The readings set for the next few weeks have Jesus talking about the Kingdom of Heaven/God using the following words to introduce a number of parables…..
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like…..
I would hope that after 3 years of my preaching, you are aware of the fact that Jesus spoke more about the Kingdom of God than he did about anything else. His very first words in his public ministry were:
The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news (gospel).
What is the good news……. the good news is, plain and simply, that the kingdom of God is near!
This was really good news to the Jewish hearers of Jesus’ preaching,…. they had waited 1000 years for God's kingdom to come…… and now a man stands in their midst and says: the kingdom of God is near.
And so it is that Trevor Hudson in a recent book (Discovering Our Spiritual Identity) says that the Gospel, the good news, is nothing other than the availability of the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is available to you and to me!
Friends, the good news is not…. that you have been forgiven your sins and will go to heaven when you die. No….. the good news is, the Gospel is….. the prophesied kingdom of God is available to you and to me…..now!
So what is this kingdom that is so near that with one step of faith you can enter into it?.....Getting back to Trevor, he says: the kingdom is where ever the loving will of the Father effectively reigns.
Another writer on the subject of the kingdom of God, Scot McKnight, says this: “the kingdom of God is the society in which the will of God is done.”
What this all means is that………
when a father welcomes back a prodigal son…… God's Kingdom comes and God's will is done!.....
When you or I refuse to hate an enemy, but rather to love an enemy….. God's Kingdom comes and God's will is done!.....
When you or I stop to help someone beaten up and left for dead on the roadside…….. God's Kingdom comes and God's will is done!.....
Jesus said on one occasion, and these words became the job description of the early Methodists, when you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give the thirsty something to drink, visit the sick, visit prisoners, welcome strangers,…. whenever you do these things, God's Kingdom comes and God's will is done!
The Jewish Christian, David Stern, in his Jewish NewTestament Commentary suggests that the kingdom of God is in fact the presence of the future, and I love that definition and since I first heard it, it has become my favourite definition of the kingdom of God.....the presence of the future
We know that a time is coming when there will be no hunger, no thirst, no poverty, no sickness, and so on and so on…….. so when we do something now to alleviate these things, the future becomes the present. The promises of God become reality for the recipients of God's grace in Christ. In Christ we can experience the future…. now. The kingdom of God is the presence of the future.
Because the kingdom of God is so important, Jesus told many parables about it, so that folk could understand it, count the cost of entering into it and living the kingdom way,…. it's a costly lifestyle Jesus warns,…. and then they can make a choice and say: “I'm in. I am going to live the kingdom way.”
And when they make that choice, they are required to repent, which means turnaround from the world's way of living, and start living the kingdom way of living.
And so Jesus would often say: the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God, is like .........