Bible Passage: Luke 13: 18-35
Intro: Well morning friends, visitors and those online. My name is Pastor Matt Johnson and today I come to you via video – because the dreaded lurgy has finally got me too. But I’m not here today to talk about the dreaded lurgy. Rather, I am here to talk about the Kingdom of God. So let’s pray as we begin…
Well today, Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God in verse 18, verse 20 and in verse 28. When I was at Bible college I was taught (SLIDE 2) the that Gods Kingdom is God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule experiencing God’s blessing. This is probably the best summary I know. But we still have a difficulty because sometimes Jesus speaks about God’s kingdom as 1) a present reality, 2) sometimes a partial reality and other times 3) as a distant future reality – when Jesus returns. So how do we understand God’s kingdom?
Well, the best way to conceive the Kingdom of God is to think about MARRIAGE. At what point are a couple actually married? Let’s pick on Matt Goldman (our old student minister).
At 1pm on Saturday the 19th March I conducted Matt & Emily’s wedding in St Michaels Cathedral in Wollongong. And about 20 minutes into the service I asked them whether they would love each other – “till death do they part.” They both said “I do” and then I declared them to be husband and wife. Of course, everyone then applauded and took photos. But is that it? Well, not really….
About half an hour later – when the wedding was nearly finished – I got Matt & Emily up the front of church and they signed the wedding certificates – the legal contract of marriage. Now you might think that’s it and they are now married. But again, not quite. They are and they aren’t…
In God’s formula for marriage the man and woman are meant to 1) leave, 2) cleave and become 3) ONE FLESH. That’s the sexual union of marriage. The giving of self to one another. But the “one flesh” bit usually doesn’t happen until later on the marriage night or maybe even the next day. So you could say the marriage is a reality when the wedding vows are said OR when the legal documents are signed or when the vows are consumated.
But what I want you to see is Jesus often speaks about the Kingdom of God is a similar way.Jesus’ first coming has established the Kingdom of God in the sense that the vows have been said and the legal paperwork is done. But Jesus’ second coming is like the full experience of the Kingdom of God, like the honeymoon is the full experience of marriage. The time in which we now live as Christians is like the short gap between the marriage ceremony and the honeymoon.
But what is this time all about? Well in this time…
Point 1: In this time the Kingdom of God is all about Growth
Show: Lk.13:18-21 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see Jesus tells two parables about the Kingdom of God and both are about GROWTH. First, Jesus talks about a small MUSTARD SEED growing into a great big tree. What starts out as something small and insignificant grows into a great big tree – if given a bit of time.
The story about the yeast and a large batch of flour is similar. The quantity of flour is about 22kgs. But even if you take just a small pinch of yeast and mix it into the dough – given enough time it will cause the flour to grow about 2-3 times in volume. So again, what starts out quite small and insignificant actually has a big impact – if given a bit of time.
What Jesus is saying is that Kingdom of God needs some time to grow. At Jesus’ first coming – the Kingdom of God is just A) Jesus, 2) the 12 disciples, and 3) a few healed hobo’s. But Jesus is like – just wait.
So if you think about the Kingdom of God FORMULA (SLIDE 3) – God’s people, in God’s place under God’s rule experiencing God’s blessing – the bit that is growing is THE PEOPLE. The reason we have a gap between Jesus’ first coming and second coming is so the number of people in God’s kingdom can grow. Now that means we should be making disciples and sharing the gospel.
Illustrate: But today I want to make a slightly different point. When God’s Kingdom first began it looked pretty insignificant. But over a couple of hundred years – God’s Kingdom gradually changed the whole Roman Empire. Then through the Catholic church and the Protestant reformation – Christian faith influenced every aspect of western society. Then the modern missionary movement took Christianity to Asia and Africa, South America and the Middle East. Jesus, 12 disciples and a rag tag group of hobo’s have now become the biggest religion on earth. So these parables have come true and the kingdom is still growing.
The problem is that – in the last 20-30 years in the west it feels like God’s kingdom is on the backfoot. Notice I said “it feels like.” It feels like every time we turn around the laws change against us. It feels like the church is constantly under attack. In many ways it feels like – the Chinese Communist Party, the Rainbow brigade and secularism is now growing faster than the Kingdom of God. But let me say – that’s only how it feels.
The Chinese Communist Party may have an impact on the world for 100 years – if they are lucky. The rainbow brigade may impact the world for 50 or 60 years – if they are lucky? Remember the ideals of the feminist movement are already being trampled underfoot in less than 50 years. So, what makes us think the rainbow brigade will be any different? As much influence as these institutions – may seem to have IN OUR LIFETIME most of them will be relegated to a mere a blip in the course of human history.
Yet for 2000 years the Kingdom of God has been advancing, growing and shaping our world person, by person. And here is AN ULTIMATE TRUTH – the CCP, the rainbow brigade and secularism have NOT snatched a single Christian out of God’s Kingdom. No one can snatchborn again Christians out of Jesus’ hand. Yet every day Jesus continues to snatch peopleout of the lies of the CCP, the rainbow brigade and secularism and bring them into the Kingdom of God. We are still on THE WINNING TEAM. We really need to remember that…
I was talking to my Bishop – Michael Stead the other day and I was asking him how he was going personally. THE LAST FEW YEARS he has put in (thousands of hours) fighting the NSW abortion laws, the euthanasia laws and fighting for a religious freedom bill. But largely to no avail. So he told me – he was weary and he felt like the tide had turned against the church. But he quickly added; “but that’s ok, because I know how the story ends.” Hallelujah.
Do you know how the story ends? (PAUSE) The tree is majestic. The yeast gets into every corner of our planet. And our faith, hope and love in Jesus is vindicated. The significance of God’s kingdom will soon shine more brightly than all the two-bit movements of this world. Hold on. Hold on. There are still a few more people who need to be saved.
Point 2: In this time people must enter the Kingdom of God
Show: Lk.13:22-25 (READ)
Explain: Well, still on the subject of SIGNFICANT vs insignificant someone asks Jesus – “will only a few people be saved?”. Ultimately Jesus answers this question saying; “No, people will come from north, south, east and west to the feast in God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is not going to be small. It’s going to end with people in it from all across the globe. But before Jesus answers the question in verse 29, he twists the question back on the questioner.
Jesus basically says; don’t ask will only a few people be saved? RATHER, ask yourself “WILL YOU BE SAVED?” That’s the real question. WILL YOU BE SAVED? The problem in Jesus’ day is that most Jews thought they would be automatically saved because they were good Jews. They figured, if they were biological Jews – (and they hadn’t done anything too bad) they had AUTOMATIC ENTRY into God’s Kingdom. But Jesus says no. Look again at verse 24 (Lk.13:24-25; READ)…
The narrow door is actually Jesus himself. The only way into God’s kingdom is by personally accepting Jesus as your Saviour and Lord. (GOSPEL) Notice Jesus says we have to enter in. The problem is we have all broken God’s rules. We don’t start – automatically in. Rather, we are automatically out. But Jesus, came to save us and bring us back in. When a crime is committed someone has to accept responsibility for that crime – for justice to be done. So either you pay for your sin or someone else pays for your sin.
But no one else can pay for your sin – except Jesus. Not Mohammad. Not Ghandi. Not Sai Baba. Not Trump – because they all have their own sin to pay for. They’re already on death row. Only a sinless individual can pay for another person’s sin. Otherwise they have their own sin to pay for. And the only sinless individual is Jesus – who died on the cross – for you. So if you believe Jesus died for you and you accept Jesus as your Saviour – God forgives you and you’re back in the Kingdom of God. But that’s how narrow the door into God’s kingdom is. It’s Jesus or its weeping and gnashing of teeth outside God’s kingdom – forever. There is no other way.
Apply: Now notice again verse 24 (READ; Lk.13:24; commentary). The problem is that many people try to enter God’s kingdom their own way. They figure that if they are nice, tolerant people who occassionaly give to charity they should be in. Similarly, many people think they are automatically in because 1) their parents were Christians or 2) because they were baptized as a baby or 3) because they once had an emotional experience in church. But that’s not going to save you. Each person needs to decide for themselves whether they will accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord. So have you done it? Have you thanked Jesus for dying for you AND have you truly surrendered your life to Jesus as Lord?
Jesus concludes in verse 30 – saying some people we may think will be FIRST into God’s kingdom – perhaps like Jews, or nice middle-class family people, or even bishops may in fact be the last to come to Jesus because they fail to recognize they need forgiveness. Meanwhile, other people we may think are LAST – like Gentiles, or drug addicts or those who have had abortions may in fact be the first to enter God’s kingdom – because they know they are sinners. In this time between Jesus’ first and second coming, – we need to say “I do” to Jesus, because A) there is no other way to be saved and B) at some point the door into God’s Kingdom will be shut AND there will be no more opportunities to be saved…
Point 3: In this time people must accept Jesus is King of God’s Kingdom
Show: Lk.13:31-33 (READ)
Explain: Now scholars are divided over whether the Pharisees are being nice to Jesus or devilishly devious. But the way Jesus answers – tells us Herod, the Pharisees and all the people in Jerusalem basically have the same problem as you and me. For example; who here LIKES to be king and queen of their own life? Who here likes do WHATEVER they like, WHENEVER they like? Don’t be shy. Don’t be abashed. Just be honest. The truth is – all of us. We all reject God’s rule because we like to pretend that we are kings and queens of our own life.
King Herod pretended he was king of the Jews. (But he wasn’t even a Jew. He was from the land of Edom). The Bible clearly says the King of the Jews must be a Jew from the tribe of Judah. So, Herod is a fraud and he knows he is a fraud. Whereas Jesus is 1) a real Jew from 2) the tribe of Judah. In fact, Jesus whole life – including his fulfillment of prophecy, his teaching, miracles and ultimate defeat of death proves that he is God’s designated King. He is the Messiah. Even Herod could see the truth. But he doesn’t want to accept the truth because it means he can no longer be King. But Jesus goes on and explains every-personin Jerusalem is basically the same as King Herod.
Look again at what Jesus says in verse 33 (Lk.13:33 – READ). WHY IS HEROD trying to kill Jesus? WHY DOES JERUSALEM keep killing God’s prophets? (It’s the same answer…) Throughout Israels history – whenever God sent a prophet to Jerusalem – telling them to repent of their sin – the prophet ended up dead. Why? Because the Jews liked doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Sound familiar?!
We all have a problem with authority. BUT JESUS’ PRESENCE highlights how big this problem really is. HUMANS are so EGOTISTICAL and so EVIL – that we would sooner murder someone – than get off the throne. Jesus just up the ante…
Illustrate: This is a bit like abortion. When a baby is murdered inside the womb, we tell ourselves its not really murder because it’s not really a baby. Of course, it’s a lie and we all know it’s a lie. But it’s a convenient lie because we don’t want to face how evil we really are. But now we’ve started murdering healthy babies at 38 weeks and 40 weeks – we are kind of forced to admit we are murderers. There’s no more hiding behind our fig leaves of respectibility. There is no more pretending that we are a Christian country. We are evil. We are murderers, like Satan (who Jesus says) has been a murderer since the beginning (Jn.8:44). Now if you can’t see how evil – the murder of innocent babies is – the situation is almost too dire for you to be saved. If we can justify such evil, we will justify ourselves all the way to hell.
Apply: But there is something even worse than the murder of inncoent babies and it lurks in all of us. When the OldTestament prophets came and told Israel to repent – the evil in their heartwas only partially revealed. Yes, they murdered the prophet. But they justified this to themselves by saying – the prophet from God, was not really a prophet from God. (It’s just like the baby, that is not really a baby). By telling themselves the prophet was not a real prophet – they could convince themselves they we’re not really rejecting God. They we’re just rejecting a prophet.
But when it comes to Jesus it gets very hard to separate Jesus from God. Everything about Jesus’ life proves that he is God’s chosen King AND that He is even God’s Son. So our willingness to reject and kill Jesus, begins to reveal the true state of our heart. We are not just murders of babies or prophets in the Old Testament, Humanity is so evil that we are God killers. Even with our eyes wide open to Jesus true identity – we’d sooner kill God than surrender the throne to the rightful king. AND FRIENDS – that is the true state of every one of our hearts (without the Holy Spirit). And yet, we still think God should automatically let us into his Kingdom – while we plot his murder.
Now of course, this was all part of Gods plan. Not only did Jesus’ death on the cross A) reveal the depths of Gods beautiful heart towards a world that hates him, B) it also revealed the depths of our evil hearts towards God.
Jesus tells Jerusalem in verse 31 that their house now lies desolate. Do you see the word – DESOLATE! The idea is bankrupt. They have now (with eyes wide open) committed an abomination that is worthy of desolation. They have rejected God’s King. But we’ve all done it– because while our SINS may be different – in our hearts we would all sooner kill God, than surrender the throne. So Jesus then quotes Psalm 118. It’s a MESSIANIC PSALM. Its about Jesus being God’s rightful King. Jesus is the one who came in the name of the LORD God. But until Jerusalem is willing to acknowledge the truth – Jesus is going to leave them; abandon them…
Apply: Now as we know from Romans 11 – us Christian Gentiles shouldn’t gloat or think they we are any better than these Jews. Its only by God’s grace – that any of us surrenders the throne to Jesus. And Luke 21 – leads us to believe that by God’s grace Jerusalem may yet be saved – when the age of the Gentiles is complete.
But I want you to look again, at my definition of God’s Kingdom (Slide 8); God’s People, living in God’s place under God’s rule, experiencing God’s blessing.” God has, and God isforming a people that are his very own – right now. Everyone who enters through the narrow door – accepting Jesus as their Saviour – is already part of God’s eternal Kingdom. This part of Gods kingdom is already a present reality.
But together we wait for God’s place to be revealed. God’s ultimate kingdom place is not really the promised land of Israel, nor is it all the Christian church buildings. Gods place will ultimately be a new heavens and a new earth. So God’s place is really a future reality.
But the third and fourth aspects of God’s Kingdom – God’s rule and God’s blessing is both a present reality and a future reality. As God’s people – awaiting Jesus’ return – we are meant to live under God’s rule – already. IN PRINCIPLE that means obeying everything Jesus says in the gospels and through the apostles because he is King. You live under Jesus rule by obeying the New Testament. And the more you live under Jesus rule – the more you will begin to reap the blessings of God’s kingdom.
Of course, obeying Jesus and living under Jesus’ rule right NOW is hard – because lots of people around us are rejecting Jesus’ rule. So its easy for us to be tempted and get off course. So the full blessings of Gods Kingdom will only come with perfect obedience and that will only come with Jesus’ return. But nonetheless, the more we live with Jesus as King now – the more you can EXPERIENCE God’s heavenly blessings now. NOT PROSPERITY GOSPEL. But real spiritual blessings in this world that will endure forever.
The Kingdom is now and the Kingdom is coming. THE QUESTION IS have we recognized the King OR are we still committing the abomination that will bring desolation to far more than Jerusalem. There is a king and very soon every knee will bow to him.