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Messengers of the Kingdom

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Text: “ And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” ()
And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Not a fun passage. Jesus is sending the apostles out to preach the coming of the kingdom. Even though they go with the authority to cast out demons and the power to heal the sick and even raise the dead, He tells them, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves...” ().
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
This passage is equal parts confusing and intimidating. On the one hand they are to go “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” not to the Gentiles or the Samaritans. What is that about? They were’t to take a second tunic or sandals or a staff. They weren’t to greet anyone on the road. Why not?
But it’s hard to get too tied up with those questions when He very quickly turns to the warnings: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” He warns them that they will be dragged before governors and kings for His sake; that family members will turn against them; that they will be hated by all on account of His name; they will be accused of being under the power of Satan; that their message will not bring peace, but a sword. Not a fun passage. Equal parts confusing and intimidating.
And, I, in my great wisdom as your pastor— your instructor in the mysteries of the faith— am going to ignore all of it. Instead, what I want you to take from this passage is the message that they were given to proclaim: the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Not a fun passage. That’s not what I want to focus on tonight, though.
Now, we really need to spend a minute on exactly what that means. To do that, let’s go to the 2nd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus teaches you to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” Let me read to you a part of what Martin Luther wrote in the Large Catechism about what, exactly, Jesus is teaching you to ask for.
Instead, what I want you to take from this passage is the message that they were given to proclaim: the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We really need to spend a minute on exactly what that means. To do that, let’s go to the 2nd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus teaches you to pray for His Kingdom to come. Let me read to you a part of what Martin Luther wrote in the Large Catechism about what, exactly, Jesus is teaching you to ask for.
55 ...[Y]ou see that we do not pray here for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good. Instead, we pray for an eternal inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses. This is far too great for any human heart to think about desiring, if God had not Himself commanded us to pray for the same. 56 But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than anyone can understand []....
57 It’s like a time when the richest and most mighty emperor would tell a poor beggar to ask whatever he might desire. The emperor was ready to give great royal presents. But the fool would only beg for a dish of gruel. That man would rightly be considered a rogue and a scoundrel, who treated the command of his Imperial Majesty like a joke and a game and was not worthy of coming into his presence. In the same way, it is a great shame and dishonor to God if we—to whom He offers and pledges so many inexpressible treasures—despise the treasures or do not have the confidence to receive them, but hardly dare to pray for a piece of bread.
57 It’s like a time when the richest and most mighty emperor would tell a poor beggar to ask whatever he might desire. The emperor was ready to give great royal presents. But the fool would only beg for a dish of gruel. That man would rightly be considered a rogue and a scoundrel, who treated the command of his Imperial Majesty like a joke and a game and was not worthy of coming into his presence. In the same way, it is a great shame and dishonor to God if we—to whom He offers and pledges so many inexpressible treasures—despise the treasures or do not have the confidence to receive them, but hardly dare to pray for a piece of bread.
It truly is shameful the way we pray that petition— barely thinking, senseless of what Jesus Christ has taught you to ask for.

55 From this you see that we do not pray here for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good. Instead, we pray for an eternal inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses. This is far too great for any human heart to think about desiring, if God had not Himself commanded us to pray for the same. 56 But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than anyone can understand [Ephesians 3:20]. He is like an eternal, unfailing fountain. The more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give. God desires nothing more seriously from us than that we ask Him for much and great things. In fact, He is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently [Hebrews 4:16].

57 It’s like a time when the richest and most mighty emperor would tell a poor beggar to ask whatever he might desire. The emperor was ready to give great royal presents. But the fool would only beg for a dish of gruel. That man would rightly be considered a rogue and a scoundrel, who treated the command of his Imperial Majesty like a joke and a game and was not worthy of coming into his presence. In the same way, it is a great shame and dishonor to God if we—to whom He offers and pledges so many inexpressible treasures—despise the treasures or do not have the confidence to receive them, but hardly dare to pray for a piece of bread.

58 All this is the fault of shameful unbelief that does not even look to God for enough decent food to satisfy the stomach. How much less does such unbelief expect to receive eternal treasures from God without doubt? Therefore, we must strengthen ourselves against such doubt and let this be our first prayer. Then, indeed, we shall have everything else in abundance, as Christ teaches, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” [Matthew 6:33]. For how could He allow us to suffer lack and to be desperate for temporal things when He promises to give us what is eternal and never perishes [1 Peter 1:4]?

55 From this you see that we do not pray here for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good. Instead, we pray for an eternal inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses. This is far too great for any human heart to think about desiring, if God had not Himself commanded us to pray for the same. 56 But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than anyone can understand [Ephesians 3:20]. He is like an eternal, unfailing fountain. The more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give. God desires nothing more seriously from us than that we ask Him for much and great things. In fact, He is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently [Hebrews 4:16].

57 It’s like a time when the richest and most mighty emperor would tell a poor beggar to ask whatever he might desire. The emperor was ready to give great royal presents. But the fool would only beg for a dish of gruel. That man would rightly be considered a rogue and a scoundrel, who treated the command of his Imperial Majesty like a joke and a game and was not worthy of coming into his presence. In the same way, it is a great shame and dishonor to God if we—to whom He offers and pledges so many inexpressible treasures—despise the treasures or do not have the confidence to receive them, but hardly dare to pray for a piece of bread.

58 All this is the fault of shameful unbelief that does not even look to God for enough decent food to satisfy the stomach. How much less does such unbelief expect to receive eternal treasures from God without doubt? Therefore, we must strengthen ourselves against such doubt and let this be our first prayer. Then, indeed, we shall have everything else in abundance, as Christ teaches, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” [Matthew 6:33]. For how could He allow us to suffer lack and to be desperate for temporal things when He promises to give us what is eternal and never perishes [1 Peter 1:4]?

A couple of times recently, I’ve highlighted the brother in the parable of the prodigal son— the second son who stayed while his brother took his half of the father’s estate and wasted it. When his sinful brother returned and he heard about the banquet that the father had given to celebrate, he was offended. He confronted his father, “All this time I’ve been here working faithfully and you’ve never given me a banquet like that. Don’t I deserve something, too?” Do you remember what the father’s answer was? “My son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours...” (). You’re worried about what you’ve earned from me? I want to give you everything. All of it! All that I have is yours!
That is what Jesus is teaching you to pray for in that little phrase, “Thy Kingdom come.” These are the words He puts in your mouth: “Lord, give me your kingdom.” It would take unthinkable arrogance to ask for even half of it; it would be unmitigated hubris to even think about asking for a portion; we would rightly be ashamed to beg for even a tiny fraction of it. And He teaches you to ask for it all!
May God give us the faith of the Canaanite woman who knew that to receive even the crumbs that fall from the master’s table is to receive an amazing gift! Instead, you mumble through these words in order to get to asking for the “more important” things that you really feel that you need. And yet, so great is His love and compassion for you that He teaches you to ask for those, as well— after asking for the Kingdom, He teaches you ask for your daily bread. He invites you to also ask Him for
food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like. (Explanation of the 4th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Luther’s Small Catechism.)
May God give us the faith of the Canaanite woman who knew that to receive even the crumbs that fall from the master’s table is to receive an amazing gift! Instead, you mumble through these words in order to get to asking for “more important” things.
It would take unthinkable arrogance to ask for even half of that; we would rightly be ashamed to beg for even a tiny fraction of it. But He teaches you to ask for it all! May God give us the faith of the Canaanite woman who knew that to receive even the crumbs that fall from the master’s table is to receive an amazing gift! Instead, you mumble through these words in order to get to asking for “more important” things.
… all of the things that worry us most in this life, as if, after offering you His Kingdom, you needed anything more. But I digress. My point is that this is the message they were sent out to proclaim: the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
My point is that this is the message they were sent out to proclaim. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
As amazing as it is, that message will not be welcomed because, for those living under the power of the devil, the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven brings conflict. It sets you against even those closest to you who are still under Satan’s power. It sets you against your own sinful flesh that refuses to submit to Christ and His Kingdom. His messengers will be no more welcome than He was. That was true for the 12 apostles as Jesus sent them out. And it is true for you today, as well.
But that they were sent out with unthinkably, unimaginably, incomprehensibly Good News: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” ().
That was true for the 12 apostles as Jesus sent them out. And it is true for you today, as well. But that does not change that you are sent out, like they are, with unthinkably Good News: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (). That is what you should take from this passage. As I said, these instructions are for the apostles at that time. The instructions aren’t for you— don’t worry about what it means that they shouldn’t take sandals or a staff, that they shouldn’t greet people on the road. The instructions aren’t for you. But it’s still instructive for you. That your King is sending you forth with that message. It will bring opposition because you aren’t above your teacher any more than they were, but you have even more reason to declare it boldly than they did. They preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was coming. You get to declare that it is here. Because your master rejected and nailed to the cross for the express purpose of bringing the Kingdom to this earth. When He gave His body and blood on the cross it was to redeem you—
I want you to take two things from this passage. First and foremost is that the Kingdom of Heaven has come to you. Your Master, your King, your Teacher, was, in fact, despised and rejected by the world. They called Him Beelzebul. They did their worst: they killed His body, but that was all they could do. And He endured it all for you. Your master was rejected and nailed to the cross for the express purpose of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to this earth. You are that beggar, called before the creator and ruler of the universe. And He doesn’t even bother giving you the chance to ask for something something foolish and insulting. Before you can even open your mouth He gives you His Kingdom. He says to you, “My son, all that I have is yours.”
[to purchase] and [win you] from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that [you] may be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. (Explanation of the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther’s Small Catechism.)
You are that beggar, called before the creator and ruler of the universe. And He doesn’t even bother giving you the chance to ask for something something foolish and insulting. Before you can even open your mouth He gives you His Kingdom. He says to you, “My son, all that I have is yours.”
who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
[He] has redeemed [you], a lost and condemned person, purchased and won [you] from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that [you] may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. (Explanation of the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther’s Small Catechism.)
Second, what I want you to take form this passage is that your Master, your King, your Teacher, is sending you out with that message, as well. As I said, these instructions are for the apostles at that time. The instructions aren’t for you— don’t worry about what it means that they shouldn’t take sandals or a staff, that they shouldn’t greet people on the road. The instructions aren’t for you. But it’s still instructive for you. Your King is sending you forth with that message. It will bring opposition because you aren’t above your teacher any more than they were, but you have even more reason to declare it boldly than they did. They preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was coming. You get to declare that it is here.
[to purchase] and [win you] from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that [you] may be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. (Explanation of the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther’s Small Catechism.)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow People of the Kingdom, when you hear of all the warnings that our Lord gives, I want you to think simply, “Yes, we see that every day. By God’s grace, not all of it comes to us. Others of our brothers and sisters in Christ are receiving much worse. But we see everything that Jesus warned us about. And if, according to His good and gracious will, we have to suffer more, then we will endure it, by His grace, and receive the promised rewards.” Understand that such suffering simply marks you as students of your master; and leave it to God’s direction. In the meantime He sends you out— like sheep in the midst of wolves— and says, “Proclaim as you go, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’”
In the meantime, “Proclaim as you go, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’”
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” ().
55 From this you see that we do not pray here for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good. Instead, we pray for an eternal inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses. This is far too great for any human heart to think about desiring, if God had not Himself commanded us to pray for the same. 56 But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than anyone can understand [Ephesians 3:20]. He is like an eternal, unfailing fountain. The more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give. God desires nothing more seriously from us than that we ask Him for much and great things. In fact, He is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently [Hebrews 4:16].
57 It’s like a time when the richest and most mighty emperor would tell a poor beggar to ask whatever he might desire. The emperor was ready to give great royal presents. But the fool would only beg for a dish of gruel. That man would rightly be considered a rogue and a scoundrel, who treated the command of his Imperial Majesty like a joke and a game and was not worthy of coming into his presence. In the same way, it is a great shame and dishonor to God if we—to whom He offers and pledges so many inexpressible treasures—despise the treasures or do not have the confidence to receive them, but hardly dare to pray for a piece of bread.
58 All this is the fault of shameful unbelief that does not even look to God for enough decent food to satisfy the stomach. How much less does such unbelief expect to receive eternal treasures from God without doubt? Therefore, we must strengthen ourselves against such doubt and let this be our first prayer. Then, indeed, we shall have everything else in abundance, as Christ teaches, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” [Matthew 6:33]. For how could He allow us to suffer lack and to be desperate for temporal things when He promises to give us what is eternal and never perishes [1 Peter 1:4]?
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