Focus on Christ Meditations: 55. Christ’s Kingdom Taught
Mt 13:11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”
We have considered Christ ascending to heaven and the fact, declared a number of times in the New Testament, that he then sat down at the right hand of the Father to rule in the midst of his enemies until the time comes for him to return and wind up all things and hand back the reign of the kingdom to the Father. Thus we started considering what this rule of the kingdom means and looked again at the Old Testament prophesies that frame Jesus as a coming king, a ruler over a kingdom that will never end. We concluded that with Daniel’s prophecy and started to think about what dominion, kingdom and reigning mean and we will return to those consideration in the next study when we look at how Christ’s kingdom was expressed, is being expressed and will be expressed, but for the moment we pause up and note just what Jesus taught about the kingdom. To do this we will consider the ‘kingdom parables’ of Matthew which is the best resource for this.
In study no.36, the third about Jesus being a teacher, we noted that in Matthew’s Gospel there are two blocks that carry these ‘kingdom parables: first there was Mt 13:1-52 and then there was Mt 21:28-22:14. Let’s simply note again those parables but now add what they taught about the kingdom. Most of them begin with the words, “the kingdom of heaven is like…”. Sometimes in the Gospels it is referred to as “the kingdom of God”, with the emphasis on the ruler, and at other times, “the kingdom of heaven”, with the emphasis being upon the character of the kingdom. Note these parables in Matthew’s Gospel:
i) Mt 13:1-52:
The Sower (v.1-23) – the kingdom comes by preaching which gets a mixed reception.
The Wheat and the Tares (v.24-30) – good & bad exist alongside each other until the end,
The Mustard Seed (v.31,32) – God’s kingdom will grow to be the biggest on earth.
The Leaven in the Meal (v.33) – it will spread slowly but surely across the earth.
The Hidden Treasure (v.44) – finding the kingdom is worth everything else you have.
The Pearl of Great Price (v.45,46) – ditto, it’s a demand to give up all.
The Fish Net (v.47-51) – at the end of the age will be a final accounting.
ii) Mt 21:28-22:14:
The Two Sons (v.28-32) – entry to the kingdom is not by words but by actions.
The Bad Tenants (35-41) – Israel had rejected God’s servants & would answer for it.
The Wedding Banquet (22:1-14) – refusal means rejection, but the offer is open to all.
iii) Also note:
The Generous Employer (Mt 20:1-16) – it’s all about grace.
The Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13) – be ready for Jesus’ return.
The Talents (Mt 25:14-30) – Jesus expects fruitfulness from his disciples in the meantime.
So how can we summarise these ‘kingdom parables’? (and note there are other analogies and stories in Matthew – see our series, ‘Analogies and Parables in Matthew’). Let’s try and do it by content or subject matter.
a) Growth of the Kingdom
– it comes by preaching and has a mixed reception
– it spreads slowly and surely and will grow to be the biggest on earth
b) Entry into the Kingdom
– it demands everything you have, i.e. total surrender to Jesus
– it’s not about what you say, but what you do (Israel had rejected it)
– entry is by grace not by you earning it
– those who reject it will be rejected by God
c) the outworking of the Kingdom
– even though good and bad appear to co-exist, the bad will be judged
– life in the kingdom involves celebration
– Jesus expects fruitfulness of his disciples in the kingdom
– because he will return, we need to be faithful and ready.
Now what is interesting is that these things appear very general and when it comes to detail we are left wondering. The big issues, in respect of our personal lives, are about obedience (see Mt 7:24-27), about living by grace, and about being fruitful. Warnings are there for the casual, the disobedient and the rebellious, that there will be a time of accounting; God does not turn a blind eye, but holds the accounting for the most appropriate time which may be here in this life or, if not, at the end of time.
But all this still leaves us wondering exactly how Jesus ‘reigns’ and so that will be the subject of the next study. For the time being, hold on to the idea conveyed in the list of parables above, that Jesus is quite specific in his expectations of us and life is not random; it is all about what Jesus HAS done for us, and how he NOW expects us to respond, and if we fail to respond positively, about how he WILL deal with us in the future. For the time being, the offer is there to enter into the wonder of being one of the subjects of the Kingdom of Heaven, here on earth, today. Hallelujah!