Monday, June 10, 2013

Jesus and the Disciples Preach the Kingdom

                 After announcing the kingdom’s arrival in time and space, Jesus performed many miracles that confirmed his claim (Luke 4:41–42). When the crowds flocked to him and begged that he stay, he declared, “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43). His singular message was to preach of the kingdom. Luke writes Jesus went throughout all of Galilee and proclaimed the “glad tidings of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). 

                In his discourse on worry, Jesus tells the Apostles not to worry about life’s daily needs (Luke 12:22–30), but instead to “seek the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you . . . . For it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (vv. 31–32). 

                Jesus preached the “gospel of the kingdom” far and wide to every kind of person: to Nicodemus (John 3:3‒5), a Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:24‒25), a wise scribe (Mark 12:34), and a convicted thief (Luke 23:42‒43), just to name a few. He used parables (Matthew 13), beatitudes (Matthew 5‒7), and object lessons (Mark 14:25) to teach about the kingdom. 

                Jesus traveled with a group of disciples who assisted in his mission. He often sent them out on preaching assignments of their own. In doing so, he instructed them “to preach the kingdom” (Luke 9:1‒2). As the narrative reveals, they followed orders: “So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (v. 6). Notice how Luke equates preaching the kingdom with preaching the gospel. The essence of the gospel message is “the kingdom.”

                Jesus invited some who responded positively to the gospel to join his preaching band, while he encouraged others to minister in their own communities (Luke 9:57–59). To an unnamed disciple in the latter category, Jesus commands, “But you go and preach the kingdom of God” (v. 60). Jesus had only one message he wished to get across.

                On another occasion Jesus sent out seventy more followers to cities, instructing them to “heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you’” (Luke 10:1, 9). He also told them that if or when their message was rejected they should say to the townspeople, “The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this: that the kingdom of God has come near to you” (vv 10–11). Judgment was to be pronounced because the people scorned the good news of the kingdom’s arrival. Since they refuse to repent they will perish.

                On another occasion when his accusers charged Jesus with using black arts and magic to perform exorcisms, Jesus countered: “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

                Do you see a pattern emerging? Everyone mentioned in the four Gospels preached on the kingdom:

John the Baptist
The Twelve
An Unnamed Disciple
The Seventy

The kingdom of God is the one constant; it is the central theme of the gospel message. 

Prior to the ministry of John the Baptist the kingdom existed only as a hope. John turned it into a living expectation. This can be seen in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time, the kingdom of God has been preached . . .” (Luke 16:16).

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