So, What’s the Story? “Let’s Talk about the Kingdom of God”

Mark Wheeler

Palm Sunday, 6th Sunday in Lent, April 13, 2014

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Mark 1:14-15

So, What’s the Story? “Let’s Talk about the Kingdom of God

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Jesus, You are the King of kings and Lord of all lords! And we praise Your holy name! Amen .

I have heard life described like this: Man’s life is made up of 20 years of his mother asking him where he is going, 50 years of his wife asking him where he has been, and one hour at his funeral when everyone wonders where he has gone.

I imagine that for a Presbyterian pastor, it goes more like: the congregation spends 20 minutes wondering where he is going with this sermon, the elders spend 5 minutes wondering what he’s been drinking this morning, and then everyone is wondering when we’ll get out of here.

In these weeks leading up to Easter we have been looking at the whole Bible and seeing how, from Genesis through Revelation, it is knit together as a singular story covering thousands of years written by dozens of authors in different languages across hundreds of miles.

We saw that on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, He walked with two of His disciples from Jerusalem to Emmaus and explained to them, from Moses and the Prophets, how He was the ultimate fulfillment of everything Scripture talks about. And we have followed some of the possible themes Jesus might have used to help His walking partners discover this truth; so we have examined the themes of Creation and the Fall, Love and Sacrifice, and Promise – and in each case we have witnessed how the Holy Spirit used those themes in the Bible to tell the story of Jesus, from 4,000+ years before Jesus was born to the end times yet to be experienced – the whole Bible points to Jesus.

This is our last week of this sermon series, and today we tackle the theme of the Kingdom of God.

So, what’s the biblical story of the Kingdom of God? Let’s start with Jesus and then move back and forward again. The Gospel according to Mark begins, not with the Christmas narrative like Matthew and Luke, and not with the Creation story like John; Mark begins with the Kingdom of God. Let’s look at these words from Mark 1:14-15 …. —-

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

In a few minutes we are going to celebrate the receiving of seven new members to this congregation! These seven new members could probably clearly articulate an answer to the question I’m about to ask – so if you are one of the new family-member people, do not answer this question out loud – let the others around you answer: What do you think of when you hear the words “Kingdom of God”? [Answers from the congregation… – expect to hear something about “heaven”, “paradise”, “peace”, “no more crying, etc”]

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God has come near!” And He called this Good News (Gospel)! What did He mean?

Some of you talk about the Kingdom of God every day – when you pray, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.What, exactly, are you praying for?

I think, what the Bible means by “Kingdom of God” always has something to do with our total submission to the Lordship of Christ. It means we are expected to surrender ourselves to God as the One who is in charge. God is sovereign, and therefore, we are under His rule.

That’s why Jesus said, “The time has come – the Kingdom of God has come near – repent and believe the Good News!Paul said, in II Corinthians 6, “For [God] says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ (Isaiah 49) I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, today is the day of salvation!

Let’s grab a cursory gander at how the Bible, from Moses and the Prophets, understands the Kingdom of God.

In Genesis, we see pictures of God’s Kingdom right from the very opening pages – the Creation stories describe God, in His whole majesty, as the King of the universeCreator of heaven and earth, and ruler of all that dwells therein. From Adam and Eve and God’s commands to be obeyed, to the destruction of humanity in the Noah and the flood story and His salvation of humanity through Noah and his family, to the call of Abram and the promise of salvation through one of Abram’s offspring, to the stories of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and beyond. On every page God is seen as sovereign – in charge – ruler of all. Not only in the here-after – but also in the here-and-now!

In the history books of the Old Testament, again, we see pictures of God ruling His people. The Israelites were a theocratic society, God was their ruler – but they wanted a king like all their neighbors had. Finally, God gave them what they asked for – and they were sorry almost every day thereafter.

In the books of the Chronicles one king of Judah and one king of Israel after the next are said to, either, do what is right according to God or do what is evil according to God. Their lives were closer to Kingdom of God realities when God was pleased with their king’s leadership – and they were further from God’s Kingdom realities when they worshiped the Baals and set up Asherah poles and did evil in God’s eyes. The fact that the rulers were compared to God tells us that God’s Kingdom was different – experience-able, but not attainable.

The Psalms, and the other books of the writings in the Old Testament, are chalk full of Kingdom of God talk. Many of our hymns and praise choruses come directly from the book of Psalms, and many of them describe something of God’s majesty, God’s royalty, and our humble submission to Him, as their main subject of song and doctrine.

And the Prophets are filled with forth-tellings of what God wants for and from His people, and fore-tellings of how God will accomplish His Kingdom purposes. Our Thursday Bible study group just finished a thorough study of Isaiah where we saw prophecy after prophecy about the Kingdom of God, and about the King of all kings.

The New Testament, as one might easily imagine, has more easily recognizable references to the Kingdom of God. Again, with a quick run-through of the different sections of the New Testament we’ll catch a glimpse of how God reveals His Kingdom truths to us.

In the Gospels we see Jesus as the Creator God, the Savior from the Fall, the ultimate expression of God’s Love, the fulfillment of the covenantal Promise, and the true King of all creation. Jesus was crucified, not for breaking Jewish laws, but for claiming to be the King of a Kingdom no one could see!

Matthew details Jesus as the definitive King of kings; Mark reveals Jesus as the prophetic fulfillment of the Suffering Servant; Luke makes sure we see Jesus as the Savior for all mankind; and John convinces his readers that Jesus is the Son of God. All said and done – the Kingdom of God has come near – it is time to repent and believe!

How do we seek first the Kingdom of God, and experience the blessings of God’s provisions in this life?

The book of the Acts of the Apostles is the only actual “history book” of the New Testament – and in it we see the followers of Christ bowing before the King and living into the Kingdom of God – and thousands were added to their number, and the Ethiopian Eunuch was baptized, and the jailor and his family became believers, and Paul was called into discipleship, and a handful of former Mission Community Presbyterians and a lady from the neighborhood and a brand new believer joined the LPC family fellowship – and the Kingdom of God grew.

How do we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus as King, and give God the glory, every day?

Paul’s Epistles and the General Letters of the New Testament are all written to specific peoples for specific reasons concerning specific situations – and all of them instruct and exhort about how to experience the Kingdom of God here in this life to the fullest, and a few of them hold out the hope of what the final glory of God’s Kingdom will be like.

How do we understand the rule of God over us?

In the book of Hebrews, for 13 chapters, we are told how Jesus is better, bigger, stronger, faster, than anything else in the history of all Creation! And as such, He alone is worthy of our worship and service. Hebrews describes the Kingdom of God in terms of comparison to the Temple of Jerusalem, with all its splendor and gold, all its meaning and importance, as only a mere shadow, a whisper, of the glory the real-true Kingdom of God. In The Great Divorce, CS Lewis describes heaven in like terms – it so much more “solid” and “real” that the best and most beautiful of what we see on earth is murky dearth in comparison.

Will we join with the great cloud of witnesses and bow down before Jesus, the Lord of the Universe?

And finally, the book of Revelation, for some of you it is the best book in the Bible and for others it is the one you will most hide from, the whole book, in amazing and difficult to understand prophetic poetry, describes the Kingdom of God – waiting for us to respond to our invitation to enter it!

Will you say YES?! Will you enter into God’s glorious presence with songs of cheer?

The Kingdom of God has come near – repent and believetoday is the day of salvation.

If you are already a Christian – experience the Kingdom of God as fully as you can! God has chosen you … because God loves you!

If you are not yet a Christian believer, but you think you might want to be – hear God inviting you into His Kingdom, and RSVP with a willing spirit. God wishes that no one would be outside the Kingdom of God – all you need do is accept Him, and then know that God has chosen you … because God loves you!

Today is Palm Sunday, the day commemorating Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and the crowds praising Him with shouts of Hosanna as their new-found king, to liberate them from Rome, with Palm branches waving and lowered to the streets – – – may we welcome Jesus as our new-found King of kings, with shouts of Hallelujah and palms raised upward in sweet surrender to God as our Lord.

The first 70 (or 80 or 94) years of a Man’s life might be made up of a mother and a wife asking about his direction; but the one hour at his funeral does not need to be people wondering where he has gone.By receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, by making Him our most valued treasure on earth, we can tell them where we’ve gone before ever even leave.

The Kingdom of God has come near to you – do not miss it – accept your invitation in – repent and believe. Amen.

Resources:

Lawrence, Michael; Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church; Crossway; Wheaton, IL; 2010; Pp. 195-198.

Wheeler, Mark; The Ledger newsletter; Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church; 03/2014.

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