Here is yesterday’s sermon, it is all about Jesus’ kingdom mission; bringing God’s rule and reign, as in heaven, to earth. I would love to know your thoughts on about the subject of this message; is this the language that you are familiar with, or is this a new concept for you? I felt that yesterday, when I preached it, that it might not be a common idea, tell me what you think, does this resonate with you?
Oh, and while you’re reading why don’t you listen to my Spotify playlist, It’s at the bottom of the page: Enjoy.
Anyway before you get to carried away, click on Matthew 9:35-38 and read today’s scripture reading.
Over the last two weeks we have been looking at mission. First we looked at God’s mission. We said that God’s mission was about God revealing himself to humanity, and bringing humanity into a new and restored relationship with himself.
And we also said that God chose to reveal himself through his chosen people, firstly with the Israelites (in the Old Testament), then through Jesus (in the Gospels), then through his new people, Christ Followers (in the new testament and beyond). And so with this in mind we were moved to play our part.
Secondly we learned that we can be inspired by others to get involved in mission, through hearing about what God has done in their lives and also what God has done through them. We think specifically of:
Stephen and Phillip in the book of Acts, and William Carey in India back two hundred years ago, and also the five women who began the first Australian Baptist Missionary endeavor in India.
These stories inspire us to play our part in God’s mission, but by that same breath we also inspire others by what God is doing in our lives and also what God is doing through us. We all have a story to tell.
And so these are two aspects of mission that are extremely important. But this week I want to look at another aspect of mission that is at the centre of it all; the mission of kingdom.
But before we go any further let’s pray asking God to move us to act as we consider how we can play our part in his mission.
I went on to the internet the other morning to look at some headlines, some of them were pretty grim; “Woman dies after car struck by train”, “Man dies from stab wound”, “Hospital admits negligence”, “Child migrant scandal”, “Seven students killed in Algeria blast”.
All of these headlines paint a picture of the world gone awry. They paint a picture of God’s created order suffering under the weight of sin and evil.
Now this is not a new problem, and in fact it is one of the oldest stories we’ve got. Even 1st Century Palestine had some pretty grim headlines:
“Another 200 Jewish men executed by Rome for attempted coup”, “More widows die from hunger and neglect”, “Augustus raises taxes again”, “Disease and disability rampant”. These sort of headlines would’ve filled the Jerusalem times.
Now, imagine, in the mix of all of this turmoil there is a man going around healing every disease and illness. Imagine seeing this man care for the poor and neglected widows. Imagine seeing this man bring to life the woman hit by the train. Imagine this man speaking out against the oppressive rulers who are in power?
And then in the midst of all this going on, imagine if he spoke, imagine if he spoke of a time very soon, in fact a time that is here now, when the Creator of the universe would come to rule and reign over the earth. Imagine if he said that the time had come when God was going to put everything to rights. Could you imagine that?
And yet that is exactly what the man, Jesus was doing. Jesus, Israel’s God in the flesh, as we read in verse 35 of Matthew chapter 9, “…went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”
If I could be so bold to say, the good news of the Kingdom, was the main message Jesus preached, it was His mission. And on every page of the Gospels the Kingdom whether boldly or between the lines was preached.
And so what is this kingdom that Jesus talked of? Well to put it simply it was and is this: God becoming King over the whole universe, and his reign and rule infiltrating every aspect of life on this earth.
The Kingdom of God, is not about an escape for a select few from earth to heaven, rather it is heaven coming to earth. And where Jesus was there was the Kingdom; heaven on earth.
In heaven there is no illness or disability, where Jesus went people were healed, the blind could see. In heaven there is no death, where Jesus went people were raised from the dead. In heaven there is no evil spirits, where Jesus went evil spirits were cast out.
Chapters 8 and 9 of Matthew’s Gospel are full of all these miraculous heaven/kingdom experiences. Contrary to what is commonly understood, all these miraculous healings were not done to prove that Jesus was God, for the Gospel writers that was a given. Rather these healings were a sign of the Kingdom of God/heaven breaking in to life on earth.
Two chapters later in chapter 11 we get this great dialogue between Jesus and John’s disciples. John the Baptist, who is in prison, has heard about Jesus and what he is doing. Now here we need to remember John the Baptist was the prophet who proclaimed that Israel’s God was coming. He proclaimed that Jesus was going to be King.
In verse 2 of Chapter 11: “When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’
Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’”
John didn’t want to be in prison because he had backed the wrong guy. And so he wanted to know if Jesus was in fact God come as King to reign over the earth. And Jesus replies by saying, what does it look like? Does it look like heaven is on earth? Does it look like God’s reign is here?
When God is in charge will the blind see? Yes. Will the lame walk? Yes. Will the dead be raised? Yes. Ok well make up your own mind; am I God’s king bringing about God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven or not?
And so with this glorious image of the Kingship of Jesus, the Kingdom come, God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, we move back to the story.
Jesus has been going around towns and villages for sometime and there has been a great crowd following him. If where Jesus is there is heaven’s presence breaking into earth’s, you could imagine a great crowd wanting to see what was going on. I certainly would.
Anyway there is a great crowed following Jesus, thousands in fact. And as he is proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and healing every disease and sickness, he looks out over the crowd and sees that they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
In the Old Testament the sheep and the shepherd were images that represented Israel (as the sheep) and Israel’s promised King (as the Shepherd). And as Jesus looks out over the crowd he sees that Israel hans’t Got a Shepherd, and as a result they are tired, and dejected, strained and confused.
Now Israel at that time did have a king (Herod) and that king was answerable to a more grander king (Caesar). But both these kings were just merely humanly appointed, and worse than that, they were also tyrants.
What Jesus saw though, was a people without the good shepherd, a people without the one true king they were looking for, the one true king who would rule like God himself.
And as Jesus sees this he has compassion on the people. The Good Shepherd, sees his flock and is moved by them. The tyrant kings Herod and Caesar rule the people with an iron fist. Their tactic is to put fear in the minds of their subjects so that they would be too scared to stand against them.
Even rulers today rule this way. People in the Arab world have found out the hard way that these leaders rule with an iron fist. Even in Australia we get the impression that our leaders aren’t here to serve but to be served.
And so even in today’s world there are people who are dejected, and without hope, lost like sheep without a shepherd. And yet in the midst of all of this hopelessness, and hopeless headlines, there is Jesus the true, Good shepherd, King. And how is his kingdom ruled, with compassion, and with love.
In John 10:14-15, Jesus says, “ I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
The Kingdom of God, heaven on earth is pitted against the kingdoms of this world. The king of the Kingdom of God sees the hopelessness, and brings hope, through love and compassion by ultimately laying down his life. The other kingdom uses hopelessness to keep people under oppression and authority.
For a world that is broken and dejected. The news of the Kingdom is Good News. God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven, heaven on earth, is good news.
And so with compassion and love he seeks to bring these people into the Kingdom. In verse 37-38, He says to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
He looks out to the crowd, and for us in our time the crowd represents the world around us, hopeless, confused, tired, dejected. And he sees the harvest field. People all over the world who need Jesus, and who need to come under his reign.
And Jesus says, pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers in to the field. This is not something that Jesus can do on his own, again, for some reason unknown to me he chooses to work through his people.
And so we in our day and in our time, are to pray to God that he would raise people up to be involved in preaching the good news of the kingdom, heaven on earth, to the sheep of the world without a shepherd.
And it seems at least for some prayer leads to action. Just after Jesus tells his disciples to pray for workers to go and collect the harvest, he in chapter 10, gives them instructions to go out into the harvest themselves. Praying for workers leads to workers going out.
What is amazing is the fact that as we pray and act it is as if Jesus has invited us to share the task of the kingdom with us,his people. In verse 7 of chapter 10 Jesus says, “ As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
And later in the chapter, in verse 40 Jesus says, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”
Now, while heaven is not yet fully on earth, it has broken and is breaking through in the person of Jesus. And where Jesus is there is heaven. But what is even more amazing is that where his people are, there is Jesus, and again where Jesus is there is heaven.
This is a huge claim, Jesus himself is saying that we are kingdom people. This little fellowship here is a glimpse of heaven breaking through on earth.
While there is turmoil and hopelessness throughout the world and while there is lost sheep, tired and dejected there is also, all over the world, these tiny little glimpses of heaven and Jesus’ reign breaking into the world.
And so pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the field, but don’t be alarmed when you are told, “Go”.