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