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The Kingdom of Heaven

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Scripture: Matthew 13:31-35; 44-58
Big Idea: Christ’s Kingdom
Attribute: Incomprehensible
Doctrine: The Kingdom of God
ANNOUNCEMENTS:
Hello- I am so glad that you decided to engage in the lecture this week.
If we haven’t met, my name is Megan Hutchison and I am one of the substitute teaching leaders of our class.
As you know, we quickly pivoted our groups to zoom this week because of the COVID-19 surge in our area.
Our plan is to be online for one more week and then, Lord willing, resume in-person BSF on January 26.
If this changes your group leader will be letting you know, so you can look to her for the latest information.
We recognize that moving our groups to zoom also meant that our children’s and school program did not get a chance to meet.
If you have a child in the children’s program you can still engage in God’s word with them by going to youtube.com and searching for bsf kids and looking for lesson 14.
There is a story geared towards infant and toddlers and another story for children ages 2-5.
You can also find all of your child’s favorite BSF songs on there as well.
If you have a child in the school program you can still complete their lesson for the week which can be found on the mybsf.org website!
We hope that you will take take advantage of these resources while we are meeting online!
Alright, let’s pray and then dive into God’s word.
I. Introduction:
This morning I asked my daughters who are 7, 5, and 3 what they would want if they were in charge of a kingdom.
My 7 year old initially told me that she would make sure that everyone was kind to each other.
While my 5 year old jumped straight to the good stuff- announcing she would want watermelon and cookies.
My 3 year old thought that line of thinking was more her style and announced that she would want pizza.
unfortunately for my 5 and 3 year old, the book of Romans squashes their idea of kingdom saying in Romans 14:17, “...the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
While God’s kingdom doesnt promise cookies or pizza today we are going to see that the kingdom of God is bigger and better than anything we could come up with ourselves.
So, what exactly is the kingdom?
As we work through this chapter we see Matthew consistently use the language of Kingdom of Heaven instead of Kingdom of God.
Matthew is speaking primarily to a Jewish audience and they considered God’s name holy and sacred. So, in order to not offend his Jewish readers, he says Kingdom of Heaven in place of Kingdom of God but know that they are interchangeable and all referring to the same kingdom.
In the 4 gospels, the first 4 books of the NT: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the coming kingdom is referenced 126 times
and 55 of those references are found in the book of Matthew.
When we talk about kingdom we are not talking about a specific geographical location, but instead about the redemptive rule and reign of God through Christ.
I’m going to say that again....The Kingdom of God is the redemptive rule and reign of God through Christ.
When we talk about kingdom- we are talking about the sovereignty and authority of God as King.
It is about God’s reign- the one who is on the throne.
The story of the Bible is about the coming of the Kingdom of God. It’s about God with us.
When Jesus came to earth he brought kingdom to us...
Jesus constantly talks about Kingdom- because the kingdom of God comes through Him- he is the King.
So- King Jesus, with all power and authority to do whatever he wants, doesnt choose pizza…but instead chooses to come to earth with the purpose of redeeming his people…he chooses to come and die a brutal death on the cross…he came to make order out of chaos. light out of darkness. to restore. to redeem…He came for you…this is the message of the gospel, and why we refer to it is “good news”
I dunno about you, but that is a king I want to follow- that is kingdom I want to be a part of. Where the king who could do anything he wanted with his power and authority, he chose to sacrifice himself for his people…
But, in order to be apart of the kingdom- it means that we have to acknowledge Jesus as our king. Which means that we must first remove ourselves as ruler over our own lives- to relinquish control to him.
In our scripture today- Jesus is going to use parables to reveal the realities of the kingdom and the responsibilities of those who are a part of the kingdom.
We are going to look at our scripture in two sections.
Kingdom Realities (Matthew 13:31-35, 44-46)
Kingdom Responsibilities (Matthew 13:47-58)
If you haven’t already, get out our Bibles or phone and open them with me to Matthew 13.
1. Kingdom Realities (Matthew 13:31-35, 44-46)
13:31-34: Parable of the Mustard Seed/Parable of the Yeast (WORLDWIDE IMPACT)
So, unlike last week where Jesus gave us his intended meaning of his first two parables- in all but one of the remaining parables, we are left to discern what he was trying to tell us.
So, how do we do this. I think there are a couple of important steps we need to keep in mind as we read parables. We touched on these last week but just as a reminder...
1. We need to take into account the original audience Jesus was speaking to and ask ourselves- what would they have heard?
2. We need to make sure that the interpretation we arrive at does not contradict other parts of scripture- if it does- we need to keep digging. Scripture never contradicts itself and God’s word is perfect and true all of the time.
3. There might be multiple interpretations... I can tell you that scholars have differing views on the meaning of some of these parables we are studying today. For sake of time I am not going to able to unpack every parable and give you all the viewpoints, your notes briefly unpack some alternative viewpoints so make sure you read those for further study.
So with those things in mind, lets dive in…starting in Matthew 13:31
“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 seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
In my quick google search about mustard plants I found that some species can have up to a 25 foot expanse, one website referred to them as an invasive species.
In Jewish culture, a mustard plant was a weed and would have been forbidden in the garden because it would spread and take over the vegetables.
Jesus also adds an interesting detail that their are birds perching in the branches...
First, the fact that birds can perch in the branches gives you some context into the size of the tree- this isn’t a small bush, but a large tree big enough for birds to rest on.
One thought is that the birds represent the vast nature of the kingdom- that is open to not just Jews, but gentiles.
What a cool visual of the kingdom of heaven....
The Kingdom of heaven, which starts as a tiny seed, will grow exponentially, invading every nation, tribe and peoples…God’s kingdom is unstoppable and will flourish no matter what is going on around it…nothing can stop the kingdom from coming and growing. Listen to this verse about the kingdom from the book of Revelation:
Revelation 7:9 says: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and nations, standing before the throne and before the Lamb...
Your lesson this week also took you to Ezekiel 17:23 “On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it (it here being the kingdom); it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches (sound familiar…birds nesting in the branches)
Ok so we have a flourishing mustard plant and then Jesus tells another parable in conjunction with the parable of the yeast. These parables have a central theme and are known as “couplet parables.”
So Matthew 13:33 says: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about 60 lb’s of flour until it worked all through the dough.
Now, just take a moment and imagine 60 lbs of flour with me.
When I make bread I let it rise overnight in a huge bowl. When I go to bed, the dough is small, but with time and patience, the dough grows and grows until it more than double in size. The work that occurs is internal- to the naked eye you don’t see the yeast proliferating and making the dough grow...
When you start to work yeast into dough it literally permeates all of the flour- and then, before you know it, the dough begins to grow- the kingdom of God begins to grow
So, lets put ourselves in the shoes of the original listeners. When they heard yeast…what would they think?
Typically in the OT, references made to yeast were negative because yeast represented sin. The Jewish people were called to “remove the leaven” or “remove the sin” from their lives.
But, not all instances of yeast in the Bible were negative. Jesus here makes an interesting statement that may have sparked a Jewish listener to think of another story in the Bible.
Now, the NIV doesnt do the greatest job translating this, the ESV says “3 measures of flour”- but, hopefully your Bible has cross references in it…so, if you look you will see that it takes you to Genesis 18..
Jesus referencing 60 lbs of flour, or 3 measures of flour, would have been the same thing as 3 seah’s of flour- which is the exact amount of flour from Genesis 18 that Abraham’s wife Sarah used when she was making a large amount of bread for the angels that had come to visit her. The angels were there to initiate the promise given to Abraham to make him into a great nation by revealing to Sarah and Abraham that they would have a son.
As a Jewish listener, you would not necessarily see the yeast here as something negative, but as a reminder of the promise given to Abraham in Genesis that his family, God’s family would grow into a great nation- a great kingdom.
Remember when I said the story of the Bible was about the coming of Kingdom…well that promise started way back in Genesis- when God promised that his Kingdom would come through Abraham. And Jews, who knew their text, would have known this reference...
So, what is the kingdom of heaven like..it is a flourishing nation that grows with our King Jesus, our Bread of life at the center....
Before Matthew moves to the next set of parables he pauses…this verse made me laugh when I read it…
13:35: Fulfillment of Prophecy
See, Matthew knew that we get distracted easily and our minds like to get sidetracked.
I mean how often do we pick up our phones to do something and the next thing we know we are scrolling the internet and totally forgot the original reason that we picked up our phone in the first place.
The Jew’s Matthew was writing to were no different than you and I, their distraction just took a different form...
So, in verse 13:35, he pauses and goes- hey, I see you getting sidetracked and losing focus- come back. Remember the point. The point is that Jesus is the King- he is the Messiah- when we talk about Kingdom, we are talking about Jesus- this guy- the one that was promised to you in the OT, remember what it said in Psalm 78, when Asaph the prophet said that the King would speak in parables- well it’s happening. Don’t miss it.
Here Matthew is again pointing out the coming of kingdom, the coming of Christ..in cased you missed it in his other 54 references.
13:44-46: Parable of the Hidden Treasure/Pearl (VALUE)
So now we are going to jump to vs’s 44-46. Here Jesus goes on to another set of parables, the hidden treasure and the pearl.
Before we look at the parables, I want to point out that Jesus has transitioned from speaking to the crowds to being alone with his disciples, that transition happened in vs. 36....
So here we go again- putting ourselves in the shoes of the original audience. What would they have heard?
In those days there was no bank or safety deposit boxes or safes
If someone had something they wanted to keep safe, they buried it somewhere on their property in an unknown location so others wouldn’t find it
It appears that somebody forgot about their treasure because this guy stumbled upon it- recognized it’s value- and went to great lengths to buy the land in order to obtain the hidden treasure.
In the parable of the pearl-> we have a man who was actively searching for the treasure, when he finds it- it is greater and better than what he had expected...
Regardless of how you interpret these parables, we know that the central theme is that both the treasure and the pearl held immense value.
So, the kingdom of God contains valuable treasure- treasure worth giving up everything for.
Jesus, our king..treasures his people so much so that he laid down his life for the people in his kingdom.
And Jesus reminds us that knowing him as Lord should be our greatest treasure.
The point is that the people who receive the kingdom...treasure it more than everything else
It’s interesting that these disciples Jesus is speaking to had already given up their families and homes to follow Christ. Haven’t they already proven they treasure the kingdom...but one day, almost all of them would also give up their lives…Jesus was their greatest treasure, and nothing, not even their lives, would stop them from giving everything to him.
Philippians 3:8 says:
Philippians 3:8 ESV
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Jesus our king treasures and values us so much so that he gave up his life-and knowing this about him should compel us to seek after his kingdom, to treasure Him as our Lord and savior because nothing is more valuable.
Truth: The Kingdom of Heaven is unstoppable and is more valuable than anything else.
Application
Are you willing to give up everything for Christ just as he gave up everything for you- do you value his Kingdom that much?
The message of the kingdom is not a source of wealth or a path to material accumulation, but it is so intrinsically overpowering and delightful that in comparison, everything else is secondary.
In what ways does your life reflect that you treasure Jesus and his kingdom more than anything else?
2. Kingdom Responsibilities (Matthew 13:47-58)
This takes us into our second section with the last of the parables in this chapter- the parable of the net and the parable of the home owner.
13:47-50: Parable of the Net
The parable of the net builds off the parable of the wheat and the weeds that we studied last week in 13:24-30.
Fishing was a common trade that everyone would have been familiar with.
A fisherman would drop their giant net into the water and then literally drag it along until it was full. Only when it was full would they pull it up and separate the good fish from the bad.
Now, here, Jesus, just like the parable of the wheat gives us the direct interpretation, telling us once again that at the judgement day there will be a separation of believers and unbelievers and for those that do not believe they will experience eternal judgement.
This separation will not occur until the day of judgement, when all of God’s people have officially come into the Kingdom. Jesus specifically points out that once again we are not the ones doing the separating- that will be accomplished by the angels under his direction.
The Kingdom of God has both a present and future reality.
The present reality is God’s kingdom here on earth today, Jesus has come, he has redeemed his people and the kingdom is advancing as Christ’s followers acknowledge Him as Lord over their life.
The future reality is that the kingdom is not yet fully here, the net is not quite full....But when it is, King Jesus will come back and on that day , every knee will bow before Him. On that day, the day of Judgement- the Kingdom of God will be complete.
This parable is both a warning and an encouragement…for believers, the day of judgement will be a day of celebration that Christ’s kingdom has come in full. For those that do not believe, it will be a terrible day- a day where they realize that they missed out on God’s kingdom forever and will spend eternity in hell.
Notice that out of all the parables Jesus chose to interpret about his Kingdom, he chose the ones that dealt directly with judgement. Wanting it to be clear that judgement was coming and that His people needed to be ready.
in vs 51 Jesus asks a very important question to his disciples....”Do you understand?” and they replied “Yes.”
With understanding comes responsibility. With a simple “yes” the disciples are also taking the responsibility that comes with the knowledge of the kingdom.
13:51-52: Parable of the Home Owner
Jesus then moves straight into his last parable in this teaching block-the parable of the home owner-to teach them about the responsibility that comes with the knowledge of the kingdom.
lets pick up in vs. 52: “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
In this case, a teacher, or scribe as it is translated in other versions, is anyone who studies God’s word and then applies it to life. This isn’t just talking about pastors or biblical scholars, but to all who study God’s word. You are here in Bible Study Fellowship, studying God’s word. If you are a believer than Jesus is speaking to you.
The parable tells of a homeowner who shares all of his treasures with those around him. Believers are the homeowner- if you are a believer you hold the treasure of the kingdom and therefore have a responsibility to take what has been revealed to you to those around you.
God has given us his word (hold up bible)- every word in this Bible, from the beginning of the OT, the old treasures, to the last word in the NT, the new treasures... reveals to us the coming of God’s kingdom- of God’s presence, the story of how he came to redeem his people and we are not to keep it to ourselves.
We are to proclaim the good news of Jesus, not just part of it, all of it, to every tribe and nation. Telling people that Jesus is King, that he loves them and died for them and call them to submit to his authority and reign over their lives.
This is the responsibility of believers today. Our job is not to change people’s hearts or sort out who are believers and who are unbelievers- that job belongs to God…but our job is to spread the seed- to spread the news that King Jesus is here.
In our final section of scripture today, verses 53-58 we see Jesus return to his hometown, the town of Nazareth. Now, I grew up in a small town, and I can tell you that everybody there knows everybody and everybody's business.
Nazareth was also a small town and so people knew who Jesus was, they knew who his family was and his return would have been the talk of the town.
Initially the people are amazed - trying to figure out how he had wisdom and miraculous powers...
Notice that we go from them being amazed in vs 54 to all of a sudden being offended in vs. 57...what happened that caused them to take such offense?
Well....this is not the first time that Jesus has been rejected by people, nor will it be the last…perhaps, like before, they heard his words…they saw his works… and they denied him as king- they rejected his authority over them- they rejected the invitation to his kingdom.
We see this reaction daily. We live in a culture where People want friend Jesus. They want miracle Jesus. They want loving Jesus. But they don’t want King Jesus…because King Jesus says- I am Lord and you are not- and that is offensive to our world.
When we engage in kingdom work, in sharing the news that King Jesus has come, we may offend others. Jesus reminds his disciples and us that this is not a surprise.
Truth: Believers have the responsibility to share the treasures of the Kingdom of God with others.
Applications:
So have you, like the disciples, said “yes” to Jesus and taken responsibility for the treasures that have been given to you about the kingdom?
If so, how does that “yes” impact your life?
Is there someone God is asking you to share the treasures of the Kingdom with, maybe someone who you are afraid will take offense?
Would you take that step of obedience today- tell that person about the good news of King Jesus, invite them into the kingdom…and let God take care of their heart.
V. Conclusion:
I said at the beginning that The Kingdom of God is the redemptive rule and reign of God through Christ...
The kingdom of God is most gloriously revealed in a crucified and risen king.
So God’s kingdom has come- if you are believer you are living in kingdom- a kingdom that is unstoppable- treasure it above anything else…but also know that one day it is coming in full- Jesus is coming back and one day everyone will recognize him as the king...
One theologian said it this way: “The ultimate hope for all Christians is the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness where God will be all in all, and all will see him as King.”
Revelation 5:9-10 says it this way: Then Christ will hand over the kingdom to God the Father, and God will be all in all, and through Christ, and through his body — his people — God will reign forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth, and his people will be “from every tribe and [tongue] and people and nation,” whom Christ has made “a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” forever and ever (Revelation 5:9–10).
This is the Kingdom. God is on the throne- is he on the throne in your life?
If so, treasure him- share him with others and live in kingdom with Christ today.
Let’s Pray.
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