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

harvest

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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Blessed?

Matthew 53 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 5:3–12 (ESV)

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Parallel Text: Luke 6:20-26

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses are known as The Beatitudes because each of the verses begin with the word “blessed.” The Greek word means “happy”, but we must not assume that Jesus is speaking of emotional happiness. The type of blessedness Jesus describes is one that results from being in a right relationship with God and his kingdom.

Bruce Barton, in his commentary on Matthew, suggests that Jesus’ message in The Beatitudes may become clearer if we consider their opposites. He writes:

• Wretched are the spiritually self-sufficient, for theirs is the kingdom of hell.
• Wretched are those who deny the tragedy of their sinfulness, for they will be troubled.
• Wretched are the self-centered, for they will be empty.
• Wretched are those who ceaselessly justify themselves, for their efforts will be in vain.
• Wretched are the merciless, for no mercy will be shown to them.
• Wretched are those with impure hearts, for they will not see God.
• Wretched are those who reject peace, for they will earn the title “sons of Satan.”
• Wretched are the uncommitted for convenience’s sake, for their destination is hell.

Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew

Are we among the blessed who belong to the kingdom? We do not get there on our own or by caring only about ourselves. The kingdom belongs to the poor, the mourners, the meek, those who desire righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, those who desire peace, and those who are persecuted for doing what is right in the eyes of God. May God let those words describe us.

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Jesus and His Kingdom

The Sermon of the Beatitudes

The Sermon of the Beatitudes (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 4:23–5:2 (ESV)

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Parallel Text: Luke 6:17-19

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage marks the beginning of what is often referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus’ fame had spread, he had been preaching, performing miracles, and calling disciples to himself. Now, in a long sermon, Jesus the Messiah tells the people what will define his kingdom. The people had been waiting all of these years for the Messiah to come. They were about to find out that the kingdom that Jesus was establishing was far different than what they were expecting.

Many people want Jesus if they can have him on their own terms. However, that is not how we enter the kingdom of God. We must come humbly, acknowledging our sins and need of forgiveness. We must cast ourselves at the Savior’s feet and trust in him to save us, as only he can. And we must turn our lives over to him. He is Lord and he intends to completely change our lives from the inside out. The kingdom is one of holiness and righteousness and love for God and our neighbor. Come hear the words of the Lord!

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