III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
A. If entering the kingdom of God hinges on receiving it like a little child, what precisely is involved in receiving it like a little child (Mark 10:15)?
1. In (Mark 10:15), Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
2. Jesus is not saying here that adults should behave childishly. Rather, He is pointing to the need to have the same type of faith that little children exhibit.
3. The most trusting people in the world are children. Children have not acquired the obstructions to faith that often come with advanced education and exposure to the philosophies of the world. Christ calls us to have the same kind of trust that little children naturally have.
4. It may also be that Jesus has in mind the natural helplessness of children. In contrast to the self-assured attitude of the Pharisees, perhaps Jesus was intimating that to enter the kingdom of God people must become as little children in humbly recognizing their helplessness in attaining the kingdom in their own strength. Entrance into the kingdom is a gift that comes only in Christ.
B. Why did Jesus say that the least person in the kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist (Luke 7:28; Matthew 11:11)?
1. In (Luke 7:28), Jesus said, "I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
2. Jesus was not saying here that John had virtually no part in God's kingdom, for surely he did.
3. All Jesus was saying was that John belonged to the age of the old covenant--the dispensation of the Law. As great as John was in the age of the old covenant, even the least person in the age of the new covenant is greater than John by virtue of the high position (in Christ) that becomes ours since the time of Jesus' resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit.
C. Why did Jesus tell a man to "let the dead bury the dead" (Luke 9:60)?
1. In (Luke 9:60), Jesus said to a man who was contemplating following Him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
2. While this may seem a strange comment for Jesus to make, the context of the verse helps us to understand what He was really saying.
3. Jesus encountered a man to whom He had said, "Follow me" (Luke 9:59). This was an invitation not for a quick week of service but for a continuous and ongoing relationship of serving Jesus Christ in spreading the news about the kingdom of God. What could be a higher priority than this?
4. But the man immediately gave an excuse: "Lord, first let me go and bury my father" (Luke 9:59). Jesus therefore said, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:60).
5. Some scholars have suggested that if the father had actually already died, the man would be presently involved in burying his father. The context may suggest that the father had not yet died. He may have been just an old man, but still alive. If this is correct, the man's son to whom Jesus was speaking was essentially saying that he wanted to wait to serve the kingdom until that future time--possibly years away-- when his father died and was subsequently buried.
6. The point is that the kingdom of God takes top priority over all things.
D. Did Jesus indicate that anyone who has second thoughts about being a Christian is not worthy of the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)?
1. In (Luke 9:62), Jesus said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
2. In this passage, we find a continuation of the situation dealt with in the previous section involving the man who wanted to bury his father before engaging in proclaiming the kingdom of God. The man said to Jesus, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family" (verse 61). It is at this point that Jesus said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
3. This is a strong statement. But Jesus is actually painting a picture that would have been well familiar to His first-century hearers. The plows used in that day were quite primitive, constituting a mere piece of wood with a handle at one end and a metal tip at the other end to break up soil. If a man engaged in handling the plow took his eyes off his work and looked backward, it would cause the furrow he was plowing to become crooked, which would be unacceptable. He could do more damage than good. Holding the metal tip in such a way that it produced the desired results while plowing required constant attention.
4. The point Jesus was making here was that anyone who wishes to engage in service to Him must give his whole heart to the matter and not be double-minded, with one foot in service to the kingdom and one foot in the affairs to this world. There should be no divided interests. If someone wants to serve both the world and Christ at the same time, that person is not fit for service in the kingdom of God. The one who would follow Jesus and engage in kingdom work needs a firm hand and a steady eye on the forward-moving plow.
E. Was Jesus in favor of eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:12)?
1. In (Matthew 19:12), Jesus said, "For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."
2. It is interesting to note that in the early church a scholar by the name of Origen of Alexandria (A.D. 185-254) took Jesus' words quite literally and in his youth he (tragically) performed the appropriate operation on himself. In his later years he recognized his youthful folly and rejected the literal interpretation "according to the flesh and the letter."
3. In context, this verse is found in a broader discourse in which Jesus taught about marriage and divorce (Matthew 19:3-12). Some Pharisees had questioned Jesus about the grounds for divorce (verse 3), and Jesus answered that marriage was intended by God to be a permanent relationship (verses 4-6). The Pharisees then asked Jesus why Moses commanded that a man get a certificate of divorce (verse 7). Jesus responded that God did not intend it to be this way, but He permitted divorce because of the hardness of men's hearts (verse 8). Jesus then stated that divorce and remarriage constituted adultery unless the divorce was brought about by immorality (verse 9).
4. The disciples responded to Jesus' strict words about divorce by commenting that perhaps it is better that a person does not even get married (Matthew 19:10). Jesus then taught that each person should accept the lot which has been given to him by God-including that of a eunuch (verses 11 - 12). It is here that Jesus said, "For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."
5. Jesus here indicates that the "eunuch solution" is indeed possible for some people-but only some. Indeed, those who were born eunuchs (that is-without sexual desire, or perhaps born with a congenital physical deformity) could certainly adopt that solution. Others who became eunuchs as a result of surgery (such as house slaves or bondservants) could accept that solution. Others who had renounced marriage because of the kingdom of God could accept that solution. Jesus said that one who can accept this solution should accept it. But He certainly knew that most people could not accept such a solution.
6. One must keep in mind that marriage is elsewhere in Scripture called a gift from God (1 Corinthians 7:7). Indeed, God Himself instituted marriage after creating Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:18-24). So one should be careful not to read into Jesus' words the idea that married people are somehow outside of God's will.
7. Certainly an important lesson one should discern behind Jesus' words about marriage and divorce is this: Be very careful in selecting a marriage partner.
F. What was Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God by comparing it to a growing seed (Mark 4:26-29)?
1. In (Mark 4:26-29), Jesus said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain-first the stalk, then the head, and then the full kernel in the ear. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
2. In this parable, Jesus taught that the fruit that results from sowing a seed (in this case, the "seed" of the Word of God) depends not on the one doing the sowing but on the life that is in the seed itself (God's supernatural Word). Because the 11 disciples would soon be commissioned to proclaim Christ's message to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19,20), they might fall into the trap of feeling that the harvest of souls depended entirely on their efforts. Christ thus wanted to make it clear in this parable that any harvest produced would be the result of sowing the seed and then allowing the life in that seed to manifest itself by growth and fruit at the time of the harvest.
3. In other words, the Word of God, if faithfully "sown," would supernaturally produce its own results. The disciples were simply responsible for doing the sowing. The harvest was in God's hands. The growth of God's kingdom is the result not of the disciples' efforts but rather God's supernatural power.
G. What was Jesus teaching about the kingdom of heaven by comparing it to a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31, 32)?
1. In (Matthew 13:31, 32) Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."
2. In this parable, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven would have a small beginning-hardly even noticeable. But just as a small mustard seed can produce a large plant (it can grow up past 15 feet high), so the kingdom would start small but grow to be very large.
H. What was Jesus teaching about the kingdom of heaven when He compared it to a hidden treasure and a pearl (Matthew 13:44-46)?
1. In (Matthew 13:44-46) Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
2. In the parables of the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44) and the merchant looking for fine pearls (verses 45, 46), Jesus was simply pointing to the incredible value of the kingdom of heaven. Those who truly see its importance will do anything within their power to possess it. They will allow nothing to stand in their way.
3. Certainly these parables should not be taken to mean that a person could buy his or her way into the kingdom of heaven by material wealth. Such a conclusion violates the intent of the parables. In context, the parables simply point to the value of the kingdom, and that one should be willing to give up everything to attain it.
I. Does Jesus' parable of the net indicate that unbelievers are presently part of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:47-50)?
1. In (Matthew 13:47-50), Jesus said, "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
2. Many scholars believe that Jesus in this passage was emphasizing that up until His second coming, when judgment will take place, there will be both genuine Christians and phony (professing) Christians that coexist within the kingdom. At the end of the age, there will be a separation of the righteous from the unrighteous. The righteous (that is, true believers) will be invited into Christ's kingdom, while the unrighteous (professing believers who are really unbelievers) will be excluded from His kingdom and sent to a place of suffering.
3. Fishermen can tell you that when you pull up a net, you find all kinds of fish-some of them good and worth keeping, but others that are utterly useless. Hence the fishermen separate the good from the bad, keeping the good and throwing away the bad. At the end of the age, Christ will separate the good from the bad, the true Christians from the professing Christians, the "righteous" from the "unrighteous."