Ask a hundred people
Ask a hundred people “What is the Good News that Jesus came to preach?” What answer will you get? Love? Ask Like “Agape” in the Greek? If you don’t know, there are three “Loves” in Greek, Agape is the kind of infinite, unconditional love we think of in Scripture. Eros is erotic love. And Philos means brotherly love—the city of Philadelphia literally means Brotherly Love.
In the Synoptic Gospels, that’s Matthew, Mark & Luke… “Synoptic” is one of those $50 seminary words, which means; presenting or taking the same or common view; relating to or displaying conditions as they exist simultaneously over a broad area. Matthew, Mark & Luke are Synoptic because they are more tightly related to one-another, than the Gospel of John, or any of the non-Biblical stories of Christ’s ministry.
In the Synoptic Gospels, we only see Agape love mentioned once in Matthew, and once in Luke! That’s it! Agape is never mentioned in Mark. John is a little different, both because John was a little different, and because he was writing to a very different audience; John mentions agape a handful of times. But it’s clear that, while Christ was demonstrating how much he cared for those around Him; he certainly wasn’t constantly talking about loving one-another!
Matthew 24:12 “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.”
Luke 11:42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.
If not Love, then what?
The early parts of Christ’s ministry was around the water, the Jordan River, like John the Baptist; but after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus moved into the synagogues.
Mark 1:14-15: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Did you see all three parts there?
- The time is fulfilled,
- the kingdom of God has come near
- repent, and believe in the good news
Now, if you were hear for Ash Wednesday, you heard “repent, and believe in the good news” as that’s the modern saying the the minister quotes, when applying ashes. There’s a similar message in Matthew & Luke, at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Here are some more:
Luke 8:1: Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him,
Luke 9:1 Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.
Acts 1:3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
Acts 28:31 Paul lived in Rome two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
So, while some denominations stress conversion, as though the ministry of Christ was all about the minimum entry requirements for Heaven; it’s not! It’s all about the Kingdom of God.
It’s all about the Kingdom of God.
Let’s look at Kingdom. What is Kingdom? It’s a contraction—of the King’s Domain; King-Dom, the king’s domain. Any king’s domain is what? It’s the area in which that king can enforce his will. If you’re far-enough away from the king to break the rules, and avoid the wrath of the king; then you’re outside of the king’s domain, since he can’t enforce his will.
Now we’ve all got a kingdom, you’ve got a kingdom, you’ve got a kingdom, you’ve got a kingdom, and I’ve got a kingdom: My desk appears cluttered to others, but I know what’s there, and where to find things I’m looking for, because that area’s within my domain. When you’ve got a couple of kids in the back-seat of the car, that back-seat becomes their domain. Sometimes they paint an invisible line down the middle of the seat—right? You stay on your side, and I’ll stay on my side. Then they start getting too loud, and Dad speaks-up. Now, Dad thinks the entire car is in who’s domain?
Every week here, we rattle-off the Lords Prayer form our long-term memory, without giving it much thought: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…”
There it is, again, hidden in plain sight. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…So, we are praying for God to be able to enforce His will on Earth, just as easily as He can in Heaven.
In other words, bringing the up there, to the down here.
But why is is all about the Kingdom of God? What are we to learn about God’s plan, from studying this Kingdom of God?
King David represented the Jew’s idea of what the Messiah-Kingdom would be like: A military & cultural powerhouse in the know world. Christ had to completely reeducate their understanding of what the real Kingdom of God was like. The whole notion that “the first will be last, and the last will be first” was an offense to everything they believed, and everything they hoped for. Christ was very clear in stating that He came for the “lost sheep of Israel.” So He needed a message to explain to them, to those lost sheep, that their expectation of a David-like Kingdom was in error.
Likewise when we read Scripture, we must remember that while the Bible, was written for us, most of it was not written to us. Only the books of history can be argued to have been written to unknown future generations. Everything else had a specific audience: Matthew was written to the Jews, and stresses Jesus as being the promised messiah. Mark was a short, fast paced, action story; written for the Roman everyman. Luke was a Greek physician writing to the Greek scientific community; he wanted to convince his audience that Jesus was the perfect man. John was writing to basically everyone else who was educated at that time—and in those days that meant followers for the Stoic philosophers; so John frames his discussion in language that those Stoics would have appreciated.
So when we look at the Scriptures we must keep in mind to whom they were written, and when in the scheme of history, they were written. That’s in addition to things we’ve talked about before, like recognizing metaphors when we see them. Otherwise we start getting some pretty crazy interpretations like:
- The JW’s, who think the Kingdom of God will be on Earth, after the second coming.
- The Adventists, who think the Kingdom of God is somehow related to education.
- The followers of Herbert W. Armstrong, who think the Kingdom of God descends through the British Empire, because, somehow, the decedents of the British Empire, including America, Canada, etc, are the spiritual decedents of the list tribes or Israel.
- Dispensational Fundamentalists, including most Southern Baptists, and most “Bible churches” draw a difference between the phrase “, ‘Kingdom of God’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and try to create some wild future prophecy based on a semantic misunderstanding.
Next week, we’ll look at a whole bunch of Parables, including many that start with the phrase “The Kingdom of God is like…” So, we’re going to pick-up our Kingdom of God discussion next week.