by | Nov 22, 2022 | Gospel, Kingdom

KINGDOM: The Good News of the Kingdom (Matthew 9:35-38)

by | Nov 22, 2022 | Gospel, Kingdom

There is a very sad and old joke among Pastors. It goes like this…

One Sunday morning, a certain man was uncharacteristically still in bed as the time to leave for church approached. His wife came into the room and said, “Honey, if you don’t get up soon, you’re going to be late for church.” His response: “I don’t want to go to church. Nobody there likes me and honestly, I don’t like them either.” His wife responded, “Dear, you have to go, you’re their Pastor.”

That joke is old because it’s been told a lot.

It’s sad because it reveals a feeling most Pastors have at one time or another, and if we’re honest, a it’s feeling most church attenders have had about the people in the seats around them on a Sunday morning, too.

We church people can be hard to love at times, with all our personal failings, long-term patterns of sin (both overt and subtle), and bull-headed opinions about the large and small issues of church life, like whether or not the Sunday bulletin should be folded, double-sided, perforated, stuffed, dropped altogether, or all/none of the above. We’ve also got real life stuff going on that burdens us, hurts us, discourages us, and puts us in a foul mood from time to time. The other church people get to feel the ripple effects of that kind of stuff, in good ways and bad ways.

The reality that we’re hard to love at times can easily become the defining thing when we think about each other.

“She’s such a complainer, I don’t think a good thing ever comes out of her mouth.”

“Poor man, his life should be free of this kind of burden, but when you have a 38 year old alcoholic son living in your basement, what can you expect?”

“If he mentions that ‘pre-wrath, pre-milennial’ thing one more time, I just might punch him in the throat.”

Instead of all that junk, we should be focused on the overarching reality that we are kingdom-siblings, citizens of the High King’s domain, and therefore commissioned by Him to overcome such stuff-n-nonsense to get His work accomplished.

Jesus’ attitude toward the crowds in this passage serves as both a rebuke and a presecription for us. Alongside it we get a peek at the priorities of Kingdom living that need to be pulled front and center into our everyday lives as church members (Kingdom citizens).

And Jesus went through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synogogues and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harrassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Matthew, Quoting Jesus

Disciple & Apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew 9:35-38

Kingdom proclaiming

There are distinct features of what Jesus did during His earthly life that we should pay attention to. A simple question helps us discover those features,

“What did He spend His time doing and how did He do it?”

(1) Jesus took His message on the road

Once He was ready to announce that the Messiah was in the house, Jesus was intentional about it.

He went through ALL the cities and villages doing what the religious teachers of His day did; He taught in the synogogues throughout the region. This put Him on the radar of the average Joseph and Josephina immediately, since synogogue life was woven into Jewish culture.

WE tend to think of the synogogue as their version of a church building, but it was lots more than that. Synogogues were indeed religiously-oriented gathering places, but they also served as schools, meeting facilities, courtrooms, and houses of prayer. Some scholars believe that the building may also have been used to lodge travelers. Think of it as a religous “community center” where the people of the community gathered, received services, and engaged with each other and their local leaders.

Then plop Jesus into it right alongside the other teachers who met with the locals regularly and you’ll see how His message would have been front-and-center for everyone in a very short matter of time.

If we wanted to take the good news of the Kingdom to the people in our day, what’s the equivalent of a synogogue for us?

In Western culture we don’t really have an equivalent that serves all the purposes the synogogue did. But we can find individual equivalents for its services and uses.

  • Perhaps we should start Bible studies or hold prayer meetings in neighborhood Community Centers, the YMCA, or the local library’s meeting rooms?

 

  • Is it possible to find better ways to make social media serve the Kingdom message rather than allowing it to suck us into a black hole of temptation, venting, and stupid videos?

 

  • Can we make effective use of podcasts, video, and other forms of media to engage in dialogue about the good news of the Kingdom?

These are all possibilities, but the first order of business is to get our minds right about the issue: Jesus WANTS US to take the good news of the Kingdom to the streets.

That’s what Matthew 28:18 and following is all about. That’s what His statement in THIS passage is all about… we are to ask the “Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.”

So pray for the Father to appoint individuals to go, using all those methods above and many more. And be open to the fact that YOU are one of those individuals.

I hadn’t thought of it this way until this very minute, but this is why I write, why I produce podcasts and videos, why I continue in “ministry” even though I retired officially as a Pastor back in 2013. I’m a Kingdom-citizen, gifted by the King to do Kingdom work, and the retirement plan doesn’t kick in until 1 nanosecond after I breathe my last on planet earth… or the Lord comes back to tell me He’s wrapping things up and we all finally get to sit down to a celebration dinner together. I’m looking forward to some guilt-free, heavenly-cooked BBQ pork ribs (Mark 7:19, Romans 14:20).

(2) Jesus demonstrated His primary message

Because Jesus was spreading the good news of the Kingom – that the Messiah had arrived – his standard teaching engagements in the synogogues quickly turned into non-standard healing services, because that’s what the Messiah was expected to do (Isaiah 35:5-6, among other messianic prophecies). He was showing off, booking venues for His “Messiah’s Galileean Tour 30 A.D.” – but not in a grandstanding, “look at me!” kind of way – rather in a way that demonstrates the compassion characteristic OF the Messiah.

“He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah

Prophet of God, Isaiah 40:11

 

It was and is our King’s primary mission to spread the gospel of the Kingdom, in spite of the hang ups, hurts, and horrendous theology of the sheep He has come to shepherd.

His compassion outweighed His irritation. And yes, Jesus was at times, irritated with the people He came to save (see Matthew 17:17 – He was either irritated at the man who came to ask for his son’s healing, or at His disciples. Either way, this verse doesn’t make it onto many coffee cups or plaques for some reason).

So, look at our King’s modus operandi: Care for people first, address their junk second (or third, or fourth, or fifth, or…).

How does that stack up to your M.O.?

Remember how I started this article, with an honest admission of how we church people are hard to love? Do you think WE qualify as those in need of compassion? I think so. We’ve got to look beyond the irritations to see the reality that Jesus did – apart from Him we are all “harrassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” and at least SOME of our problem in the church is that we’re doing our thing APART from Him. How can I say this so dogmatically? Because generally speaking, we’re not very fruitful (John 15:4-5).

So let’s try to be like our King. Let’s remember that our King indwells us to make that possible (Galatians 2:20).

Forget about HOW the people sitting in the pew across the auditorium got into the mess they are in for a moment, and care about the fact that they are IN the mess. At the very least you can pray that the Lord of the harvest will send someone to help them. After you do so, you might even feel a nudge from behind, pushing YOU in their direction.

And while you’re seeking ways to be like our King, forget about whether or not your local librarian, or town drunk, or social activist, or teacher, or civic leader, or homeless person, or academian has done anything to help themselves out of their situation and care about the fact that they are IN a situation that could use some help. Granted, they may not want help, but it’s not up to you to decide for them. Ask the Father to appoint a garrison of His people to go after them and make the offer of help. Be ready to hear your name called, too.

Kingdom Praying

I have already tip-toed into this one in the previous section, but let’s dig into it a bit more…

I learned a long time ago that when I’m reading the gospels and I notice that Jesus says something directly to his 12 disciples, 90% of the time it applies directly to me because I’m also His disciple. So when He turns to them and opens His mouth in the midst of personally meeting the hundreds (thousands?) of needs that literally crowded around Him, I pay attention.

What does He say to them in that pressing, burdensome, in-demand moment?

“Hey Andrew, could you grab Me a cup of water? My throat is killing me.”

Nope. It seems that for at least a moment, He lifted His eyes to the needy crowd, each one waiting for His eyes to fall on them, and He realized His limitations.

Yes, Jesus had limitations while He walked the planet. For example, He could not be everywhere at once (omnipresent). In that moment, He recognized that the crowd before Him was just a fraction of the world’s needy population, not to mention those to come throughout the remainder of history. He was going to need some help.

His 12 Disciples! The “Kingdom-workers-in-training” who had been tagging along with Him… THEY were that help.

So He turns to them with a lesson about prayer, ministry, and the needs of people. He tells them to pray for the “Lord of the Harvest” to send out laborers because the people really, really need what the Lord of the harvest has to give them.

So, back to what I said earlier, when Jesus instructs His 12, He’s talking to me. I should be praying that the Father will send workers to care for the needs of the people among whom He is actively reaping a harvest.

Do we need volunteer teachers and helpers for the children’s ministry? Don’t resort to a bulletin announcement first or organize a recruiting campaign, pray for the Lord to appoint the right people and send them.

Do we need help putting together food boxes for the Thanksgiving outreach? Hold off on submitting that video-announcement request until you’ve asked the Lord to stir up the compassionate hearts of His Kingdom people to take part.

Is there a co-worker you see every day who is about to get divorced? Ask the Lord to send someone who He has equipped to come alongside them with relational counsel and the good news of the gospel.

And speaking of equipped workers, consider getting trained yourself so that you can eventually be that person the Lord sends (Hebrews 5:12).

What we learn about the Kingdom

This passage shows us that…

  • Kingdom preaching and work is motivated by compassion, not pragmatism, ego, or programs
  • The “good news of the Kingdom” is regularly accompanied by hands-on meeting of needs
  • While working in the King’s service, if we see more needs, we should ask the King for more workers

And all of THIS clearly implies that the Lord of the harvest WANTS to use His workers to meet the needs of those He’s “harvesting.” He WANTS us to be engaged, compassionate, and effective in His harvest fields.

And implied a little less clearly is that He is going to equip us for the work to which He appoints us. As author Robert T. Ketchum has written…

God’s commandments are His enablings.” – Robert T. Ketchum, “I Shall Not Want”

And another old church guy, Augustine said…

Give what You command [O Lord], and then command whatever You will.” – St. Augustine, “Confessions”

And then there’s the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 2:13…

… work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13

A final thought…

Should God ever send YOU into the harvest field and you don’t believe you’re particularly equipped for the task He’s placed before you, go anyway. Put your faith in HIM to work, trusting that He wouldn’t have sent you if He didn’t intend to use you. It’s God who is at work in you…

Prayer Response

Would you join me in this prayer?

Yes, Lord of the harvest, send out Your workers to meet needs and spread the good news of the Kingdom. Do it in my local church, across the world, and through me. Make it so.

Kingdom Insights (cumulative list)

POST 1:
The Kingdom of heaven/God was long anticipated by the Jewish people (and others)

POST 2:
Entrance into the Kingdom requires repentance

POST 3:
The entrance of the Kingdom brought the Messiah and judgment

POST 4:
The Kingdom began with the advent of Jesus and continues growing, even today

POST 5:
The Kingdom of heaven is characterized by humility and righteousness

POST 6:
Those who enter the kingdom must do so by the righteousness of Jesus

POST 7:
Kingdom citizens are to be praying for the Kingdom to come and grow

POST 8:
Trust enables us to focus on the Kingdom first

POST 9:
The Kingdom is populated by those who trust what the King says

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