Friday, March 24, 2017

Lent, Day 24 March 24rd , 2017


Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond

Jesus' Teachings


The Kingdom, Part 5

Yesterday we began with a brief review of the main points that have been covered in Jesus' Teachings, The Kingdom--Parts 1-4. We also recapped the Jews' rejection of Messiah, and noted that part of that difficulty stemmed from their expectations of a conquering Hero-King, who would over-throw the Roman rule and restore the kingdom of Israel. Plus, John the Baptist's declaration likely reinforced those expectations (Mt. 3:2), as well as Jesus' teachings and focus on the Kingdom. Even the disciples' questioned Jesus on this matter (Ac. 1:6); I'm sure that Jesus expected them to understand, after three years of personal instruction, that His was not an earthly kingdom (Jn. 18: 36).We also began our examination of the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast (Mt. 13:31-33), which have similar meanings--or do they?!

Interestingly, the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast are also recorded by Mark (4: 30-32) and Luke (13:18-20). Their accounts are virtually identical; but only Mark adds, " He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything," (vs. 34).  Because Mark didn't actually write down Jesus' explanation, we are left to draw our own conclusions. Therefore, returning to these two parables, we discovered that those who equate the Kingdom with the Church, have the perspective that the mustard seed and yeast have small beginnings but quickly flourish. The parallel is then made that the Church started small but quickly grew. Then there are those who believe that these parables are symbolic of God constantly working to achieve His purposes, even if we don't always perceive that He is doing so.

In 2007 (or 2008) I was stalked by a neighbor, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had stopped taking her medications. At church our pastor, Mike, opened his sermon with the fact that many members were coping with difficult circumstances, and heads were nodding as he zeroed in on the 'things that steal our joy'. Wow! A tailor-made message, just for me! The next time that I listened to my copy of that message, I thought I had a copy of the wrong one! Here's the interesting thing: I realized after hearing about the things that steal our joy that my mind had apparently wandered. In other words, I didn't really hear the entire teaching!

This selective listening/hearing regularly and consistently comes into play when we pray, read our Bibles, or listen to sermons/teaching. God gets our attention and focuses it on what He wants us to know and do--He makes it personal. And this is why both perspectives on these parables are valid--the mustard seed and the bit of yeast can definitely fit into both views (i.e., that they represent the growth of the Church and that they can also represent God's 'hidden' working in the world).

As we noted in The Kingdom, Part 3, some parables describe the Kingdom, others point out the nature or characteristics of its members, while a number of them explain how individuals may become part of the Kingdom. We have looked at two parables that describe the Kingdom. Tomorrow we will consider some that describe Kingdom members.

Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Canada

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lent, Day 23 March 23rd , 2017


Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond

Jesus' Teachings

The Kingdom, Part 4


Thus far in our exploration of Jesus' teachings on the Kingdom we have determined that:

--the Kingdom of God/Heaven was Jesus' central teaching.
--the word “Kingdom” means the same in both the Hebrew and Greek languages ((i.e., the rule, authority, and dominion of a monarch).
--the Monarch of the Kingdom is concerned for the welfare of all His subjects.
--Jesus used parables, taking familiar images and using them to explain spiritual truths.
--many of us have assumed that the parables were used so that even the common people could understand. However, Christ stated that the people would not comprehend the spiritual meanings of the parables (Mt. 13:12-15).
-- we need to ask ourselves if our description of the Kingdom is consistent with Jesus' explanation of it.
--parables describe the Kingdom, the characteristics of its members, and explain how individuals may become part of the Kingdom

The parables are important, because they form the body of much of Jesus' preaching and teaching. However, at that time, the only Scriptures the people knew were those of the Old Testament. And during the Advent season we looked at the reason why most of the Jewish people didn't acknowledge or equate the birth of Jesus with the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. His lowly beginnings were certainly not in line with royalty; the son of a King would surely be born in a palace and not in a stable! Furthermore, the Jews expected a political Messiah, to overthrow the Roman Government and restore Israel to her glory. Additionally, it's likely that when John the Baptist challenged people to, “Change your life. God's kingdom is here, “ (Mt. 3: 2, MSG), their anticipation was stirred up and intensified. A spiritual Saviour wasn't even given consideration. And even as Jesus was in His final days on earth, the disciples had the same expectations. In fact they asked the question that was on the minds of many, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Is this the time?” (Acts 1:6, MSG). It's hard not to imagine that Jesus would have been disappointed in hearing those questions. He had poured three years of His life into discipling this hand-picked group of men. Yet they seemed to have missed the significance of Jesus' teachings, they still did not understand that Jesus' Kingdom was “not of this world,” (Jn. 18:36).

The parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast, (Matt 13: 31-33, 44-52), have similar meanings. The mustard seed is extremely tiny—about 1/10th of an inch in diameter—yet, when it's planted in the ground, it grows and produces rapidly. Yeast has a similar property, in that when a small amount is mixed into dough, it causes it to rise and spread. For those who think that the Kingdom is the Church, they view these parables as an explanation of the growth of the Church, from small beginnings to it's expansion since Pentecost. Others have deduced that the mustard seed and the yeast demonstrate that though both are small, they are working to accomplish their tasks even when we can't see it. They equate this to the fact that God is at work, even when we can't perceive what He is doing. I think that both perspectives are valid; and as we continue our study, we may find some additional viewpoints.

Blessings & Peace


Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Canada

Lent, Day 22 March 22nd , 2017

Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond
Jesus' Teachings
The Kingdom, Part 3 
In yesterday's post we began exploring the Kingdom, noting that the meaning of the word is the same in both the Hebrew and Greek languages (i.e., the rule, authority, and dominion of a monarch). We also discussed the reason that we may find it difficult to relate to events or circumstances with which we have no experience. This is where the use of metaphors can be useful via using a known idea to teach an unknown one. Finally, we noted that the word 'like' is often used as a conversation filler. However, Jesus used powerful similes when He used the word "like".  Today we will continue examining the parables, which are a major part of Jesus' main teaching on the Kingdom.

As a travelling evangelist, Jesus' quickly gained recognition. And as His ministry became more known, Christ's reputation grew, and He drew people from afar. The Gospels record the people's reactions to Jesus' teaching style, noting that He taught as One with authority (Mt. 7:29). Furthermore, His fresh teaching style amazed those who heard Him speak (Mk. 1:27).  Many of us assume that Jesus used parables with familiar word-pictures so that even the common people could understand (e.g., a farmer, a baker, or a treasure hunter). So we sometimes deduce that the parables were easily and widely understood by the crowds. Yet there were times when even the disciples didn't comprehend the message Christ was conveying, and they asked Him why He taught the people in parables (Mt. 13:10). When they were apart from the crowds, Jesus would explain the meanings of the parables to the disciples. Furthermore, Jesus made it clear that the disciples would grasp the spiritual truths expressed in these stories, because they were chosen to understand the mysteries of heaven (Mt. 13:11; 16).  Christ also stated that the masses that would not know the real spiritual meanings expressed in the parables (Mt. 13:12-15). Thus, it seems that we may have reached incorrect conclusions about the purposes of the parables; they were actually use so that the people would not understand.
As we explore Jesus' teachings of the Kingdom, we need to ask ourselves if our description matches that of Jesus' explanation. People are quick to criticize each other’s interpretations, but sometimes their responses may exceed the information that is provided in Scripture. For example, I've heard folks discussing--with pride--how they are living in poverty and suffering for Christ; which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from those who believe in health, sufficient wealth, and blessings. I am not here to debate this subject, nor to state where I am on the spectrum, because each of us must decide for ourselves.

However, what can we learn about the Kingdom from Jesus' parables?
 Some parables describe the Kingdom, others point out the nature or characteristics of its members, while a number of them explain how individuals may become part of the Kingdom.  And this is where we will pick up in tomorrow's post.
Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
Canada

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lent, Day 21 March 21st , 2017

Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond

Jesus' Teachings

The Kingdom, Part 2
 
We know that “the Kingdom of God/Heaven” was Jesus' central teaching, because He frequently referred to the Kingdom (e.g., Lk. 4: 43). In yesterday's post we also briefly looked at the account of how the Israelites, rejected their invisible King for a visible one and the consequences of their rebellion. Additionally, we contrasted the self-serving motives and actions of secular monarchs with those of the Monarch of the Kingdom, whose focus is on the well-being of all His subjects. Finally, if we desire to invite people to become part of the Kingdom, then we need to be able to explain the reality of it.

What is the Kingdom?

The primary meaning of the word “Kingdom” in both the Hebrew and Greek languages is the rule, authority, and dominion exercised by a monarch. Some of these rights are listed in 1 Samuel 8: 11-18, and refer to the claims a king could demand from his subjects (e.g., their livestock, possessions, monies, and even their very lives as they were pressed into service). This would leave the Israelites in a state of uncertainty and anxiety, but they would not back down from their demand for a king. While we may get a glimpse of what life may have been like during Bible times, we may never have the same appreciation of it as those who lived it.

Thus, we may find it hard to comprehend circumstances we haven't experienced, such as 'suicide bombers' or 'human trafficking'. One way we try to expand others' comprehension is to use metaphors, which are familiar images that may help us understand unfamiliar concepts. We may describe unknown ideas by likening them to known concepts. For example, “his eyes are like limpid pools”, which we understand to be that he has clear eyes. However, in our generation the word 'like' is frequently used as a conversation-filler.This can detract from the being able to use the word in a meaningful manner. Nevertheless, when Jesus used the word “like” in parables to describe the Kingdom, He did not insert it into His teaching as a filler (i.e., something to say when you don't know what to say). This means that we need to go back to the Scriptures to find our baseline for understanding the Kingdom of God.

We will pick up with the Kingdom-related parables in tomorrow's post.

Blessings& Peace
Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)
Canada


Monday, March 20, 2017

Lent, Day 20 March 20th , 2017 


Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond

 Jesus' Teachings


The Kingdom, Part 1


In Part 3 of the Sermon on the Mount posts we discovered that while many of Jesus' essential teachings are covered in the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and The Lord's Prayer, that we had to go outside the the teachings in Matthew 5-7 to determine His central teaching. We also briefly observed that many of us would assume that Jesus' main teaching was, “God is love.” Yet, the reality is that Jesus' main teaching was focused on the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven (exchangeable terms) and how individuals may enter into it. To review: The expression, “Kingdom of God” appears in the Gospels 53 times; this phrase is mostly used by Jesus. A similar expression is, “Kingdom of Heaven”, which is used 32 times in Matthew's Gospel. We also determined that after Jesus emerged from His wilderness experience and discovered that John the Baptist had been arrested, He travelled to Galilee, preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,”' (Mt. 4: 17), and He also said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent,” (Lk. 4:43).


OK. So if the answer to our question, “What was Jesus' central teaching?” is “The Kingdom of God”(a.k.a., the Kingdom of Heaven), the next question is, “What is is the Kingdom? In order for there to be a Kingdom, there must be a ruling Monarch. In the Old Testament, in 1 Samuel, chapter 8, we discover that the aging prophet, Samuel, had appointed his sons, Joel and Agijah, to replace him as leaders of Israel. But his sons were dishonest, took kick backs, and dealt unjustly with the people. Thus, the elders approached Samuel and said, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have, “ (1 Sam. 8:5, NIV). Samuel was annoyed with the demand and felt rejected, but God assured him that it was God the people were rejecting as King. God advised Samuel to outline what would be involved when a king revealed his rights, but the people would not be deterred. They wanted to be like other nations, with a king to lead and fight their battles. But history has recorded the sordid accounts of monarchs whose actions stemmed from their own desires versus the well-being of their subjects.

However, Jesus's teachings revealed a very different Kingdom—one in which the Monarch's focus was on the needs and welfare of His subjects. This is the Kingdom we wish to be part of, but some may be reluctant due to negative and harmful experiences with those in charge of the earthly realm. Therefore, how can we invite others to be part of this Kingdom without being clear about what it will entail when the King claims His rights?



Thus, in the next few posts we will be considering the Kingdom of God/Heaven to discover Jesus' teachings on this pivotal subject.

Blessings & Peace

Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)

Canada