Sermon Notes: Your Kingdom Come

Our pastor began a new series today. It promises to challenge my thinking and encourage me to study the scriptures. This series is based on a theme in scripture – the King and the Kingdom. Today, Pastor Paul introduced the idea of the Kingdom using Matthew’s gospel. I share my notes in hopes that they will encourage you in your own deep dive into scripture!

The Background Story of the Kingdom

Matthew speaks to the Kingdom often in his gospel. The thing is, though, he does not define it. It’s fun to think about a kingdom. I love imagining God’s kingdom as the beautiful mansion on a mountain top, surrounded by a lush garden. But of course, God’s kingdom is more about ruling, power than a place. The NIV Study Bible has a great definition of the kingdom —

“… the establishment of God’s rule in the hearts and lives of his people, the overcoming of all the forces of evil, the removal from the world of all the consequences of sin—including death and all that diminishes life—and the creation of a new order of righteousness and peace.”

NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 2011 by Zondervan.

Matthew’s book begins with a genealogy which anchors the birth of Jesus in time and space. It also establishes Jesus’ right to kingship. It shows that Jesus is a descendent of Abraham – one who fulfills the promises made in Genesis 12 – the descendant through whom all the peoples of the world would be blessed. It also lists David, not just as any king, but as “the” king, the one who was a man after God’s own heart. The prophecy about the coming King who would reign with justice is always described as being in the lineage of David.

In chapter 2, Matthew sets up the conflict of the story to come. Herod is king over much of the known world. But there is a new king on the scene. The magi from the east come to find that king and honor him. As in any good story, now one must predict which is the rightful king, and how will that king take his throne?

In chapter 3, John the Baptist is introduced. His message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” moves Matthew’s theme along. What does it mean that the kingdom is near? You’ll recall that before John’s birth as recorded by Luke, he was filled with the Spirit. It was stated that John will go on “before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” John comes to pave the way for the kingdom.

In preparation for His earthly ministry, Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tempted. Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. I always find that temptation interesting. Satan knew who Jesus was; he knew that the kingdoms all belonged to God. BUT he may have known that if Jesus succumbed to that temptation, it would thwart God’s plan of redemption. Jesus does not succumb – He has come to do His Father’s will, to establish a spiritual kingdom.

Jesus begins His ministry with the same message that John was preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!” God’s reign is drawing near in space, proximity, in the person and ministry of Jesus Himself.

The Characteristics of the Kingdom

Reports spread about Jesus as He begins to heal people all throughout the region where He was teaching and preaching. Large crowds begin to follow Him. In his writing, Matthew shares five “big” messages of Jesus. The first of these five sermons is the Sermon on the Mount.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes the characteristics of the kingdom. Notice how that set of verses begins and ends:

3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. …

10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

Matthew 5:3, 10

The Beatitudes are bookended with the same phrase, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” This bookending pattern (called an “inclusio”) indicates that all that is in between also refers to the kingdom of heaven. The Beatitudes lists key attributes of those who belong to the kingdom – poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted – these are the ones that will inherit the kingdom!

Jesus elaborates on the kingdom as He continues teaching, recorded in Matthew 5 – 7. Jesus contrasts traditional understanding of the Old Testament Law with His meaning and interpretation. Jesus raises the bar! No longer is it enough not to murder, covet, or commit adultery, but He extends it to our thoughts by addressing our anger and lust. He’s building up to His climatic expectation – be holy, perfect, mature even as He is holy.

In the prayer He teaches His disciples, the model prayer, Jesus outlines what it means for God’s kingdom to come – it’s about His will, His rule, His reign on earth even as it is in heaven! This, then, is the succinct definition of the kingdom of God!

That’s when our pastor asked the difficult questions –

“What would it look like if Jesus was ruling and reigning in your life?”
“What would it look like if Jesus was ruling and reigning in your marriage, your work?”
“What might our church look like if Jesus was ruling and reigning in it?”

The message of Jesus is to be the kingdom of God, to take the kingdom of God with us in our daily lives, to live out the principles of the kingdom. The best thing we can do each day, in our work, home, play, schooling, is to represent Christ and His heart for our world.

The Invitation to Pursue the Kingdom

Jesus issues the invitation, the command, to above all, pursue his kingdom and righteousness. Later in Matthew, in chapter 13, Jesus illustrates the kingdom in just a couple of word pictures. Suppose you found a treasure hidden in a field. Would you not go out, sell all you own in order to buy that field, to have that treasure? Or suppose you are a merchant dealing in fine pearls. You locate the purest, most beautiful, the largest, the best pearl ever. Would you not sell all that you had to own that one pearl? These parables are not teaching that we “buy” our salvation but that the kingdom is worth great sacrifice! That in order to follow Jesus, to participate in His Kingdom, we die to self, putting aside all other masters, and allow Him to be our rightful King, Lord, Master, Sovereign!

And of course, we know Jesus cannot be Savior unless He is also Lord. It’s not either/or but only both/and!

May God establish His rule in our hearts and lives. May we submit to the work of the Spirit so that sin no longer has power in our lives. And may we represent well our living Lord in our daily lives, exercising His righteousness and peace in all that we do. Be glorified, God, in us, your kingdom people! Amen!

Rejoice, the Lord is King:
Your Lord and King adore!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing,
And triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart,
Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns,
The God of truth and love;
When He has purged our stains,
He took his seat above;
Lift up your heart,
Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail,
He rules o’er earth and heaven;
The keys of death and hell
Are to our Jesus given:
Lift up your heart,
Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope!
Our Lord and judge shall come
And take His servants up
To their eternal home:
Lift up your heart,
Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Charles Wesley 1744
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