#5 ~ The Power and Value of the Kingdom
John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” They never explained what was meant by this kingdom. But can we understand it from His teachings?
Matthew 5:2-12 ~ The Beatitudes. Matthew places the Sermon on the Mount toward the beginning of his gospel. These teachings should give us some insight as to what Jesus meant since He speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven, although it never seems like He fully explains it. Jesus pronounces a series of blessings upon a category of people that we know to be His chosen. One of these blessings is that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these people.
From the other blessings we can get a picture of what this Kingdom of Heaven might be like. Each beatitude puts the characteristic of the people first, then the characteristic of the kingdom second. We can overlap them to get a composite picture of each. The people that will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven are: Poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungering after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and persecuted. The Kingdom of Heaven can be seen to be:
Verse 3: The Kingdom of Heaven.
Verse 4: In this kingdom people are comforted.
Verse 5: It is here on the earth (read Psalm 37 in its entirety).
Verse 6: In this kingdom people will be filled and satisfied.
Verse 7: In this kingdom people will obtain mercy.
Verse 8: In this kingdom people will see God.
Verse 9: In this kingdom the citizens will be called the children of God.
Verse 10: The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these people.
Verses 11-12: It is a place of great reward. Note that the reward is currently in heaven, but this kingdom seems to be here on earth. See Matthew 16:27 and Revelation 22:12 for more.
Matthew 5:13-16 ~ The role of “The Blessed” while they are here on the earth. Jesus gives His followers instruction on how they are to influence the world around them. You are the salt of the earth, the flavor of the whole earth. You are what makes the world taste good. You are the light of the world. You are what allows people to see anything that would bring glory to God. Without you shining your light, the world is in darkness. Currently the Father is in heaven, but His followers (the ones to whom the kingdom belongs) are here on earth.
Matthew 5:17-20 ~ Kingdom continuity. It is true that John the Baptist and Jesus began a new thing with the preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven. However, this ministry will be a fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The subsequent passage explains how the righteousness of the Kingdom of Heaven is a matter of the heart rather than following the letter of the law.
Matthew 6:9-15 ~ The Lord’s Prayer. This may surprise you but the Lord’s Prayer which we pray has insight into the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. What does verse 10 teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven? What do verses 14-15 teach us about those who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven?
Matthew 6:33 ~ Seek first. The surrounding verses give a wide variety of things that people seek after. Food, clothing, treasures, money, all these things are second in comparison to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
As mentioned before, Matthew includes seven parables of the Kingdom of Heaven all together in Matthew 13. We covered the first parable in a lesson focused on the Preaching of the Kingdom. We covered the second and seventh in a lesson focused on events concerning the end of the age. This leaves 3, 4, 5, and 6 which we will learn about in this lesson.
Matthew 13:31-32 ~ The parable of the mustard seed. The things that stand out here are the before and after picture of the mustard seed. Before, it is the smallest of all seeds. After, it is the greatest of the herbs, or greater than the herbs. It may seem insignificant now, but after it will be the greatest of all. If we correlate this with the beatitudes, what insights can we gain into being a peacemaker, showing mercy, forgiving others, and being meek?
Matthew 13:33 ~ The parable of the leaven. Jesus again wants to point out contrast. The leaven that would have been used would have been quite small. The amount of wheat flour was three measures, or three satons [which each saton is three gallons]. A bushel is a little over nine gallons, so think of a bushel. So this is nine gallons of wheat flour, probably the mixture which precedes dough. This little bit of leaven is taken and “hidden” in it, which it then in turn permeates the entire batch. How does the transforming power of the leaven relate to the beatitudes and the Kingdom of Heaven?
Note: I disagree with those who say that leaven must always refer to something evil in scripture. I worked in a bakery so I understand the power of leaven or yeast over the dough. A good baker mixes the ingredients first leaving the yeast out. Only after the dough is formed is the yeast added. The yeast permeates the already formed lump of dough.
Luke 13:18-21 ~ A Common Theme. It would make sense if these two parables had a common theme since they appear together in two different places. In both parables there is something seemingly insignificant which proves to be powerful enough to change the circumstances all around it. The tiny mustard seed becomes a full tree in which birds can nest. The leaven changes the entire lump of wheat to become edible bread. A good baker is relying on this little insignificant piece of leaven to make the entire batch of bread to be delicious. What we think of as insignificant in the here and now is powerful enough to transform. Forgiveness, mercy, meekness, and other such qualities the world despises, but they are the Kingdom of Heaven. These seem small now, but they will transform and be powerful in the end. If these two parables have the same basic interpretation, why did Jesus give them both to us?
Many times things are grouped in sevens in the scriptures. These groups of seven can also be broken into four and three. The seven seals in Revelation can be broken into the first four which each have colored horses with riders while the last three do not. With the seven trumpets, the first four are directed at the earth, sea, and trees while the last three each have a woe associated with it. Here in Matthew 13, the first four parables are spoken in the hearing of the multitude. After Jesus sends the multitude away, He gives the last three parables only to His disciples.
Matthew 13:44 ~ The Parable of the Hidden Treasure. In this parable the focus is on the knowledge that one person has while most others are ignorant of the value of this piece of land. He knows the treasure is there and is willing to do anything to gain it. He is joyfully selling everything because he knows in the end he will be rich. The value of this land is underestimated by everyone else. The actions by the one purchasing the land cannot be rationally explained to anyone else because they do not understand the value of the land.
Matthew 13:45-46 ~ The Parable of the Pearl. Like the last parable, the focus is on the knowledge of the merchant. He is in search of fine pearls and seems to have a knowledge that others do not have. Once he finds the one, he knows what to do. Why did Jesus give us two parables with the same meaning?
Matthew 8:18-22, Luke 14:25-35 ~ The Kingdom of Heaven before all. Do we really sell all that we have for the Kingdom of Heaven? These two passages portray a purposeful apprehension of discipleship. You leave behind everything and everyone. You take up your cross which was a death sentence.
Note: I presented to the class another interpretation for the parable of the Pearl (or merchant depending on what commentary you read). Some believe the merchant represents Christ who leaves heaven (sells everything) to purchase the church. They believe that the church is the pearl of great price, not the Kingdom of Heaven as I do. I am disagreeing with none other than Isaac Watts. If you read his classic hymn, Laden With Guilt and Full of Fears you see in the second stanza that he portrays the merchant as divinely wise reflecting this other interpretation of the parable. I stand by this simple interpretation that we as disciples are called to value the Kingdom of Heaven above all things. This is the thing for which we forsake all others. Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.
I gave the example of someone calling people together to sell everything in their entire home to summon enough cash to purchase a field. It would make no sense for him to be selling couches, beds, furniture, appliances, etc. Why is he offering a discount on all of this stuff? The truth is that he needs the cash to purchase a field. Everyone else is left scratching their heads as to why he took this radical action. He sold everything? To buy that empty lot over there? It just sounds crazy. Until they find out he is now a millionaire.
To the world it makes no sense for us to value the Kingdom of Heaven above all things. We must place God’s Kingdom before this world and all of its pleasures. That is the interpretation of these parables that I hold.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman