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Sunday, August 08, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom"

“Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
August 8, 2010
Luke 13:18-30


Last week, we resumed our study of the Gospel of Luke–which we are calling “Certain of Jesus”–by reading the story of the bent-over woman that Jesus healed.  She was set free by Jesus.

And when this happened chapter 13, verse 17 says that Jesus opponents were humiliated but that the people were delighted with all of the wonderful things that Jesus was doing.

They were getting foretaste of the kingdom of God.

Ever since Jesus arrived on the scene, He’s been talking about the Kingdom of God.

And He’s been bringing it.  He’s been bringing the Kingdom of God with Him.

And we know why that is.  It’s because He’s the king!

In today’s passage (verses 18 through 30), Jesus teaches some more about this Kingdom of God.

This active reign of God where God’s will is present here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

This kingdom of God that is here now in part with the coming of Jesus but is not yet fully here like it some day will be.

It’s already but not yet.

Already here but not yet here in its fullness.

Jesus teaches more about the kingdom of God.

And today, He teaches more about how SURPRISING the kingdom is.

The Kingdom of God is surprising.

It is not always what we would expect.

The kingdom of God takes us by surprise.

“Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom.”

Three things this morning.
                   
Three surprises about the kingdom.

#1.  THE SURPRISING KINGDOM STARTS SMALL BUT GROWS HUGE.

V. 18

“Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?  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.’”

Jesus casts around for a good analogy to describe the surprising kingdom of God.

And He lands on the mustard seed.

The background picture for this slide is a mustard field (I think) that Heather took on our vacation in Alberta, Canada.

Heather grew up with miles and miles and miles of prairie on every side.

With yellow fields.  Some canola from which we get our oil. And some yellow fields full of mustard plants.  Not necessarily the same mustard plants as Jesus is talking about but from the same family tree.

Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

What do you know about mustard seeds.

Here is one right here.

Tiny, huh?

The mustard seed is proverbially tiny.  Small.  Seemingly insignificant.

My kids would say, “Eensy.”

But what happens to this seed?

It grows.  And it becomes a plant.  And then a tree.  V.19

“It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”

This is probably describing the plant Sinapis Nigra, a member of the mustard family that can group to ten feet tall (Bock, 1225).

From eensy weensy to big enough to become a safe home for birds.

That’s a surprise!

The surprising kingdom starts small but grows hugemongously!

Our Lord uses a different simile in verse 20 and 21 to make the same point.  V.20

“Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”

You thought that a mustard seed was small!

Yeast is really tiny. But it has a big effect.

It gets worked into the dough and expands and grows and grows and the bread rises.

Small but ultimately powerful.

Jesus says that’s what the kingdom is like.

It starts out small but inevitably becomes huge.

Now, what should knowing that do for us today?

Well, I think it should encourage us, especially when things don’t seem very big or very flashy or very successful.  When things don’t seem to be going well.

When it doesn’t seem like God’s will is being done on Earth as it is heaven.

We have to remember that the kingdom starts small but grows huge.

Jesus’ followers did not expect a small kingdom.

They expected the King of Israel come blasting in and tossing the Romans out on their ears.

They expected the King of Glory but they didn’t expect Him to come riding in on a donkey.

They should have.  The Old Testament is full of prediction of a kingdom that starts small but inevitably grows unbelievably huge.

Remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?

The big statue with different kinds of building materials and then what comes and knocks it down?

A little tiny rock, right?

And then what happened to that rock?

It grew and became a mountain and then filled the earth!

The kingdom probably didn’t seem like that much, in some ways, when Jesus’ followers first started preaching about it.

12 men who believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

And then 3,000 and then more and the message spread throughout the Roman world.

Small but then growing.

And now what?  Millions of people call Jesus Lord throughout the Earth.

And someday?  Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is King.

The surprising kingdom starts small but grows huge.

The same is true in our personal lives.

Does it seem to you right now that the Kingdom of God has come to your life?

“Well, I guess, yes, I know it has.  Jesus has changed my life.  He’s in my life.  Yeah.”

But this is not all that it shall be!

Right now, it might be a mustard seed or a piece of yeast.

But the Kingdom grows.

Be encouraged!  Things are not always as they seem.

God is at work.  And the Kingdom GROWS!

People are being added to the kingdom every day.

Sometimes it seems like Christianity is on the decline.  And in places in the world, it is, including Europe and maybe here in America.

But in other places in the world, Christianity is booming!  God is at work. 

People are being added to the kingdom every day.

The mustard seed will grow inevitably!  Until the birds of the air perch in its branches.

However, it’s not easy to get into this kingdom.

That’s surprise number 2.

2. THE SURPRISING KINGDOM HAS A NARROW AND CLOSING DOOR.

Look at verse 22.

“Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’”

Someone has heard all of the warnings that Jesus has been giving.

Jesus has more warnings to come. Luke is full of Jesus warning people.  We’re going to see that more and more in the coming weeks.  Notice that Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem.  Jerusalem and what is going to happen there will be the topic of next week’s sermon.  And it is full of warning.

And someone picks up that Jesus doesn’t expect everyone to get into the kingdom.

Now, all good Jews expected that they would get into the kingdom.  After all, the kingdom had been promised to them.

But are only a few people going to make it through the judgment and be saved into the kingdom of God?

Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly, but he uses the question to challenge his hearers to repent.  V.23 again.

“Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’  He said to them ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

The surprising kingdom has a narrow entrance into it.

In some way, it’s not easy to enter.  Not everyone gets in.

Not everyone gets in.

“Many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

And more than that, the door is not only narrow but closing.  V.25

“Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' ‘But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'”

The door is narrow and it is closing.

This was true for Israel then and it’s true for people now.

The way into the kingdom is narrow.

Now, what does that mean?

I think it means that you have to repent to get into the kingdom and that’s hard for us to do as proud people.

It’s not that you have to go through a bunch of hoops to enter the kingdom.

It’s simple - repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

A child can do it!

But you have to turn from your sin and humble yourself before God and receive the free gift that Jesus provided you upon the Cross.

You don’t get into the kingdom of God by any other way.

There is no backdoor.  No side door.  No alternative entrance.

You have to come in this narrow way.

It’s not automatic.  It is not tied to your race or parentage or background or tradition.

It required you to repent and receive Jesus.  To enter by the narrow door.

Many people are trying to get into the kingdom by any other way.

But God has only one way into His surprising kingdom.  And it’s hard only because it’s hard for us to open our hands and receive.

We want to justify ourselves.  We want to do it our way.

But Jesus says, “Squeeze in here. Come in my way.”

Or else.

And the day will come when the door will close.

Make every effort to enter.

That doesn’t mean “work for your salvation.”  That would fly in the face of everything else he’s said.

It does mean to force yourself to repent and turn to the Savior.

Before it’s too late.

Notice the excuses that people offer to the house-owner (God) in verse 26.

“Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'”

We know all about you.  You lived here.  We are familiar with you.

You have to let us in.

There will be people when the door closes to the kingdom that say, “I went to church!  On Christmas and Easter!  Every year!  Every Sunday!

I know about Jesus.  I never denied Him.  I believed in God in my own way.

I took communion.”  V.27

“‘But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'”

It’s not enough to be familiar with Jesus.

You have to know Him personally.

It’s not enough to go to church.

Going to church is wonderful.  I think everyone should do it.  In fact, I think everyone should be an active member of the church.  I think God commands it.

But going to church doesn’t make you a believer.

Just like living in a garage doesn’t make you a car!

You go to church because you a believer.  And that comes from having a personal love relationship with Jesus Himself.

He is the narrow door.

John 10:9 “I am the [door]; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

Make every effort.

Have you entered the kingdom yourself?

Do you know Jesus?

Have you come in by the narrow door?

We want everyone here to know Jesus personally and to have put your faith personally in Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

At some point, the door is going to slam shut.

And I want everyone here to be safely INSIDE.

Because (v.28) outside, “‘There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”

Unimaginable sorrow and unimaginable agony to be excluded from the kingdom of God.

Now, that might surprise you.

You might have a picture of God that He is always forgiving and never brining judgment and wrath.

But the kingdom is surprising.

God is holy and oh so patient.  But there will be one day and end to His patience and a terrifying wrath for those who have not come into the kingdom by the narrow door.

This should also fuel our evangelism.

We need to tell people.

People have got to hear this news.  That the door is narrow and closing.


Who have you recently told about the surprising kingdom of God?

A few of times on our recent vacation, I sensed a possible opening to share about Jesus.

A couple of those times I stumbled in and said a little something.

A few of those times, I chickened out.

How will people know about this narrow and closing door unless we tell them?

Tell people.

If you don’t know how, you might want to consider joining our Sunday School class.  We’ve been studying “How To Share Your Faith,” and it’s been great to practice a simple outline explain the gospel to someone and help them cross the finish line of faith.  To enter into the surprising kingdom.

Because here’s the great thing.

Even though the door is narrow, the surprising kingdom is astonishingly broad and joyful!

#3.  THE SURPRISING KINGDOM IS ASTONISHINGLY BROAD AND JOYFUL!

God is taking all kind of people into His surprising kingdom!  V.29

“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.  Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.’”

Talk about a surprising kingdom!

The door may be narrow, but the kingdom is broad!

People will come from every point on the compass: east and west and north and south.

Which are we?

Where is Pennyslvania in relationship to Israel?

We’re West, right?

I know, if you go around the other way, we’re East.

So we’re covered either way.

But it’s surprising that we are included.

Pennyslvania was not one of the original twelve tribes of Israel!

Did you know that?

We are the last.  But we are first.

Many in Israel were given the promises at first, but they are last, even thrown out because they did not come in by narrow door of Jesus Messiah.

But, astonishingly, we have!

We are included in the kingdom!

And so are believers in China (that’s East!) and Africa (that’s South) and in Europe (that’s North).

“People will come from east and west and north and south (how incredibly broad), and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

I love that word “feast!”

The kingdom of God will be one major party!

It will be so full of joy that Jesus’ favorite metaphor for it is a feast.

We’re going to see a lot more about that in the next few chapters.  Luke 14 and 15 are full of joy in the kingdom and feasting.  So, buckle up your seatbelt for more thinking about that.

But right now just be content to thank God for your inclusion in the broad and joyful kingdom to come.

Praise God!

Praise God that you and I are included through Jesus.

And start anticipating what is to come.

It might seem small right now.  Smaller even than a mustard seed.

But (Surprise!) someday it will be huge and exceedingly joyful.

Praise God.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom

Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and TragediesSet Free By Jesus

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