Announcing the Kingdom

kingdom_of_god_by_krzyzowiec

I’ve said before that I’m reading the book “The Divine Conspiracy – Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God”, written by Dallas Willard, former (deceased) professor of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Southern California. In this book, Willard has by far the best interpretation/explanation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that I’ve seen or heard of. I’m still digesting what I’m reading, but I’m pretty sure I’ll begin writing about Jesus greatest sermon/talk next week. And I’m just as sure I’ll be doing mostly that in my writing for a while, because I have no capability to express the depth of that teaching in one or two short posts.

sermon-on-mount
But I’m not ready to start yet. For now, I am gong to look at the scene of the Sermon on the Mount, starting in Matthew chapter 4. This is beginning immediately after Jesus returns from his wilderness temptations and gets right into His ministry.

crowd-2
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” Immediately following His temptations, Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been imprisoned, and this he takes as his cue to begin His own ministry. He leaves Hs hometown of Nazareth, because after all, a prophet is never honored on His hometown. He heads to Capernaum, fulfilling more specific prophecies of Isaiah.

healing-in-his-wings-2
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” THE message of Jesus. Not “say a sinner’s prayer, maybe fix a couple of problems in your life, clean up your act just enough, keeping most everything else exactly the same, and go to heaven when you die!” But, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, meaning right here, close by, accessible right now. Almost every single thing Jesus said or did related to this basic message. In all He said or did during his three year ministry, he was announcing, enacting, and implementing the kingdom of God right among us. Because…the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!!

jescrowds
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. The first disciples, Andrew, Peter, James and John. I’m not focused on this today, except that it shows how quickly and early in His ministry it was the Jesus gave us His greatest sermon. He has just proclaimed his basic message, and does not even have all His disciples yet.
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. And this is the scene leading up to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus greatest sermon, and 3 chapters in the New Testament that we do our best to pretend simply don’t exist. Jesus has just announced his basic message, the kingdom of God is at hand, available to those around Him, available to us, and now we see Him demonstrating His kingdom in our time and space, bringing God’s rule and God’s healing to those who come seeking. It’s interesting that he’s already being allowed to teach in the synagogues. He’s meeting the needs of people, and so we see his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. Jesus has power over the problems, sickness, and demons in these people lives. These masses are not coming to have some spiritual ticket punched, so that maybe they can get into some paradise when they die. They are coming because Jesus has power to change their lives. They are the sick, the poor, the lame. Everyone is bringing not their best, but their worst, and Jesus is meeting them as they are. Jesus is master of the time and space around Him, He is master of the demonic spirits inside of these people, he is master of the diseases that are eating and crippling their bodies. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Great crowds are coming from far and wide, because Jesus has the power to heal them, the power to change their lives, right where they are. He has announced the kingdom of God, and is demonstrating it in a tangible, undeniable way. He is changing lives, and those desperate for a changed life are coming from as far as Syria are coming to Him to be healed.

theteacher
And it is from this scene that Jesus preaches his great sermon. He is speaking to a specific crowd of hurting, wanting people. And He is about to give a talk that will change their lives, He’s about to climb up on a great hill to get some space from those pressing up against Him, and so that all can hear what he has to say. He’s already shown the masses that he is the great physician, now he’s going to take his position as the great teacher as well.
If only we were still willing to be taught by Him.

 

“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:12-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.4.12-25.esv

John Lewis

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