December 3

Text: Matthew 4:17

Mt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  (NASB)

To Matthew, Jesus’ teaching message was kingdom centered.  The first thing that should strike us is the similarity (continuity?) in John’s message and Jesus’ message.  Concerning John’s basic message, Matthew wrote, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (NASB) (Matthew 3:2).  If it is accepted that John’s message and Jesus’ message came from God, the similarity confirms divine continuity of emphasis.  That would fit Matthew’s emphasis well—an unfolding of God’s intent, not preemptive blocks of emphasis which make God’s past acts an emphasis that is meaningless and irrelevant.

The second thing that should strike us is the variety of ways that Matthew used the word kingdom.  Both John and Jesus taught the kingdom was near.  Jesus proclaimed the gospel (good news) of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23).   The kingdom can be entered (Matthew 5:20).  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are in the kingdom (Matthew 8:11).  The kingdom was at that time suffering violence (Matthew 11:12). God’s kingdom “has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).  The kingdom contains mysteries (Matthew 13:11).  The kingdom is associated with Jesus’ return (Matthew 16:28).  Some are eunuchs for the kingdom’s sake (Matthew 19:12).  Sometimes it is the kingdom of God and sometimes the kingdom of heaven.  It was prepared from the world’s foundation (Matthew 25:34).

The point: an honest study of the kingdom involves much more than a simple substitution of the word church for the word kingdom.  The common way to be politically ruled in Matthew’s time (and before and after) was by a king with authority over his subjects who were known as the king’s kingdom.  The concept of kingdom may have more to do with who rules us individually rather than the functioning of an institution.  The issue may be more to whom do you belong than to what do you belong.  If we do not belong to the correct who, the what becomes irrelevant.

Suggestion for reflection: Who or what controls who you are on a daily basis?  (Read 1 Peter 3:13-16.)

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