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What is the Kingdom of God Like?

Date: Nov. 24, 2009

Author: Bob Henkins

Luke 13:10-21

Key Verse: Luke 13:19

“It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”

Most people have some kind of idea of what they think God’s kingdom will be like. But who really knows? Jesus does because he came from there and in today’s passage, He tells two parables that give us some insight into the kingdom of God. 

This passage starts out with an event displays a stark contrast between the hypocrisy of men and the love of God and through it we see how Jesus came to set us free so that we may enter the kingdom of God. Take a look at verses 10-13. “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." 13Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”  Luke records that this woman had been crippled by a spirit for 18 long years. And as hard as she tried she couldn’t straighten up at all. Seeing her crippled body was sad but what was even sadder was the fact that she had been held captive by the power of the devil. As she entered the synagogue no one paid attention to her. She was like one of the fixtures, she’s there but they don’t notice her. However Jesus saw her, Jesus noticed her because he LOVED her. Usually people said, “out of the way, you’re too slow.” And the impression she received was that she’s insignificant, she didn’t really matter, she wasn’t their target audience. But Jesus called her forward. She mattered to Jesus. He was in the front - teaching. He brought her into the spot light, into the position of significance. This is a pattern that we see throughout the Bible: when the world forgets you, Jesus calls you. There is no one who is insignificant in the God’s kingdom.

What did Jesus do with her? Jesus set her free. Last week we thought about how Jesus came to divide and separate but here we see how Jesus came to set us free. Free from what? Free from that which binds us. Sometimes if from our own sin and other times it’s from Satan’s grip. Jesus freed the woman caught in adultery from her life of sin, and he freed the man possessed by 6000 demons, and of course he frees us all through His death and resurrection. But in this woman’s case he freed her from Satan’s torment. Then Jesus put his hands on her. His touch was soothing. Maybe for the first time in a long while someone treated her like a human being. Jesus treated her like a close friend or family member. Through this Jesus revealed his genuine love for her.

Then something amazing happened, immediately she straightened up. When God wants to work, he works. Here I realize that often we like to think that everything has to be just right for God to work. Maybe if we pray enough or do this or do that, then God will work. But the truth of the matter is when God wants to work, when something’s in alignment with his will, God works. We don’t have to create an area or a place where we think God should work, what we have to do is discern what God wants to do and be a part of it, for He will carry it out. Rick Warren said that serving God is a bit like surfing a wave, God does His own work and we’re just along for the ride.

When the woman stood up straight for the first time in 18 years she praised God! Nothing else. There were no other motives. She just praised God. This was pure praise, not pseudo praise, not forced praise, not “ok because you said so, I’ll do it” praise. But pure unadulterated praise. And this happened on the Sabbath which is what should we should be doing on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is for worshipping God, praising God and thanking God! I can’t speak for anyone else there, but it’s clear that this woman gave her heart to Jesus and praised God. Because she experienced the love of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God and the tenderness of God. She experienced what the Kingdom of God is really like. When was the last time you praised God like her? When was the last time you thanked God instead of complaining? We need more pure unadulterated praise of God in ALL our lives.

When the religious leader saw this he became extremely upset and offended at what Jesus did. Why? He felt that what Jesus did was breaking the law because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. What he didn’t realize was that even though we have the law, the law is for man, not for God. He didn’t see Jesus as God. He saw Jesus like a doctor, one who heals. And since he healed on the Sabbath, he was breaking the law even though Jesus didn’t do anything but speak to the woman and put his hands on her. This shows the complete absurdity of interpreting the law like this. Sam was telling us a while back about some Jews who lived in a high rise building. And they believed that pressing the elevator button was considered work. So to get around this, they created the Sabbath elevator which stopped on every floor and opened the doors so they didn’t have to do any work. This sounds funny but it gets funnier. Then some Rabbi deemed that even riding the Sabbath elevator was working on the Sabbath, so now all the people had to walk up 14 flights of stairs. This religious leader was getting all worked up because he felt Jesus was breaking the law of God, but Jesus wasn’t breaking the law of God but only the rules of men. The religious leader had a very rigid narrow view of the Sabbath and he couldn’t see past the law to Jesus.

Unlike the religious leader, Jesus confronted the man directly and tried to reason with him saying, “You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (v15-16) Jesus shamed this synagogue ruler and the other leaders by pointing out their hypocrisy and how they took care of their animals on the Sabbath. Everyone knows that animals have to eat and drink and be let out to go and do their business in the field. And they did those things because they cared for their animals. They were stewards for the animals. And because they cared for the animals in such a way, Jesus said shouldn’t a person also be cared for? At least as much as animals? Should this woman, who was a daughter of Abraham  be cared for in the same way? Not only that, she’s been suffering at the hand of Satan for the last 18 years. Doesn’t she deserve better? Shouldn’t she be set free from her torment? Man is the pinnacle of God’s creation, shouldn’t they receive at least the same treatment or better than the animals? But the religious leaders were hypocrites because they said one thing and did another. Instead of really caring for people they weighted them down with burdens. Jesus warned against this, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Lk 11:46) They never tried to help people, just make them obey the law. On the other hand Jesus came to set us free. Jesus showed how much he loved them and cared for them. Jesus showed us the full extent of His love through His death on the cross- just how far he was willing to go for us. Jesus demonstrated God’s love through the healing and all the synagogue ruler could do was complain. Jesus loosed her because he was her shepherd, just like the owner loosed the ox because he cared for it. The synagogue ruler should have praised God seeing such a miracle. What a privilege he had. He should’ve thanked God for his grace. He should’ve honored Jesus as the Son of God. Instead he became indignant.

When Jesus made this point, all the people rejoiced. They probably appreciated a rabbi who stood up for them against the burdensome laws that the religious leaders had placed on them. They were delighted to be in the presence of God and to witness God’s mighty work. They were delighted to experience God’s one sided love first hand. They were delighted to see all the wonderful things Jesus was doing Who do you think was in a better mindset to worship God on the Sabbath, the indignant synagogue ruler, the healed woman or the delighted crowd?

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? (v18) I think this is something people wonder about. Many people have written songs wondering what heaven will be like. I’ve seen cartoon versions of heaven, where there is fluffy white clouds, pearly gate and chubby angels flying around, but what does Jesus compare the kingdom of God to? Jesus said, “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”(v19) I don’t know about you but when I pictured the kingdom of God I never thought of it like a mustard seed. What did Jesus mean by this? First of all the kingdom of God starts out like a small like a seed, with nothing much to look at. But then it starts to grow. Slowly at first, underground where you can’t see it. After a while it pops out of the ground and eventually it grows into tree big enough for birds to nest in its branches. Likewise, the kingdom of God starts out small. Usually God begins His work with one person, like Adam, Noah, Abraham, David ect. And at the beginning, God’s work goes unseen because it’s happening within our hearts. God convicts our heart of our sin and we begin to bear the fruit of the spirit, like repentance and so forth. And eventually the kingdom of God grows in our heart to the point where His love begins to flow out of us and we share God’s love with others and we become a shepherd for the people around us. The kingdom of God grows slowly but steadily. The disciples wanted God’s kingdom to come in a hurry all at once. Often we’re like this too. We want everything to happen lickety split. But that’s not how God works. God bore with Abraham for 25 long years until he could grow into the man of faith that God created him to be. God bore with Moses for 40 years in the palace and for 40 years in desert until God could finally use him. Sometimes we can’t see God’s work going on but we must have faith that He is doing His work. This goes for ourselves as well as for others. Sometimes we may wonder if we will ever change. But we have to have faith the God is working within our heart as well. Then slowly in time God’s work multiplies. And it goes from just Adam & Eve to the whole world being populated. Or from through Abraham the nation of Israel was born. I remember when the ministry here at IIT consisted of M. Deborah Kim, her husband and myself. But slowly and steadily God’s work grew to where we are today. When Jesus said these words, Christianity didn’t even exist. But ever since God’s kingdom has been forcefully advancing until it has become one the biggest religions in the world. You can’t deny that it is big. How could it have grown like it has? There have been many who claimed to be the Messiah, back in Jesus’ time and even today if you count Rev. Moon. How could 12 men take Jesus’ world mission command and make disciples of all nations? You can’t deny that it is the work of God.

Not only does God’s kingdom grow, it’s the place where people can grow too. Just like the birds nest in the branches of the mustard tree, God’s kingdom is a place where people feel safe, like a bird feels in their nest. It’s their home. The kingdom of God is our home, where we feel welcomed, protected, comfortable and loved. Where children are loved unconditionally and they can make many mistakes and their parent still accept them. When they can grow in strength and wisdom and gain confidence in their abilities until they can stand on their own two feet. For example when Julia was in high school she had a very difficult time with math. Maybe she wanted nothing to do with math. But through the word of God, she was healed and challenged to face her fear and she overcame and became a math teacher. Martin Luther overcame fear when he experienced the kingdom of God. We have so many examples even here in our midst. The kingdom of God is where we experience true joy and come to know the meaning of life. The kingdom of God is where we are free from the burden of life and we can sit in the presence of God instead of having to struggle just to survive. The kingdom of God is warm and soft, not cold and hard. The kingdom of God is the place to be. How wonderful is the kingdom of God. This is very different that the place where the Pharisees lived with so many rules and regulations where you may or may not ride the elevator.

Another thing that I would never have compared the kingdom of God to is yeast but Jesus did. Jesus said, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (v20-21) What Jesus is talking about here is influence. In this parable Jesus compares the kingdom of God to yeast, and while yeast is just a minor ingredient, it’s responsible for the dough rising. Although God’s Kingdom had small beginnings, it would grow to have a great impact on the world. Look at how God has influenced the world. From laying out our week with seven days, following the pattern in the Bible. And we when mention a date it revolves around the life of Jesus. The kingdom of God has power to be a big impact upon the world.

So what should we take away from today’s passage? First off, we were made to praise God. We have to have praise and worship of our heavenly Father. We must honor God and worship Him and pray that His kingdom may come and dwell within us. For where God’s kingdom is, there He is with us. We must make a environment of that where people feel safe, loved, wanted, so that they may learn to praise God for themselves. We’ve often become to rigid in our way of thinking, where things have to be done a certain way and if they aren’t then something must be wrong. If someone isn’t feeling loved then we’re not doing our job. When we walk into our house after work do we only complain at the mess the kids made? Or when we enter do we throw our arms around them and love them unconditionally? When we have the God’s spirit and honor Him then God’s kingdom grows around us and we can love our brothers and sisters and be a good influence to the world around us. We have a wonderful opportunity before us, to be a part of God’s kingdom while we are here. May God grow His work here at IIT until many birds may perch in the branches.

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Daily Bread

Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

  Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
  seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the LORD.

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