You’ll never guess what he does next. . . Against the advice of his disciples, Jesus had “set his face toward Jerusalem.” He would give his life for his friends as he would finish what he started. The fulfillment of his earthly task was in view and Jesus was resolute. In the time before this, Jesus told those he healed to keep the news to themselves, but on this last leg of the journey he would intentionally draw the crowds, provoke the opposition, and create a spectacle. Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it cannot produce fruit. The fruit that Jesus wanted the kingdom to produce was to require his death and his resurrection was going to produce new life for all. In this message about the events known in the Christian calendar as Palm Sunday consider what message Jesus was sending in the way he entered the city. What message do you think Jesus was giving as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey? Listen to the message “Do You Follow: Palm Sunday” here and start a conversation.
Matthew 1-7 was full of teaching from Jesus as he offered the kingdom to the marginalized population in Galilee. Those who had hearts to receive the kingdom of Jesus were blessed with being part of this celestial invasion of Earth. Theirs was the kingdom of heaven. Jesus taught the crowds the ethics the kingdom of heaven over and against the kingdoms of this world. Matthew 13 is a description of the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced. In this later section of teaching, after Jesus started his way toward Jerusalem and his impending enthronement on the cross, he taught people what the kingdom was like and what it was worth. He used parables to explain the way the kingdom works. The Kingdom starts small and looks insignificant like a seed but grows to become great.
Many were following Jesus thinking they would be part of something in which they would receive glory, power, and notoriety. The kingdom Jesus described was different than that and worth so much more. The kingdom is worth everything. The kingdom is worth ____________! Try a few things out on that line and feel how much it costs to follow Jesus.
Listen here to a message I preached with my friend Chris about the worth of the kingdom where Jesus is King as we explored the parables of Matthew 13. You might be interested to know what Jesus thinks about what we should do to keep God’s field pure when there are weeds growing in the wheat. You might be surprised.
The messages are also stored at iccweb.org/sermons and soon at issaquah.cc/sermons.
In Matthew 7:12-29, we have reached the end of the first set of Jesus’ teachings. He does not let his hearers off easy. Not in the slightest. He requires that hearers must be doers and the doers must be open to the way of Jesus. Jesus is not searching for adherence to principles, but hearts ready to respond with a transformed heart and to live according the Golden Rule.
Graciously, Jesus gives us the heart to follow him, but even that requires us to respond to his gift. “In each of the four basic warnings—two gates and roads (7:13–14), two kinds of prophets (7:15–20), two kinds of disciples (7:21–23), and two foundations (7:24–27)—a choice must be made: Are you with Jesus or against him? There is no middle ground, no other choice, and a decision must be made—a decision with eternal consequences” (Michael J. Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary).
These passages can be troubling because they call out deep fears in us. Are we on the inside or the outside of the kingdom? Remember, he is talking to a mixed crowd of disciples who would be tempted to keep their traditions and foundations built on the the status quo without allowing Jesus to be the fulfillment of all they had learned. Also we are warned that we cannot use Jesus for our own means while relying on another foundation. Check out the message, “Do You Follow? A Warning and A Response” here.
Kingdom Spirituality Part 2 – Matthew 7:1-12 – One of the most dominant views about Christians today is that they are judgmental. According to the Barna Research Group and The Fermi Project (“A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity,” September 2007), a study of people ages 16–29 in the United States, nearly 90 percent of respondents said that Christians were judgmental in the way they practice their faith. If you are like me you can immediately justify your position and minimize their perception. I might say, “What they are doing is wrong and so they feel God’s judgment and they put it on us.”
That seems like a good justification, but then comes Jesus. He says, in his Kingdom, interpersonal spirituality looks like not condemning and speaking evil of one another. Rather, we are to be merciful, seeking clarity, and understanding before even trying to address the issue in other brothers and sisters. This is clearly a complex issue, but so are the people (and their motivations or instincts) we are engaging. He is the judge and we would do well to not engage the amending of another’s character without plenty of self reflection and empathic tears. Jesus says we need wisdom; wisdom from above. This is something we need to ask for in order to receive and not give up.
Then Jesus launches into our distrust of the Father’s character and tells us that the Father is loving, attentive, and present. He wants us to pray for the kingdom to come and to be an active partner in bringing about his kingdom. What after all is the kingdom other than his will being done in and through his people? Take a listen to this message from March 4, “Do You Follow? Kingdom Spirituality” and tell me what you think it means when Jesus says to not be judgmental.
In Matthew 6:1-18, we are looking at kingdom spirituality. It is so different than some of the normal ways that we do things. There is apparent contradiction because God wants his church to do good works (our corporate spirituality) that let people see the light of the kingdom. At the same time it is very clear that some of our spirituality needs to be done in secret. Jesus teaches that giving, prayer, and fasting are best done in secret before God alone. He is not contradicting himself, but it reminds us that we must explore the teaching.
It is not a stretch to say that much of our personal spirituality is done to impress the wrong audience. This seems like an accusation and it hurts. In reality, it is a correction that is much needed for our own spiritual health. Pleasing other people is a rat race that leaves us exhausted. We don’t have to please other people or even ourselves with our spirituality. The truth is some of us take personal pride in our spirituality that is also way off course. Our only responsibility is before God. That personal responsibility happens to have a corporate effect among Jesus followers and the world around us. Ultimately no one knows our soul and loves us like Our Father in Heaven and our worship is toward him. Our bodies are to be offered like living sacrifices (see Romans 12) to please a Father who is already pleased with us. Take a listen to “Secret Kingdom Spirituality” here and let me know how you think we should live out this apparent contradiction.
Do You Follow? Matthew 5:17-48 is so rich and so deep and so powerful. Jesus wants to shine the light on God’s will for human completion. He desires that we become complete and mature (Be perfect as God is perfect) and nothing less is acceptable. Jesus’ standard of the new humanity is remarkably pristine and no amount of rationalization will stand up to his scrutiny. At the same time we see Jesus moving toward broken people like us with love and mercy and forgiveness and in his loving atonement we find he is covering for our sin while his kindness leads us to repentance. We are worse off than we imagined and more loved than we dared dream.
How do we live in this kind of kingdom with this kind of King? Well, we live in the light as he is in the light. We live in love from the Father and bask in the same light that reveals our broken parts. This is the Gospel and we must revel in it. As Jesus moved forward to the broken and marginalized they knew his high standards and they marveled at his amazing love. Take time to explore the complexity and simplicity of this radical and scandalous love both taught and shown by Jesus. Take a listen to the message entitled Kingdom of Light from February 11 here. One of my big takeaways was that Kingdom spirituality moves from checking the box (not doing the big sins) to allowing Jesus to open the box and shine a light in. We know why we wouldn’t want to have him shine the light, but do you have a story of how he has brought healing through that process? Share it here.
Do You Follow? – Mathew 5:1-16- The Kingdom of Blessing. There are so many opinions by amazing scholars on this passage. A few of us have heard the Beatitudes so many times that we are at risk of not hearing the message as good news to the original audience. So many principles for daily living have been gleaned from this deep and wise teaching that we are also at risk of moralizing it as a standard of behavior a posture to attempt to be in God’s favor.
We know Jesus taught many times “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” and on that hill in Galilee probably said more to the crowd, than these words we have from Matthew. Matthew has collected Jesus’ words, as an eyewitness, and delivered them to us. He is not a dispassionate observer but as a disciple and a master story teller. So what does he want us to know about how Jesus addressed the crowds? Do we remember who these people were? What was the makeup of this group who were first to hear the euangelion, the good news of the kingdom of God? Take a moment to set the scene together and feel the surprise about with whom God is pleased (i.e. has his favor, blessed). Take a listen to “Do You Follow? The Kingdom of Blessing” here and tell me what you think!