"It’s hard to live for the Kingdom of God when we’re so busy living for our own kingdom!"
“The Kingdom Life: Understanding and Living the Sermon on the Mount” is our current discussion series theme at Theology on Tap addressing the question, “What does it look like to seek first the Kingdom of God?” But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well. ~ Matthew 6:33
Matthew introduces Jesus' ministry in Matthew Ch. 4 as a ministry bent on announcing the "good news of the kingdom." This was a central theme of his message.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” ~ Matthew 4:23-25
The first thing to realize about Jesus’ Kingdom talk is that it was a new way of describing God’s redemptive activities. Outside of John the Baptist proclaiming, “the kingdom of heaven is near” the phrase is not found in the Old Testament or in any of the intertestamental writings. But yet Jesus spoke about it all the time. The kingdom of heaven this, the kingdom of God that…he talked about it constantly.
The word he was using for “kingdom” could also be translated or understood as dominion and royal rule, kind of like an empire. The Jews and Greeks gathered to listen to Jesus knew a lot about empires. The were smack-dab in the middle of the one of the most successful empires known to man – the Roman Empire. And the Jews knew even more about empire, particularly oppressive empires. Their history is marked with one oppressive empire after the other – the Ancient Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Seleucids, and then the Romans. Embedded deep in Hebrew expectations was a coming a Messiah who would finally and ultimately put an end to oppressive empires and establish the Davidic Kingdom promised long ago (2 Sam. 7; Psalm 89 and 132).
Jesus was deliberately drawing their attention to those messianic promises made centuries before as he was preaching “the gospel of the kingdom.” However, Jesus went about teaching the Kingdom in a very different way that almost all of them expected. Rather than leading them into yet another violent revolt or war to establish empire/kingdom, Jesus was teaching them a better, more powerful way. God’s way of establishing his eternal Kingdom here on earth was going to go in a completely against-the-grain and unexpected route.
Just what was that unexpected, counter-cultural way of ushering in God’s Kingdom into this world? Well, that’s just what Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was all about. It was a sermon defining and describing Kingdom living and Kingdom advancement in the here and now. “The Kingdom Life: Understanding and Living the Sermon on the Mount” will be our Theology on Tap discussion series for the next couple months.
There's a lot of talk about Kingdom advancement; but how does the kingdom actually progress? What does the Kingdom of God look like in this life?
Here’s our discussion questions for Theology on Tap (07.06.11):
#1 What comes to mind when you think of kingdom advancement?
#2 Some critics of Christianity, and religion in general, would see any religious missional agenda as bigotory, divisive, and culturally regressive. How would you respond?
#3 When Jesus sent his disciples (talmidim) out to proclaim and display the Kingdom of God on earth he told them to "go and preach this message: 'the kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." Why? What do those activities have to do with the Kingdom? How do we do these things in our everyday life?
Join the discussion at Theology on Tap!