"Jesus did not fit the stereotypical messianic molds with military and political power but He was powerful enough to conquer Satan in the wilderness, universal enough to include both Jews and Gentiles in His messianic gospel, authoritative enough to transform simple men into leaders of a movement that changed the course of history, and effective enough to attend to the basic needs of the people — body, soul and spirit." (Michael Wilkins – The NIV Application Commentary on Matthew) Hallelujah, what a Savior!
We have looked at the prophecies predicting Jesus’ birth and life and seen His amazing humility in His humble birthplace and obedience to His parents as a boy. We have seen His victory over Satan’s temptations (as a Man)- the same temptations we face in our humanity and how we can call upon Him in our times of temptation. Now we see Him as He begins His ministry, proclaiming the gospel, explaining the kingdom and demonstrating with love and power the supernatural nature of the kingdom of God. "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people." (Matthew 4:23)
As peaceful looking and as beautiful as the area is around the Sea of Galilee, the people were living in darkness."The people that sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, To them did light spring up." (Matthew 4:16) And the same is true today. “Beautiful people’ living in their beautiful places are also living in darkness without "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6) We must see our lost friends as blind people with a cane stumbling through life bumping into and hurting others and themselves. They are not as happy as they appear and are moving ever closer to the chasm of eternal destruction. And thus like Jesus we, as the body of Christ, must be about proclamation, explanation and demonstration of the kingdom of God. All three are necessary.
1) Proclamation —"From that time Jesus began to preach and say “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."’ (Matthew 4:17) This is not a suggestion but a command from Jesus the King to turn to Him for salvation. A new king and a new kingdom is now at hand — not the kingdom of Egypt or Babylon or Assyria or Rome, under which the Jewish people had suffered for so long, but the kingdom of God. Entrance into this kingdom is through faith and repentance – repenting from ultimate trust in and allegiance to any king other than the One true God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. This kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus and all who will may enter in.(Romans 10:13) Yet what many people don’t understand is that this proclamation calls for a decision for or against Jesus and no decision is actually a decision against Him. Subjects of a monarch who choose to ignore or disobey the king suffer serious consequences. And for those who choose to reject King Jesus there will be the wrath of God and eternal punishment. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) Many of the Jews misunderstood the nature of this kingdom which had been prophesied years before (2 Samuel 7:11-16) and believed it to be the restoration of the Jews to political and military power and freedom from the various earthly kingdoms that had oppressed them. But as Jesus said later, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) Many people today also have a wrong understanding of God’s kingdom, both of His judgment and discipline as well as His rewards and blessings. On the one hand some people have no fear of God since He doesn’t clearly punish sin immediately or when they see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (See Ecclesiastes 8:11; Also see Psalm 73) On the other hand some have the wrong expectation of rewards for obedience and expect material blessings now — the prosperity gospel. The kingdom of God is now, but not yet in the full sense of both judgment and reward. In sharing the gospel we cannot exclude the demanded obedience and loyalty to the Lord and the eternal consequences for unbelievers who reject God’s free, but costly (the life of His Son), gift of salvation and for believers who reject His Lordship. (Revelation 20:11-15; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
2) "Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues" Jesus not only proclaimed the gospel and called people to a decision, He taught and explained the kingdom of God – the Sermon on the Mount, the upper room discourse and the Olivet discourse along with His parables and instructions to His disciples. Jesus "went throughout Galilee" (some 200 cities) tirelessly explaining the ways of the kingdom to the people. To be like our Lord we too must know. obey and teach His Word. "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel"(Ezra 7:10) Although we are not all called to teach the Scriptures in a formal sense we are all called to grow and mature and be able to pass on the truths of Scripture to our family and friends. "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14)And we need to be in the Word and under the teaching of God’s Word to grow, mature and reproduce.
3) Demonstration — "healing every disease and sickness among the people". Jesus demonstrated the arrival of the good news of the kingdom by meeting the needs of the people and He is still in the healing and deliverance ministry today as well as meeting all the basic needs of the people around us: food and shelter, love and acceptance, meaning and purpose. The kingdom of God needs to be demonstrated not just proclaimed and explained. Though miracles and healings do not necessarily engender faith, we see in Scripture where they can serve as a catalyst to move people to salvation. (E.g. John 2:11, 5:46-54) As we reach out to others in Christ’s Name and power to be the hands and feet of Jesus and meet the needs of those around us we manifest the reality of the kingdom. Yet as we serve people’s need we must also share the gospel which is God’s provision in Christ to meet their greatest need, eternal life, a new and meaningful life now (John 10:10) and the promise of eternal joy and blessings. (Matthew 25: 21)
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16) We shine our light for Christ as we 1) proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, which calls people to a decision: to accept or reject Jesus the King of kings. No decision is ultimately a decision to reject Him; 2) explain the gospel – study, obey and share God’s truth with others and 3) and demonstrate the gospel by serving the needs of those God sends us to – just as our Lord Jesus did.
Until He comes,
Len and Kristen