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2010 Luke’s Gospel
Jesus Teaches About the Kingdom of God
Key Verse: 13:19 "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."
In today’s passage, we can learn much about the kingdom of God. Thankfully Jesus tells us about the kingdom of God through two parables for our better understating. And Jesus teaches the importance of entering the kingdom of God. Jesus shows us how to live in view of the kingdom of God. Let's pray to be careful in listening to Jesus' words about the kingdom of God, and accept it deep in our hearts through this worship time.
I. The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast (18-21)
Look at 18-19. “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 compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed because there is something in common between them. There is no doubt that they cannot be compared to each other in essence because one is domination and territory but the other one is plant. However, from the viewpoint of the principle of life and growth they are same. They look very small in the beginning, and yet they grow more and more and finally bear abundant fruit as a source of blessing as Jesus says. At this point, it is safe to say that when Jesus mentions the kingdom of God above he refers to it as God’s ministry and work, and even an individual who is under the influence of the kingdom of God. Even though the mustard seed is the smallest seed in the world, it has life and a great vision in it to be a great tree. Likewise each one of us seems very small now, and yet in the near future we will become such a great tree with abundant fruit and share it with others as a source of blessing. That’s our vision and hope in the kingdom of God.
The best example of the mustard seed parable is Jesus himself. Jesus came down on earth, not in the palace in the big city, but in a manger in the small countryside called Bethlehem. He grew up in the poor town called Nazareth and worked as a carpenter for a living. As John 1:46 says “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Jesus’ human background was not good. As Isaiah 53:2-3 say, he grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. When he got arrested and took up the cross, his disciples ran away. And even his top disciple Peter disowned him three times. Everything seemed to be over. After he rose from the dead he told his failed disciples who were also nothing in the world to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. What a non-sense! Jesus and his ministry looked small and even nothing and yet he is still our Savior and our Lord. Jesus did not write any book, but there are a lot of books about Jesus in the world. Jesus did not found any school, but a lot of students are learning about Jesus. Jesus did not establish any military, but there are so many soldiers who obey him as their commanding officer. Not many people in the world knew what was happening at Jesus’ time. But little by little as if the mustard seed grew and became a huge tree, Jesus became the source of eternal salvation for all people who obey him. Then, through his disciples, the gospel spread to the ends of the earth. Now we see people throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, North America, Oceania and Europe, from nearly every tribe and nation, who have accepted Christ and been changed into new people.
We should realize that we cannot see the kingdom of God in the same way that we can see worldly kingdoms. Worldly kingdoms look glamorous and powerful at the moment. But in the course of time they disappear completely. On the other hand, the kingdom of God looks as small as a mustard seed. But it grows steadily until it covers the earth. In order to see the kingdom of God grow, we need a sense of history. Mother Sarah Barry looks like many other ladies. However, the kingdom of God has worked mightily through her. She met Jesus as a college student and accepted his world mission command. She went to Korea as a young, single missionary in 1955. It was right after a terrible war. The nation had been divided. What could she do? She had a conviction that she could share the gospel. She coworked with Dr. Samuel Lee to teach the Bible to Korean college students. Many of them accepted the good news of Christ. They found salvation from sin and hope that God could use them to change the world. They began to pray and go out into the world as missionaries. Now, over two thousand UBF missionaries from Korea have gone to over 90 nations in the world.
In the history of Korean Christianity, there were many mustard seeds like Mother Sarah Barry such as M. Thomas from England, Underwood, Apenzeller from America. Especially M. Thomas could not deliver any gospel message to Korean people because as soon as he came to Korea he got captured and miserably beheaded with the Bible in his arm. That was his age of 27. There were so many seeds of the gospel sown in Korea not only missionaries from other countries but also many other Korean pastors and believers who shed their blood. At that time everything seemed to be over. However, once the seeds died and grew, amazing thing happened. Korea became a kingdom of priest and a holy nation.
In American history of the gospel work, there was a protestant pastor named John came to America in 1637 with vision and dream of America. However, one year later he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which was a serious illness in those days. Before he died he donated his 400 hundred books and his fortune to Cambridge College that was recently founded in the city, saying, “I came to America with hope and vision and wanted to study more about theology, law, and science. But now God calls me to take me to heaven. I hope that with my donated books many young people would become great pastors and scientists who contribute to the society and sacrifice for the kingdom of God.” Inspired with the will of Pastor John, the college changed its name after him to remember his vision and hope. His full name was John Harvard. 6 presidents of the United Sates including Barack Obama studied in Harvard and there are 33 Nobel Prize winners who graduated from Harvard. Indeed John Harvard is the small seed of Harvard of today.
The mustard seed grows into a huge tree. This is the character of the kingdom of God. So we should value small and life-giving works of God among us. Sharing one word of God with a neighbor or having a one-to-one Bible study may seem small, but they can bear fruit that reaches the world. Our missionaries may look insignificant. But they have God's calling and they carry God's life in them. Our coworkers look few and scattered. But they too carry God's life in them. They are precisely God's hope to make America a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We should respect them. We should be ready to serve them and to pray for them. In this way we can invest our love and labor in the always increasing, always advancing kingdom of God. Let's see the mustard seed of God's kingdom, honor it, and give out hearts to helping it spread to the ends of the earth.
Look at verses 20-21. “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.’” Now we look at yeast. Yeast is much smaller than mustard seed and almost invisible. But when it works through a batch of dough it causes the whole batch to rise. This represents the power of influence of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has transforming power over a person, a family, a society, and even a nation.
Not only in the Bible but also around us we see many witnesses to the power of kingdom of God. Every single one of men and women missionaries here were fatalistic, selfish, despaired, depressed, sinful desire-seeking, merciless, indifferent, unthankful, hopeless, useless, sorrowful and fearful. None of them were righteous. All of them were under the power of sin and death, waiting for the final judgment. All of them were suffering from the wages of sin and the meaninglessness under the power of death. Now they are totally different than they were. They were changed. They are full of hope, joy, vision, love, thankfulness. Most of all, they live a life of faith that is seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness. They seek God’s glory in all they do. Then, how is it possible? That’s possible when we never give up the hope of the kingdom of God and believe its transforming power may change ourselves little by little invisibly in Christ Jesus. Sometimes we think that our lives of faith are not effective. But they influence from an individual to the whole world more than we know. When we have God's kingdom in our hearts, it has power to influence all of America to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
II. Make every effort to enter through the narrow door (22-35)
Look at verses 22-23. “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?” Jesus taught the word of God from town to town, making his way to Jerusalem. Among many followers there was one who asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” The one who asked the question seemed very concerned about his salvation. When I saw a newspaper advertisement from a CPA exam preparation institute that read, “80% of the enrolled pass the exam within one year time period,” I felt very excited. It’s because I thought if I registered with the private institute I would pass the exam within one year with a high chance of 80%. I thought I could be one of 80%. Many people are comforted and confident with uncertain future or result by some kind of statistical or empirical number. That’s why in all advertisements they use numbers always. Numbers are very powerful and appealing. So the person who asked Jesus wanted to know how high the chance of being saved would be in order to get comforted and confident just like many other people. Anyway how did Jesus respond to his question?
Look at verse 24. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Jesus said fair and square, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door…” Here is the same verse taken from another Bible version called The Message. “Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires your total attention.” It sounds really fair and square. If I want to pass CPA exam I just put my all attention to it. High chance of 70, 80, or 95 percent on the advertisement does not matter. That’s not my business. Even though the chance is high I would fail 100 percent if I do not study hard. Likewise we must make every effort to enter through the narrow door to be saved. Otherwise, even though the chance of salvation is 99.99 percent, there will be a fail to enter. Let us pray to put our mind on our life with God to enter the way of life to God that requires our total attention.
The narrow door in the verse is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only way of salvation that God has provided. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). St. Peter taught, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Ac 4:12). Jesus alone is the way to God and his salvation; there is no other.
In verses 25-27 Jesus tells a cautionary tale. The owner of a house closes the door. Some who are left outside begin to knock and plead to be let in. But the owner tells them, "I don't know you or where you come from." They claim that they ate and drank with him and that he taught in their streets. But he repeats, "I don't know you or where you come from." Then he adds, "Away from me you evildoers!"
Look at verses 28-30. “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. 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.” Jesus clearly said that some who heard him that day would be left out of the kingdom of God. They would see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets eating at the joyful feast in the kingdom of God, but they would be left out. This is a warning to us. We must make every effort to enter through the narrow door when it is still open.
In verses 31-33, we see some Pharisees came to Jesus. They told Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. They seemed to be concerned about Jesus. In fact, they wanted to see Jesus tremble by Herod’s threat and go somewhere else because they wanted Jesus to get out of their sight. However, Jesus did not move according to Herod’s threat and instead replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day- for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” Jesus was sure that he would not die at random or by the crafty scheme of Herod. Jesus knew that according to God's kingdom purpose, he would die in Jerusalem. Jesus trusted his Father God, the Sovereign Ruler, and his almighty power. God's kingdom was advancing by God's power and nothing could stop it. All that mattered to Jesus was to follow God's leading. As he did so, he had no fear of worldly rulers or their kingdom.
In verses 34-35 Jesus broke into a lament for Jerusalem. Look at verses 34-35. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”” Jesus expressed God's broken heart for his people Israel. Jesus is not willing that his beloved people perish. When they are unwilling he weeps over them. As we advance in the kingdom we too see those who miss the chance to enter. It is the time we can learn Jesus' broken heart for the lost and weep for them.
In today’s passage we learn that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a big tree. Though its beginning looks small, it completely changes us until we can enter the glorious heavenly banquet. Furthermore, that small seed we receive from heaven also can change our nation into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Let's make every effort to enter through the narrow door, that is, Jesus Christ today.