Who Is Your King?

Kingdom of God Title

Reading the Word

John 19:1–15 (ESV)

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The situation quickly spun out of control for Pilate. He sought to appease the bloodthirsty crowd, but could not. Then he was told that Jesus was not just a man, but one who claimed to be the Son of God. At this revelation, Pilate questioned Jesus and declared his authority over Jesus. However, Jesus told Pilate plainly that his authority was only what had been given to him from above. Pilate again sought to release Jesus, but the crowd would not allow him. It was very clear that Pilate had little or no authority over anyone or anything surrounding this situation. Finally, Pilate asked the Jewish people if he should crucify their King. Shockingly, the chief priests cried out, “We have no king but Caesar.”

After years and years of waiting for the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, he finally came. However, when he came, rather than a grand welcome, he was largely rejected. Ultimately, he was sent to a cross to be crucified. In the end, the King of the Jews was rejected in favor of Caesar. The kingdom of man was chosen over the kingdom of God. We have the same choice before us. Will we choose Christ and his kingdom or the kingdom of man and its rebellion against God. Who is our king?

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What Are You Living For?

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Reading the Word

Luke 21:34–36 (ESV)

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In yesterday’s reading, we looked at Mark 13:33-37 where Jesus told his disciples to “stay awake.” In today’s reading from Luke, the message is the same. Jesus’ followers are to stay awake. In Mark, the emphasis was on fulfilling the tasks that the Lord has given, which include holy living and preaching the gospel. The emphasis in Luke is different. Now Jesus teaches that disciples must not become weighed down with the cares of the life. We must seek first the kingdom of God before everything else.

Reading these words of Jesus, one might come to the conclusion that Christians should only concern themselves with prayer, Bible reading, and evangelism. While these are all good things, and even essential things, we must admit that it is impossible to spend every minute of every day doing only these tasks. We also have to eat, sleep, clean, work, take care of our children, and mow our lawns. The list goes on and on. In fact, the list of other things that we must do probably takes up the majority of our time. So what is it that Jesus wants from us? What are the cares of this life that we are to avoid?

Jesus’ instruction in this passage is very similar to yesterday’s. It is about setting proper priorities. Christians should have priorities that are different from the world. Our highest goals and desires should not be materialistic or based on a short-sighted view of life that ends at the grave. We must realize that there are greater things to live our lives for. There is an eternal world for those who believe. It should be our priority to live in light of this truth and spread the news of the kingdom of God to all who will receive it. We must not become so bogged down in the everyday tasks and pursuits of this world that we forget the world to come and fail to tell others. One day, Jesus will return and he will want to know what we have done with all of our time.

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A Man Had Two Sons…

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not include supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested reading from Scripture. Please be sure to subscribe so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Matthew 21:28–32 (ESV)

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Called to Serve

Matthew 2028 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 20:20–28 (ESV)

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Parallel Text: Mark 10:35-45

Understanding and Applying the Word

The mother of the sons of Zebedee (i.e. James and John) asked Jesus to allow her sons to sit at his right hand and his left hand in his kingdom. She desired what any mother would desire for her children: success. She believed Jesus to be the Messiah, though she misunderstood what was about to happen to Jesus. This is why Jesus responded, “You do not know what you are asking.” The other disciples were not happy to hear about this inquiry. They were likely wanting the same thing for themselves.

Jesus addressed the mindset of the disciples by explaining that ruling over others is not the way of his kingdom. The greatest in his kingdom are those who serve. Jesus, the Messiah, came not to be served, but to serve. He even went to the cross as a sacrifice for others. Those who belong to Jesus are called to give their lives for others.

Putting others first is not easy and it goes against everything the world teaches us. Let us be thankful that Jesus put us first and then let us look to serve those who the Lord has brought into our lives. Let us serve them by praying for them, loving them, and sharing the Good News of our Savior.

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Like a Child

Luke 1817 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 18:15–17 (ESV)

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

People were bringing their children to Jesus “that he might touch them.” Such a touch would have been to bless the children. At first, the disciples sought to stop this from happening. They shared the cultural mindset that thought of children as a burden until they were physically capable of helping the family. Jesus, however, welcomed the children.

Jesus’ words “to such belongs the kingdom of God” should not be misunderstood. Jesus was not addressing the status of children in relation to the kingdom, but using children as an example. The emphasis of Jesus’ words falls on “for to such.” It is those who are like children that belong to the kingdom. Those who have a simple, childlike trust in Jesus and his teaching are those who belong to the kingdom. It becomes more clear in the last verse. There, Jesus tells the disciples that the kingdom of God must be received “like a child.”

We must be careful no to over-complicate the gospel. Jesus does not require us to have extensive knowledge or the answers to every complex question. All we need is childlike faith. If we know we are sinners and trust that Jesus saves us from our sins through his death and resurrection, we belong to him. It then becomes our delight to continue to learn, grow, and mature in our faith.

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The Kingdom through Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 17:20–21 (ESV)

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom would come. His response was that the kingdom was not coming in a visual way, as they were expecting. The were likely expecting some type of apocalyptic events surrounding the kingdom’s arrival. Instead, Jesus said, “[T]he kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

The phrase “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” can also be translated “is within you.” If you compare the most popular Bible translations you will find both translations represented. What did Jesus mean by this statement? Some take the phrase “is within you” to mean that the kingdom is within your heart. However, that makes no sense since Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees who have rejected him. They do not have the kingdom within their hearts. Also, nowhere in the rest of Scripture is the kingdom spoken of as something that is internalized. It seems better to translate the phrase as “in the midst of you.” In this sense, Jesus is saying that the kingdom has come and is present in his teaching and works. Jesus made the same point in Luke 11:20.

By telling the Pharisees that the kingdom had arrived with his coming, Jesus was emphasizing that belonging to the kingdom would be dependent on how one responded to him. Would the Pharisees accept Jesus or would they continue to reject and resist him? We have the same choice before us today. Jesus presents the kingdom to all who will repent and believe. What will we do?

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A Banquet Invitation

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:15–24 (ESV)

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told another parable concerning the kingdom of God. He compared it to a banquet where those who were invited put other things as priorities over being a part of the party. One had to check on his field, another had to inspect the oxen he just purchased, and another was just married. The master of the house then instructed his servants to go to the “streets and lanes of the city” and invite the poor and crippled and blind and lame. When the banquet was still not full, the servants were sent to gather others from the “highways and hedges” until the house was filled.

The point of Jesus’ parable is that those who prioritize other things over the kingdom and the invitation to enter, they are not worthy to be a part. God’s kingdom is not for only the Jewish religious leaders, but will include the outcasts of society (i.e. the poor and crippled and blind and lame) and also non-Jews from outside the city on the highways and hedges. God’s kingdom will be full of those who understand its value and place it above all other things.

Is there anything that is keeping you from responding to the invitation to be a part of the kingdom? Jesus says that we must “repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” Do not let the things of this world distract you from the most important thing.

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All the Father Has Revealed

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Reading the Word

Luke 10:21–24 (ESV)

21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 11:25-27

Understanding and Applying the Word

We read here that Jesus rejoices as he addresses the Father. The reason for his rejoicing is that the Father had revealed to the disciples, who Jesus refers to as “little children” (v. 21), the arrival of the kingdom and the reality of Satan’s fall (cf. Luke 10:17-18). The wise and understanding (i.e. the Jewish religious leaders) had not seen these things because they had rejected Jesus and the gospel. Therefore, these things were hidden from the religious leaders. The disciples were blessed to see the things that they witnessed. The Old Testament prophets had spoken of these things, but had not witnessed them. The disciples were alive at a unique time in the history of the world.

We too are blessed and live at a unique time in world history. We have the privilege of having God’s completed word readily available to us. Previous generations only had portions of the word and not everyone had easy access to it. Most of us have multiple Bibles in multiple translations in our own language and can read and study all that the Bible says concerning our Savior. We know the historical record and we know the gospel. We know the message of repentance and forgiveness and we know of the resurrection, which gives us hope for the future. Let us rejoice in all the Father has revealed to us!

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Mustard Seeds and Leaven

mustard seed

Reading the Word

Matthew 13:31–33 (ESV)

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Parallel Text: Mark 4:30-32

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus tells a parable using an illustration of a mustard seed to teach about the kingdom of heaven. In this parable, Jesus describes the mustard seed as “the smallest of all seeds.” Some critics like to point out that the mustard seed is not truly the smallest seed. There are smaller ones. This critique misses the point. Jesus was not making a scientific statement. He was making a statement that was familiar to his hearers. The mustard seed was the smallest of the seeds they were familiar with and used regularly. The mustard seed was popular in proverbial sayings to designate the smallest of things. His audience understood what he was saying.

The kingdom of heaven begins as a tiny and seemingly insignificant thing, but grows into a large plant. Jesus uses the term “tree” to emphasize its large size, especially in comparison to other herb plants in a garden. It would dwarf them!

Jesus also taught that the kingdom is like leaven. It does not take long before the leaven is worked throughout an entire lump of dough and the whole thing is affected. In the same way, the kingdom spreads and impacts all places and things.

As Jesus’ followers, we need to hear these words. We need to be reminded that the kingdom grows through what may seem small and insignificant. It happens through our small churches, our faithful sharing of the gospel with our neighbors and friends, and through the ordinary things we do each day. These things may seem meager and mostly meaningless, but in the end a kingdom is growing that includes people from every nation, tribe, and tongue to the glory of God. Praise God for his kingdom!

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A Future Harvest

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Reading the Word

Mark 4:26–29 (ESV)

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Only Mark’s Gospel records this short parable. The story is of a farmer who scatters seed, but is powerless to make the seed grow. The man goes about his days working the ground and cultivating while the seed sprouts and produces a crop that the farmer can harvest, but it was the earth that gave the growth “by itself”, not the man. The farmer does not know fully how these things work together.

Jesus tells us that, in the same way we are powerless over the growth of the kingdom. We do our part in spreading the news of the kingdom, but it is God who gives the growth. He alone can change hearts and bring people into the kingdom. Let us continue to work in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, knowing that God is at work in the world and that there is a harvest day coming.

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