The other night I was hanging out in a friend’s basement, listening to Lacey Sturm’s “State of Me” on Radio U. And when she repeatedly sang, “Just get behind me,” I thought of Jesus’ brutal reprimand to Peter in Matthew 16:23: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but men’s.” Is Jesus calling Peter the actual Devil?
The last chapter ended with Jesus reassuring Peter that the sacrifice of discipleship is worth it. In the age to come, he promises, the disciples “shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (19:28), and anyone who has to leave their family and their world for him is stepping into a bigger family and a bigger world. So, today’s chapter turns to matters of the kingdom of heaven, and it opens with a parable in the vein of chapter 13’s.
The first two chapters of the Sermon on the Mount are easy enough to summarize. Matthew 5 deals with good and evil, suffering, and forgiveness; Matthew 6 concerns preoccupation with wealth. But how would I sum up chapter 7? I’m tempted to call it “a grab-bag of Jesus’ clever metaphors, sayings, and one-liners.” If there’s a single thread running through them, it’s beyond me to find it. But I can always hand-pick a few verses throughout that got my attention. That’s what we’ve got today, folks.
I have no idea what I’m going to say about this one. It’s only seven verses long, but I got to the end and immediately asked myself, “What did I even read?” To all appearances, it’s just the psalmist saying that some people are from Philistia or Tyre or Ethiopia or what have you, but other people are from Zion, where God himself takes the census. The NASB’s summary header reads, “The Privileges of Citizenship in Zion.” I guess that’s what it’s about? Maybe I can make some sense of this thing with a commentary.
In this passage, Jesus compares the gospel to a mustard seed that grows into a tree, and leaven that makes bread rise. Nothing fancy here, just the simple message that the kingdom grows. It starts small, but give it enough time, and it’ll become a tree big enough for birds to nest in. The kingdom of God plays the long game.
Of the six instances of the word “gospel” in Luke, two of them (Luke 4:18, Luke 7:22) are references to Isaiah 61:1, “The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted.” Three are simply statements that John the Baptist, the apostles, or Jesus himself are preaching the gospel (Luke 3:18, Luke 9:6, Luke 20:1). And then there’s one where Jesus says, “Since [John the Baptist’s] time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached” (Luke 16:16). We’ve looked at all of these, and I’m still not feeling like I’ve got a handle on how Luke would state what the gospel is, so I’m going to dig a little deeper.
Today’s passage: Luke 19:41-20:8 When Jesus goes up to Jerusalem, it’s the beginning of the end. As he’s approaching the city, he mourns over it. The Romans destroyed the temple in AD 70, a devastating event for the Jewish nation. But in the time of Jesus’ ministry, you didn’t need some psychic prescience to foresee that […]
Oh, great. This verse.
I refer to Luke 16:16, where Jesus says, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.” I’ve never quite known what to make of this verse, or its analogue in Matthew 11:12 (“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force”). Is it a good thing or a bad thing that everyone’s forcing his way into the kingdom of God? Should we try to seize hold of the kingdom for ourselves, aggressively pursue it? Or is Jesus positing that the kingdom is under attack by the brutal and callous people of his day?
In the aftermath of Easter, we’ve reached the last explicit mention of the gospel in Mark. The resurrected Jesus tells his disciples: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (15-16). His command underscores once again the importance of the gospel as seen in Mark 13:10, “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.” The good news is vital for all of mankind.
Today’s passage: Mark 10:17-31 Yesterday, I concluded that investigating the kingdom of God and what it stands for will give us insights into the gospel. Conveniently, today’s passage explicitly mentions both the kingdom of God and the gospel. So, a man with lots of property is unwilling to sell all his possessions, give the proceeds […]