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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A Wedding Feast

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Reading the Word

Matthew 22:1–14 (ESV)

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Parallel Text: Luke 14:15-24

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus continues to address the religious leaders in this parable. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast where a king has sent out invitations, but the guests would not come. Instead, the guests killed the servants of the king who had been sent to remind them of the feast. In response to such wickedness, the king sent troops to destroy the murderers and he also sent other servants to gather other gusts, both bad and good, who would come to the feast. The wedding hall was filled. When the king saw his guests that were gathered, he noticed that one had come with no wedding garment. He had failed to properly prepare for the occasion and was cast out of the wedding feast into the darkness.

The Parable of the Tenants (yesterday’s reading) focused on the failure of the religious leadership in Israel. This parable, the Parable of the Wedding Feast, continues the same theme, but addresses more broadly the lack of response to God’s word from the whole nation. God, in his grace and abundant love, had chosen Israel as his own and had invited them into communion with him. The people had rejected God’s grace and gone their own way. They had even killed some of the prophets who had been sent by God and would soon kill the Son.

The privileged position that Israel had once occupied as the people of God was coming to an end. God’s plan would now include people both bad and good. All who responded to the word of God, whether Jew or Gentile, would enter into the kingdom. However, there is proper attire for the kingdom. One does not enter in any way they might want. It is only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ that one can truly be a part of the wedding feast. All others will be cast out into the darkness.

There is a great deal to think about in this parable, but the primary message is clear. God has graciously invited all, whether bad or good, to be a part of the kingdom of heaven. We accept the invitation by turning to Jesus for forgiveness of our sin and trusting him for our future hope. There is no other way into this feast.

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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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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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Separating Good from Bad

photo of pile of fish

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Shaped by the Word is a daily- Bible-reading devotional. I do not write supplemental material for Sundays, but I do include a suggested reading from Scripture. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can continue to follow along each day. May God bless you as you read and reflect on his word.

Reading the Word

Matthew 13:47–50 (ESV)

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What Do You Value?

Matthew 1344 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 13:44–46 (ESV)

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus continues to teach in parables, he tells his disciples that the kingdom of heaven is like treasure that a man finds in a field. The man hides the treasure and sells everything he has so he can buy the field and obtain the treasure. In saying this, Jesus emphasizes that there is nothing that we have that is of more value than obtaining the kingdom. It is worth far more than we can sacrifice or give up in order to belong to it.

Jesus goes on to compare the kingdom to a fine pearl that a merchant finds. When he found it, he sold all he had so he could purchase it. Again, Jesus emphasizes the surpassing worth of the kingdom. It is worth far more than anything we can give up for it.

In these parables, Jesus is not saying that we somehow merit the kingdom by giving things up for it. He is saying that the cost of following Christ and belonging to the kingdom is worth it. Belonging to Jesus may cost us fame, fortune, friends, power, reputation, personal freedom, and even our lives. If we understand the surpassing value of the kingdom of heaven, whatever losses we may suffer will pale in comparison. Do you value the kingdom more than anything else?

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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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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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The Kingdom for All People

jesus teaches the people by the sea

Jesus Teaches People by the Sea (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 4:12–17 (ESV)

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:14-15

Understanding and Applying the Word

After John the Baptist was arrested, we are told that Jesus withdrew into Galilee. He went there to avoid confrontation since John had been pointing his followers to Jesus. The fact that Jesus went into this region was a fulfillment of prophecy from Isaiah 9:1-2, as Matthew made clear in his writing.

Galilee was a place where many Gentiles resided, as is mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecy when it is called “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Jesus went there and brought light to people who were living in darkness. He went there and taught those who had not heard by declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Jesus’ ministry to Gentiles is a major theme throughout the Gospel of Matthew. In fact, the ending of Matthew stresses an ongoing ministry to both Jew and Gentile as Jesus told his disciples to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. Again, we see that Jesus came into the world not just for a select group, but for all people. If you will place your faith in him, you will be saved, no matter where you are from or what you have done. You can enter into the kingdom of heaven because Jesus came to save all people.

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