Mat 13:31-34 NASB He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; (32) and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." (33) He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." (34) All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.
Mat 13:44-46 NASB "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (45) "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, (46) and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
In the beginning days of my faith journey, I didn't know much. When I showed up on the doorsteps of East Carolina University, the 3rd largest university in North Carolina, I had no idea how many different ways people had come to understand the Bible. I learned quickly! One area I had not given much thought was trying to understand the end times. There were seminars and Bible Studies constantly on trying to decipher when Jesus was coming back. With any political shift in the world, came a new interpretation or a fading disappointment – the time had not yet come. Recently, I met someone who told me to not worry about buying property for Crossroads, Jesus will be coming back in the next six months.
A foot note in Author Phillip Yancey's book, “The Jesus I Never Knew” caught my attention. He reminds us that there was a lot of prophecy in the Old Testament regarding the coming of the Messiah – the coming of Jesus. With all their years of study they didn't recognize Jesus. He writes, “Should not their failure to interpret signs of the first coming sound a note of caution to those today who so confidently proclaim signs of the Second Coming?”
When Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” It stirred the hearts of the people because they heard Kingdom – and heard “King!” Their own ruler to overthrow the awful, evil Romans like God did with Egyptians and with those the Jews had fought and defeated during the conquest of the land.
But then they hear that the kingdom of heaven is like a seed. A farmer gets that but a king? The kingdom is like leaven in bread. A baker gets that but a king? Or the kingdom is found in the field or marketplace and some sells everything for it. An investor or business person gets it.
The Kingdom starts small and it grows, incrementally, slowly, consistently.
The Kingdom begins with just a little and infiltrates, expands, and effects everything around it.
The Kingdom is worth the greatest price – it is a sacrifice that results in the greatest joy.
The Kingdom humbly exists alongside evil...for now.
The one distinction, most shocking about the Kingdom of God that I think Yancey notes is this – it is resistable.
To an existent, Jesus stayed out of politics though it was the political system that ultimately took his life. Today however, Jesus is very much in politics whether it is the very public “Religious Right” and the remanents of the Christian Coalition or the behind the scenes of the Religious Left and Liberation Theology. But Jesus, I think, was and IS fairly clear about the Kingdom of God - it doesn't choose political parties, prefer one race, or place a litmus test on one's purity, perfection or putridness.
All are welcomed but no one is forced.
Emperor Constantine thought that the symbol of the Cross and the power of sword would be sufficient to change the world. It was a deception, the weed among the wheat. As Yancey points out, there has always been the temptation to use force to enact the Kingdom – The Holy Roman Empire, Cromwell's England and John Calvin's Geneva – the results have always been disasterous and not ever forgotten.
Jesus never used coercieve power. Never did he manipulate the emotions. Jesus told stories – stories of pearls and seeds, wheat and weeds.
What struck me most however in Yancey's words were the notes regarding the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. At the end of the world will come these four – war, famine, sickness and death – all things brought about and which have plagued humanity when we choose to turn away from God. Yancey notes however, that it is Jesus who reversed the order – he lived and brought peace, Jesus fed the hungry, he healed the sick and ultimately, Jesus raised the dead.
But today isn't the day to delve into the mysteries of Revelation, we'll come back to that elsewhere. It isn't about dealing with the problem of evil either. That is in the upcoming series in a few weeks - “When Days End In Why?” No, today is about a Kingdom, that by all accounts, we've not really begun to understand anymore than we really understand the ways of God.
If we're conservative, liberal or moderate – Jesus is no respecter of your opinions on politics OR religion! When I was a youth pastor, I remember coming into a youth ministry where prayer requests most often consisted in the early days of, “Please pray that Georgia beats Florida next weekend!” My response must have been first, shock and second, “Really? You think that is what is of greatest concern to God regarding your life? Really?”
Later, when I became a lead pastor, I realized adults don't get it either. One guy come up to our church on a Monday, thinking it was an election day. I had to remind him that elections are usually held on Tuesdays in the U.S. He proceeded to then begin talking about a person who voted Democrat shouldn't call themselves a Christian. “Really?”
It seems to me that Jesus is saying, if you're starting with YOUR opinions then you've already lost the argument. The Kingdom of God doesn't start with our grandiose ideas nor does it go about demanding justice and judgment before the time allotted. No, we see it in the pearls and seeds, wheat and weeds. We see it, one loving act at a time.
This is why Crossroads is here. We aren't looking at this land to end doing set-up and tear down – they'll be more work to do later anyway! We don't look at ministries and giving as ways to draw attention to ourselves even if word does get out. These are seeds. We are wheat among weeds. We are church to sow seeds for His Kingdom and not for our own – one loving act at a time.