Bringing the Kingdom to earth
Matthew 17 and Mark 9 records when Peter, James and John “see the kingdom of God present with power” on top of the mountain. After their amazing experience, they come down from the mountain to see what it looks like when “disciples” fail to bring the kingdom to earth. A man had brought his son to get freedom from a demon that controlled him from birth, but the disciples could not cast it out. Why couldn’t they do it? Was it God’s will to teach this man humility? Was it just one of those things we “don’t understand?” Jesus states plainly what the problem was; Jesus says in Matthew 17:17 "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." It was faithless and perverse thinking that stood in the way of this boy receiving freedom, not the will of God; God is a giver and healer. Matthew 17:19-20 says, “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Jesus essentially tells them the same thing, but expounds a little more. What is the lesson for us? If we “see” people getting healed, saved, and delivered on the inside, we will see it on the outside. Jesus further counseled them that prayer and fasting will extinguish unbelief and perverse thinking in the heart. Let’s not settle for status quo; the “kingdom of God is at hand” (It is within reach).
There is a mindset that will keep you from fulfilling God’s will. Peter had this destructive mindset in Matthew 16 and he was trying to convince Jesus to have it too. This was so serious that Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:23, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
What was this mindset? Jesus had told his disciples that He would “suffer many things… and be killed, and be raised the third day," and Peter responded “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" In Peter’s mind, Father God would never let this happen to Jesus. He knew there would be trying days, but in his mind never would He let Jesus suffer and die.
We will never be “mindful of the things God” if we confuse happiness with the success God has for us. We will never be “mindful of the things of God” when our focus for achievement is in this life instead of in the age to come. We must be willing to surrender this life to God’s will because we believe the light afflictions are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come. We must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. The Father perfectly loved His Son and led Him to the cross for the joy that would come after. The Father loves you and is leading you to pick up your cross and follow in the steps of Jesus because of what He has planned for you.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Jesus says it isn’t the things that a man puts into his mouth to eat that defile (pollute, make unclean) him, but it’s the things that come out of a man’s mouth because the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart. Religion likes to set up outward procedures so we can feel good about ourselves as we do them, but God is concerned with our heart. Jesus said in Matthew 15:19, “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (evil speaking).” The Word of God has the power to change our heart as we receive it with meekness and truly believe it.
Jesus said in John 15:3 (Amplified version), “You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].”
James 1:21-22 says, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 6:31 ‘"Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’" For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” In ministry and life you need to remember that you may have a plan but the Father may have a different one. When Jesus saw the multitudes, the first plan was scrapped because of the desire of the people; He had compassion on them and began to teach them. When the hour became late, the disciples urged Jesus to tell the people to do the rational thing; go and get something to eat. But Jesus told His disciples to do the supernatural thing; “you give them something to eat.” How often have we opted for the plan that made sense instead of doing what we should have done as sons of God and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven? After the Lord Jesus multiplies the 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed the multitude He sends His disciples to row their boat into the wind all night. I think He was trying to give them an example of living in their own strength verses living in the supernatural Kingdom of God by faith. Doing things in our own thinking and strength is hard and fruitless. The disciples rowed into the wind through the night while Jesus spent time in prayer. Mark 6:48 says, “Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” Why would He walk to them, yet determine to pass them by? He was demonstrating to them how He wanted them to live; how He wanted them to “walk” in life. You will always overpass those striving and straining when you walk in God’s ability; when you walk in the Kingdom.
What Jesus says in Matthew 10 is prefaced in the end of chapter 9. Matthew 9:35-36 reads, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” The Father shifted Jesus’s focus and ministry at this time; instead of Him doing the majority of the work, an army of laborers needed to be raised up. A dysfunctional society without leadership needed a group of people to become salt and light and lead them into truth. This meant that some would lose their family (Matt 10:21), they would be hated (Matt 10:22), and they would be like sheep among wolves as they faced opposition (Matt 10:16). They needed to “endure to the end” (Matt 10:22), they would be persecuted just as Jesus was. If we don’t pick up our cross and follow Him, we are not worthy of Him (Matt 10:38). Jesus doesn't send out His people into the world to say things to make everyone happy; He didn't come to bring peace but a sword (Matt 10:34). Maybe this is why there were so few “laborers;” they must stand for the truth at all cost. There is still a great harvest that is ready to be taken as more people rise up in the love of God to be ambassadors of the truth. “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matt 10:38). Pray they would have the compassion of Jesus, pray they would be bold, pray God would make them effective and open great doors of opportunity.
The parable of the sower recorded in both Gospels in today’s reading is a foundational parable. Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 4:13 "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” How we “hear” and respond to God’s Word means everything! Jesus said in Luke 8:18, “Take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him." When Jesus says “whoever has, to him more will be given,” He is refereeing to having “ears to hear.” If we have ears to hear God’s word, we will receive light, revelation, and the manifestation of God’s Word in our life. If we don’t have ears to hear, even what we seem to know will be “taken away;” it will produce nothing in our life. Jesus speaks in Luke 8:16 of how we can light a lamp and put it on a lamp stand to light the room or we could cover it. Either way the light is in the room, but the one way lights the room, and the other does not. His Word must be honored to the highest place in our life; a casual approach to God’s Word will not produce the fruit God desires in our life.
Religion and trying to please God is hard work…. Jesus said “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus gave us the way we should live our life in verse 29: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” He calls us to follow His lead to find rest for our souls… what is His lead? He says He is gentle and lowly in heart. In other words, Jesus’ focus was to have a gentle, lowly heart so He could follow the leadership of the Father in His life. Just like an oxen led by a yoke on its neck, Jesus did what He saw the Father do and say what the Father said. He asks us to partner with Him and take the same yoke upon our neck. How do we live our life in His yoke? …With gentleness and lowliness. As Matthew 5:3 says, we are blessed with the entire kingdom when we become poor in spirit. Who is the greatest in the kingdom? …Whoever humbles himself as a child (Matt 18:4). There is no pressure on us to perform; we just need to learn to let Him live through us as we learn to trust Him.
Faith pleases the Lord; He doesn’t want us trying to work out everything in our life, trying to depend on our own ability. He doesn’t want us worrying about things; He wants us to learn to trust Him. He wants us to receive His grace through faith. Matthew 9:20-22 tells of a woman who knew how to receive the grace of God. It says, “A woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well." But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour.” The Scripture is clear; it wasn’t because it was God’s will (it’s always God will to heal), it was because of her faith. Jesus wanted to teach people to live in the kingdom through faith. In Matthew 9:27-29 we see how Jesus teaches two blind men to receive their healing through their faith. Jesus says in verse 28, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They (the blind men) said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith let it be to you."” Notice the emphasis of Jesus when He says “according to your faith.” The Lord gives us license to believe Him for great things!
Sometimes demons are directly the source of sickness. In the account in Matthew 9:32-33, the demon is cast out of the man and healing came as a direct result. It says, “they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, "It was never seen like this in Israel!"
In Luke 7:36-50 Jesus is invited to a Pharisee’s house named Simon. When a woman began to wash Jesus’ feet with fragrant oil and her tears, Simon saw a sinner because of her past, but Jesus saw a woman full of love because she knew she had been forgiven. This story is a beautiful example of the Gospel. After Jesus said her sins were forgiven, He said, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” It is through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we are saved; it isn’t by our works
There are those that will follow the supernatural, spectacular, and exciting, and there is those that desire to follow Jesus’ leadership to the fullest. In the end of Matthew chapter 4 and the beginning of 5 we see two different kinds of “followers” of Jesus Christ. Matthew 4:25 says “there followed him great multitudes” after it says in verse 24, “they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.” Then in Matthew 5:1 it says, “Seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.” Are you willing to follow Jesus to a “good meeting,” a “powerful preacher,” and a church that you like, or are you really wanting to follow in a way that makes you a true disciple of Jesus Christ? Jesus did a simple but profound thing before He preached what is considered the most important sermon of all time; He walked to the top of the mountain. All the multitudes of people that were so excited to follow Jesus at the bottom of the mountain, were not willing to make the climb to the top of the mountain (large hill) where Jesus would teach. Many times people, who seem so excited to follow Jesus one day, somehow lose their zeal when following means things are uncomfortable and require real commitment and sacrifice. Take time today to ask, “what type of follower of Christ Jesus am I?”
Mark 3:10-11 tells of some of the success of the ministry of Jesus: “For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, "You are the Son of God."” As great as this was, Jesus couldn’t just focus on what was happening at the moment; He needed to multiply Himself into other disciples and Apostles. Jesus couldn’t do it alone, nor did He desire to; it’s His desire to work through all of us as His body. Luke 6:12-13 says, “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” It was His desire that these disciples spent time with Him so they would begin to know His teachings, walk in His ways, and begin to do the same and greater works than Him. Mark 3:14 &15 makes this point clear: “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.” The plan of Jesus has not changed in our day; He first wants us to “be with Him,” then He can send us into our call.
Read through the Bible with us in 2012! The reading plan can be downloaded below; we are reading in chronological order. Check back often to read the blog posts on the Bible readings and discuss things in the "comments" section.
2012 Bible Plan