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Aug 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 30, 2017 – Matthew 5:3

A Whisper of Things Unseen

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

Intro: We spent a lot of time last week on “poor in spirit”

We need to spend some time on the promise, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
– what did Jesus mean by “kingdom of heaven”?
• this is important, because it constituted his primary focus (cf. Mt. 4:17, 23)

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17)
Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. (Mt. 4:24 and cf. Mt. 9:35)

– he was telling people to prepare themselves
repent: we hear this repeatedly in the Old Testament – “turn” or “return”
◦ I think the best way for us to understand it today is re-wire your brain
◦ for example, the title to Daniel Amen’s book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
at hand: the Greek word means to come near, to approach
◦ but look how Jesus uses it when in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs . . . (Mt. 26:46-47)

◦ “at hand” in that context meant, already nearby and even now arriving

So what did “the kingdom of heaven” mean to Jesus?
(I will give you my view, so take it with a grain of salt)

First, behind the kingdom was Israel’s hope for a national restoration
– the promise of God from the time of Moses:

. . . and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully (Deut. 28:13)

• the closest Israel ever came were monarchies of David and Solomon
◦ at that time Israsel was a world empire, a kingdom to be reckoned with
• but when they turned their backs on God, he turned away from them
– Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets foresaw a new Golden Era
• the world would finally see in Israel a model of God’s rule
◦ the world as God intended it to be
• key features: perfect justice and perfect righteousness 
◦ according to Isaiah, it would look something like this:

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion [will feed] together;
And a little boy will lead them.
And the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:6-9)

Secondly, the basic meaning of the biblical words translated kingdom is rule
– to belong to a kingdom was to live under the authority of  the king
• so the kingdom of heaven is everything that is God’s government
◦ perhaps the easiest way to grasp its meaning is found in the following lines:

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10)

◦ God’s kingdom is wherever his will is done

William Barclay said, “If we take the two petitions of the Lord’s prayer and set them together:
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,
we get the definition: The Kingdom of God is a society where God’s will is perfectly done in earth as it is in heaven.”

• God’s will is for perfect peace–shalom in every person, society and the world

Third, kingdom referred to a realm
– the realm was whatever lay under a king’s authority
• the geographical space and its population
– I choose to broaden the meaning of realm to dimension
• the kingdom of heaven is a dimension of intersection
◦ between earth and heaven, time and eternity, humankind and God
• a dimension in which God’s power is present and directly effects the world

When people heard Jesus say “the kingdom of heaven,”
– they probably did not have all of these concepts in mind
• nevertheless, these concepts were all pieces of the puzzle
– so, this is why the poor in spirit were blessed
• for them, the kingdom of heaven had come (“theirs is the kingdom”)
◦ their lives intersected with the Infinite
• but there was an obvious problem — God’s kingdom had not arrived!
◦ at least not in any recognizable way

This leads us to . . .

The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven

To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 13:11)

The typical expectation of the rendewed kingdom was that its arrival would be spectacular
– Israel was waiting for a earth-shaking event
• but there had been no divine irruptions or cosmic upheavals
• aside from some remarkable miracles, nothing was changed
– so one purpose for the parables was to explain this discrepancy
• how could the kingdom be present without world change?

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. (Mt. 13:31-32)

I imagine Jesus pinching small black seed between his thumb and forefinger
– and saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed”
• how could he compare the kingdom with something so small and insignificant?
◦ a bird could eat it, the sun could scorch it
• but though small at first, the seed could grow into large plant
– the kingdom of heaven had come, but not in its fullest — not yet
• the whole tree was not yet visible, but its seed was there
• the kingdom was present as something living and growing
◦ for now it was so small as to be easily overlooked
◦ yet it was real and bristling with divine energy

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until all was leavened (Mt. 13:33)

Like most children at that time, Jesus no doubt watched Mary make bread
– working the dough, she would pull apart a small piece and set it aside
• that bit of dough would be allowed to ferment
• it became the yeast for another batch of dough
– Jesus did not say the woman “mixed” the yeast in the flour
• that would have been the correct word for her actions
◦ instead, she “hid” the yeast in the flour — an unusual expression
◦ his emphasis was though it was invisible, it still permeated the loaf
• the kingdom is present, but hidden–invisible
◦ you cannot say it is not at work simply becaue you cannot see it
◦ it is present, spreading and exercising its influence in the world

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Mt. 13:44)

The treasure in the field, like the yeast, was also “hidden” from view
– yet it was something worth liquidating all one’s assets to obtain
• we would never sell out for the kingdom if we did not know its value
• we would never know its value if we never found it
– Jesus tells the parable to let us know the treasure is there
• he wants us to find it and finding it, be motivated by joy to obtain it
• how many Christians do you know whose lives look like they’ve found a treasure?

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Mt. 13:45-46)

The difference between the lucky guy who found the treasure and the merchant is
– the merchant was “seeking find pearls”
• he knew what he wanted, what he was looking for
• only he had not known that anything so exquisite even existed
◦ so when he found it, he was immediately prepared to give up everything for it
– Jesus does not want us to panic over what we give up for the kingdom
• the sacrifices can be no only voluntary, but even joyful
◦ the point is what we gain from the bargin
• Jesus’ invitation is to “seek first” God’s kingdom and let rest fall into place
◦ one hundred percent surrender to God is a challenge
◦ it can even be a chore–that is, unless we have first had a taste of his kingdom

The parables serve a specific purpose

I once hear a seminary professor talking about the necessity of experiencing a paradigm shift
– this was so our worldview could be enlarged to include the supernatural
• I asked how we might approach such a paradigm shift
◦ he paused for a moment, then said, “Analogy can be useful”
◦ that was exactly what Jesus’ parables were;
◦ analogies meant to challente and reform our mental models
• Jesus used parables to introduce us to the realm of the Spirit
– C. S. Lewis insisted Christians must maintain their belief in supernatural

Lewis, “To explain even an atom [physicist] Schroedinger wants seven dimensions: and give us new senses and we should find a new Nature. There may be Natures piled upon Natures, each supernatural to the one beneath it, before we come to the abyss of pure spirit; and to be in that abyss, at the right and of the Father, may not mean being absent from any of these Natures — may mean a yet more dynamic presence on all levels.”

• the kingdom is a present-moment supernatural reality
◦ it may or may not break the surface of our universe,
◦ but it still affects and transforms our lives
• be a merchant, search for the kingdom, pray for it to come
◦ to enter your life
◦ a moment in God’s kingdom, a whiff of its fragrance, and we are changed forever

Conc: After telling his parable stories, Jesus said,

Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old (Mt. 13:52)

In my opinion, Stories with Intent by Klyne Snodgrass is the best book ever written on Jesus’ parables
(although it’s doubtful he would be in complete agreement with my interpretations of them)
– he explains,

“To be a disciple of the kingdom means hearing and remaining focused on the message of the kingdom in such a way that one is defined by it. The key to spiritual formation is the willingness to listen, the practice of the discipline of listening, and responding appropriately to the received word.”

Well, that is why we are here, right?
– have you considered praying, “Your kingdom come into this moment”?
• or “Your kingdom come into my prayer,” “my Bible reading,”  “my chores,” “my conversations”
• try it and then be mindful of the spiritual presence of the kingdom as you pray, read and so on
– one last verse, and I cannot conclude without quoting it
• this is as important as everything else I’ve said all together
• after another teaching in which Jesus said to seek first God’s kingdom, he added:

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom (Lk. 12:32)

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