, despise, and undervalue the Kingdom of Heaven are destined for ruin. Like the rotten fish of Jesus\’s story here, they will be cast away and destroyed. 

You may think that the Kingdom isn’t quite worth the cost; perhaps you are more impressed with the ‘kingdoms’ of the World which offer more immediate and (seemingly) greater power and prestige; you can allow yourself to be one of ‘The Weeds’, fitting in with the world around you. But hopefully not. Hopefully you consider Jesus, his word, his life, his death, and his resurrection, and his heavenly reign so that you recognize that his Kingdom is the only worthy pursuit of your life (Matt. 6:33). If you do not choose the life that he alone can provide, then you will face certain and absolute destruction now and forever. How you choose to respond to the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23) is the most consequential choice of your life.

At the beginning we said that the message of King Jesus was about one thing: The Kingdom. That was only partly correct. He came calling for all to repent for the Kingdom (Matt. 4:17)–to turn away from self and the world to seek God with all our hearts.  Will you answer the call of the Kingdom?

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