Study of the Kingdom – The Baptist in Matthew 11

In this “Study of the Kingdom” we will focus on Matthew 11: 11 to 15 (NIV).  But first, let’s fill in the time-lapse since the last post.  Jesus went through all the towns and villages preaching the good news of the kingdom.  He told the Disciples to pray about workers going into the fields and then He sends them out.  They are sent with authority and a solid block of instruction/teaching (Matthew 10: 5 – 42).  Verse one in chapter 11 leads me to think He went teaching on His own.  Jesus then has a visit from John’s disciples, again.  Steven Furtick, pointed out recently that John’s disciples did not hear verse 7 to 30 as they were leaving.  As I have said before, we tend to break things up for our convenience, but I feel it is important to remember that all of this has a “John” focus! 

Verse 11

Jesus is not shy in his accolades of John.  In doing this series I have come to believe that Christianity may be guilty of downplaying John’s importance and the shadows that he fulfilled and the pattern he shows for the future and the end times.  The part of the verse that grabs my attention is “who is least in the kingdom of heaven” and who was Jesus talking about?  Normally, you think that is referring to future Christians that maybe did not do as much as they should have.   The word “least” makes me think of a servant, so in this phrase, Jesus could be talking about Himself.  He considered Himself the servant of all.

Verse 12

I felt I needed to use the parallel function on Bible Gateway with this verse, I was very surprised at the wide interpretations of this verse!  The King James uses words like violence, violent men, suffereth, and force.  Pull this out of the context of John’s situation and add in a little fire and brimstone this will get you a slanted view of the Christian life.   

As I continue, we need to focus back on John the Baptist.  The next two ways of viewing this verse are wrapped up with him. 1) Herod and his soldiers are violent men and they are trying to stop the Gospel by taking people (John) away by force.  (This seems to be the current thought in the latest NIV.  My 1990 version more or less reflects the KJV.)  2)  That people are turning to the Gospel with a forceful change of life and attitude.  Several paraphrases pick up on the meanings of biazo (violence) and harpazo (force) in determining their verbiage.  In reflecting on the mission of John and grace, I want to think #2 is a better idea.  Luke 16:16 is a companion verse and it holds this idea.  The Disciples were out on their first mission trip and that adds strength to the second idea.  Since Jesus is speaking in current terms, it is just as easily #1.  Either view works, so choose one or both, but keep it in the context of John, his mission, and that fact he is in prison.  

Verse 13

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” (NIV) This verse/idea has changed my thinking on John and just how important he is in God’s timeline.  Wherever you want to stop the “prophesying”, his birth, the start of his ministry, his imprisonment, or his future death that is in just a few months or years from when Jesus is speaking.  Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and training His disciples did take an upward turn with John’s death.

Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:14 and 20+21 and 10:4) puts this into perspective.  Death reigned from Adam to Moses, the Law was added – Moses to John, and grace picked up with Jesus who ended the rule of the Law and ushered in righteousness (if you believe).  If you add in John to Jesus (Matthew 11:11) there is the forceful joining to the Kingdom. 

Verse 14+15    

Since this is Jesus speaking about John, it is worthy to take note.  It must have been a jolt to his audience and is as close as He comes in the Gospels to say who He was and His mission.  This does raise the question for me – If John prepared for Jesus, did Elijah prepare for Elisha?

Thoughts and Observation

  1. “At that time” is used in the NIV in Matthew a lot!  It gives the feeling of just a few hours or days.  In one respect it shrinks the stories to very special days and not a scatter-shot of time over three years.  I realize that the same parables were told and retold.  I like Luke who keeps the milestones and time markers in line and adds parables where they will have the most impact.
  2. Because of #1, Chapter 11 occurs close to a Sabbath and the Disciples returned from their trip as this session ended.  A course the disciples in chapter 12 may not have been the Twelve. 
  3. The forceful men in verse 12 made me think of the Israelites as they were coming out of Egypt.  They always wanted to go back to Egypt!  Well, that is not very forceful!  Unless, they wanted to go back, not as slaves but as invaders.  Egypt was a mess and the army was rebuilding, what better time to conquer the land!

http://www.freebibleimages.org for the pic

Three Negative Forces

There are three negative forces in our world that are the opposites of love, faith, and hope.  The opposing forces are hate, fear, and confusion and shame.  I paired confusion and shame because they are frequently together in Scripture.  Love is opposite of hate, faith opposes fear, and hope battles confusion and shame in our world.  These and more bad things flow from sin, which is the real problem.

The word negative, to be honest, caused me to stop and think awhile.  Most of this reflection is because of friction!  As a science teacher, I presented friction as a “negative” force and frequently as something to be defeated.  Just because something opposes you does not mean that it is bad, remember the angel in the talking mule story of Balaam.  If there is a “push” normally there is a “pull” that is needed to get the job done!  Without friction, we do not move.  So, in itself friction is not bad, as it is nice to move.  Friction is not the topic of this post, so back to hate, fear, and confusion and shame.  Just remember to be careful when using the word “negative”.

Sin and Satan use these three negative forces to affect this world. For Christians, they will affect us if we don’t use God’s grace given us through the sacrifice that Jesus provided.  In discussing the post of Creation Qualities #1 and #2 with my wife brought up 1 John 2:16 when I mentioned these negative forces.  The Apostle John talks about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life as not being from the Father. (These are KJV terms, my 1990 NIV uses different terms for the same ideas.)  Since lust are internal and pride can have an outward and internal manifestation I thought I could work them into the pattern of the first two posts.  Trying this thought and then that one, I just never felt comfortable in squeezing them into a “negative” form of the first post.  Pride and the lusts did not pair up nicely with hate, fear, and confusion and shame.  The thought that did develop was that pride and the lusts could develop from hate, fear, and confusion and shame individual or collectively. Hate, fear, confusion and shame, pride, and the lusts are real and they will consume you if you let them.  Jesus is the source of help when you finally realize that you have a problem – see “Following Jesus?” and find a good Bible-believing church! 

The Bible and Science – Creation Qualities #2

When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to me. John 12:32 (NIV)

A very simple definition of a force is a push or pull (draw) on an object.  Movement of some kind is the result of a force being applied to an object.  In the first Creation Qualities post, I saw three things that keep our world as we know it.  Then, I compared those things (atomic forces, light, and gravity) to Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

Now, I want to compare three Bible forces to these natural forces. (Light is a force because photons can physically push things.). The Biblical forces are – love, faith, and hope.  (See my post Faith, Hope, and Love)

Love holds this world together.  Father God is love, He is the glue in our existence. 1 Corinthians 13 states that love is the greatest of these three forces.

Faith – Faith shines from believers lighting the way for unbelievers to find Jesus.  Faith, like light, has two parts.  There is an invisible part of faith, but there is also the physical side of faith.  Faith will grow and change you.  This causes you to do and say things that are the result of the internal work in you (works of faith).  

Hope – Our hope draws people to us. Hope joins faith and love together. Like gravity the more you have (bigger you are) the more things are drawn in.  If you could lose all gravity nothing would be attracted to you.  Hope has the same effect.  The more you have the more people want to be around you.  If you are without hope people are not drawn to you.

The First Block of Teaching on Kingdom

I see the first block of teaching about the kingdom of heaven starting at Matthew 3: 2 and going to 8: 12.  But this framework does not have the first mention of the kingdom of Jesus in it, so we need to go to the Book of Luke.  The angel Gabriel has visited Zechariah and announced the birth of John the Baptist.  He appears to Mary, introducing himself and stating why he has appeared to her.  This introduction makes the declaration that Jesus’ kingdom over the house of Jacob will never end. (Jacob, the natural-born descendants) Actually, the first four uses of the word kingdom in Matthew and Luke form an interesting picture when taken in order.

  1. Luke 1:33 – The angel Gabriel telling Mary of Jesus’ future.  The Heavenly view featuring past and future events.
  2. Matthew 3:2 to 12 – John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus by telling people to repent for the kingdom is near.  Verse twelve has several forceful words that could give you the idea that the “one” may produce violent actions.  Was this the prevailing thought on what the Messiah would do?
  3. Luke 4:5 – The Devil tempting Jesus with a shortcut to the kingdoms of the earth.  Lying and bartering with humans to get what he always wanted – praise.
  4. Matthew 4:17 – Jesus, after He overcame the Devil’s temptations, preached repentance for the kingdom is near.  The merging of the heavenly idea and the Bride for His Earthly kingdom.

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” was the first use of the word “kingdom” in Matthew.  One came from the person who was to prepare the way and the other from “The Way”.  It makes me wonder if John and Jesus had the same idea when they used the word kingdom?  It might seem that John was thinking of an earthly kingdom with military victories (Matthew 3:11 + 12).  Jesus wanted righteousness!  John’s words were true, they just came to pass with a different look than what “the people” wanted to happen!

This block of teaching about the kingdom is wrapped around the Sermon on the Mount.  The additions that frame the Sermon are worth looking at in the context of what is said about the kingdom in the Sermon.  4:23 – 25 has Jesus preaching the good news in Galilee.  He is healing all sorts of problems and His fame spreads.  Syria, the Decapolis, and Galilee were not the bright spots of the Jewish world at the time, but the news spread to a hurting world of Gentiles (Syria, Decapolis).  So, in chapter 5 when it says He went to a mountainside, it makes you wonder what mountain?  Mt. Hermon near Damascus or Mt Tabor in Galilee would be possible; both of these are also possible sites for the Transfiguration.  But since this study has had me looking at Elijah (because of John) and Elisha I might wonder if it could be Mt. Carmel?  (It was an important place for both of these prophets.)  It was by the major trade route by the sea and would have allowed the news of healings to spread quickly.  On the other end of this time period of teaching are two major healings and acts of faith. 1) The leper asking for healing and being told to go to the priest as a testimony to them (Jewish).  2) The centurion (Gentile/Roman) asking for healing for a servant and his understanding of the kingdom and authority.  These are perfect object lessons from the Master Teacher demonstrating the Sermon.  This shows how Jesus saw the kingdom spreading, to both Jew and Gentile.

Just looking at “kingdom” in the Sermon, it seems to break down into four general areas of thought. 

  1. This is the Father’s kingdom. Matthew 6:9 – the Lord’s Prayer.
  2. Positive ideals. Matthew 5:3+10, 8:11 – who belongs in it. 19b – greatness in the kingdom. 6:33 – seek the kingdom.  
  3. Who is the least? Matthew 5:19a – poor teachers.
  4. Who is not getting in! Matthew 5:20 – self-righteous, 7:21 – those who do not produce fruit, 8:12 – subjects of the kingdom with no faith.

So far in my study of the Kingdom.  

Studying a topic should imply that you do not know everything about the topic!  In this study, I have looked at the 4th and the 1st groups of ideas on the kingdom.  The 4th group was added on from my original thinking on the kingdom.  To be honest, having the 1st block wrapping around the Sermon on the Mount also was not in my first thoughts either.  I consider this study to be going very well because I am looking at the “old” and the “new” is surprising me every day.  The Second Block study is also forcing me to add the good of the old with fresh ideas from the new.  

The Bible and Science – Creation Qualities

 

Romans 1: 20 (NIV) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (I added the bold lettering.)

There are three things that frame and shape our existence on this earth and in the universe – atomic forces, light/EM spectrum, and gravity.  I can see these as shadows of our triune God.

Atomic Forces

These forces are not completely understood.  We know about the particles of protons, neutrons, and electrons and how they combine, rearrange, and come apart.  There is some understanding of quarks and atomic glue, but the mysteries of atoms are vast and may never be completely understood.  The inquisitive nature of mankind will drive us to keep exploring! 

Atoms, particles, and forces are responsible for the EM spectrum and gravity.  The EM spectrum and gravity are intertwined with atoms, being a part of and coming from atoms and their varied interactions.

EM Spectrum

Light, the primary energy source on earth, is part of a group of energy waves called the EM spectrum.  All of the waves are useful and some are dangerous.  As electrons change position wavelengths of the EM spectrum can be emitted.  Science recognizes that light is energy and can exert a force.

Gravity 

The attractive force that pulls on everything.  Its strength depends on the sizes of the objects and the distance between them.  That force is always working, even though you may not be aware of it!  Mankind has found ways to resist gravity for small periods of time, but it will always bring things down to earth.

What I See

  • Father God is the atomic force. We, His people, know and understand some of our Father, but there is much we can only imagine.  It is nice to have a God that shows Himself as real and a mystery. 
  • The EM spectrum is Jesus.  He is our light and life.  Many people think of Him only as a baby and forget He rides a white horse, carries a flaming sword, and has an angelic army coming behind Him.  Jesus has a supernatural (invisible) side and a physical side.
  • Gravity is the Holy Spirit.  He draws us to Jesus.  The closer you get to Him the stronger the force of attraction.  You can resist Him, but I would look out for the landing (every knee will bow).  

∞ I praise and thank You that You have made Yourself seen in creation.  Give me eyes and ears to hear the sounds of You that are all around us.  Amen.