30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade” (Mark 4:30–32, NKJV).
There are many speculative and erroneous anticipations about the kingdom of God. Jesus described the nature of God’s kingdom (not of this world, spiritual, John 18:36) and when it would be established (before His generation passed away, Mark 9:1). To look for the kingdom’s future coming misunderstands and misapplies “the gospel of the kingdom of God” Jesus preached (Mark 1:14). The kingdom Jesus preached and established is His church (Matt. 16:18-19). Today’s parable pictures the growth of God’s kingdom. Despite its humble beginnings (like the tiny mustard seed, it would fill the earth (Isa. 2:1-4; Dan. 2:35; Matt. 28:19-20). Its humble start is in keeping with the humility of Jesus its king (Zech. 9:9; Mark 11:1-10). The kingdom’s seed, the word of God, is planted in good hearts that bear good fruit (Mark 4:14, 20). The kingdom of God did not come with military might and fanfare. It comes is within the hearts and lives of those who receive its gospel (Luke 17:20-21). From Pentecost in Acts 2 (through gospel preaching), the kingdom spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Human armies do not defeat this kingdom; it is enduring, unshakeable (Heb. 12:28). All who receive the word of the kingdom (the gospel) and hold it fast obtain salvation, divine comfort, and the eternal provisions of citizenship in the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13-14; Eph. 1:3; Phil. 3:20).
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 2:1, NKJV).
The second chapter of Acts records a transformative moment, a pivotal point in the Scriptures. The Day of Pentecost was also known as the Feast of Weeks (Num. 28:26; Deut. 16:10), the Feast of Harvest (Exod. 23:16), and the day of the first fruits (Num. 28:26). This Pentecost would be a day of harvesting souls, the first fruits of the gospel. Many “first” things happened that day. (1) It was the first day of the week (Lev. 23:15-16). The first day of each week continues to call saints to assembled worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Heb. 10:25). (2) The apostles preached the first gospel sermon opening the way to salvation. They used the keys of the kingdom, opening the door to salvation for sinners (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; Acts 2:40). (3) Sinners heard the plan of salvation for the first time. The apostles told those who believed the gospel to repent and be baptized to be forgiven of their sins (Acts 2:36-38). (4) The first gospel conversions took place. About three thousand did so and were saved (Acts 2:40-41). Christ still saves souls this way. (5) The first church came into existence that day. The church of Christ came into being. The Jerusalem church increased daily as the Lord added saved ones to His church (Acts 2:47). After Pentecost, Acts 2 records the first kingdom worship of the church (Acts 2:42) and the first acts of church benevolence (Acts 2:44-45). Acts 2 records the fulfillment of kingdom prophecies from Psalm 2, Isaiah 2, Joel 2, Daniel 2, and many more. Acts 2 has been called the hub of the Bible. Indeed.
4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; (2 Thessalonians 1:4–5, NKJV)
Jesus blesses those persecuted for righteousness’s sake (Matt. 5:10-12). Many early Christians were “made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations” because of their faith (Heb. 10:33). The saints in Thessalonica exemplify steadfast endurance in the face of fierce opposition. Their persecution was not due to God failing or forgetting them. Far from it (1 Thess. 3:12-13). Their faithful fortitude despite suffering for their faith revealed two unbending truths. (1) God will righteously judge those who persecute His people (v. 5). Paul explained, “since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (2 Thess. 1:6). God will judge those who bring suffering upon the righteous. The persecutors of Christians “do not know God” and “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” therefore, they will experience divine vengeance (2 Thess. 1:7-8). (2) Those who suffer as Christians are worthy of the kingdom of God (v. 5). These faithful ones will share in the glory of Christ when He comes (2 Thess. 1:10; Col. 3:4). Like them, may we faithfully endure trials and the promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36-39). Do not be ashamed of Jesus (Mark 8:38). Glorify God when you suffer for Christ (1 Pet. 4:16). Great is your reward in heaven (Matt. 5:10-12).
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13, NKJV).
It is essential we correctly identify “the kingdom of the Son” into which God transfers the lost when saved (delivered out of sin’s powerful darkness). Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). While He was on the earth, He withdrew from those who wanted to make Him king forcibly (John 6:15). The nature of His kingdom is spiritual. Therefore, it is established or advanced by earthly means (Luke 17:20-21). Premillennialists teach Jesus will conquer evil and return to earth to reign over a thousand-year kingdom. But, the saved ones are already fellow citizens of His kingdom (Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:6, 9). Jesus identified His kingdom as His church in Matthew 16:18-19. Jesus now reigns as the victorious king over His kingdom, the church (Psalm 2; 110:1-2; Acts 2:32-36; Heb. 1:8-9, 13). Christ has secured victory over sin and death. His church triumphs over sin and Satan by the blood of the Lamb, who is worthy to reign (Rev. 1:5-6; 5:9-10, 13). Thus, Scripture says we are “receiving a kingdom” (receiving is a present, active participle) now (Heb. 12:28). The church of Christ is the kingdom of Christ. Christians currently serve the King “in the day of His power” (Psalm 110:3; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 1:3). The saved compose Christ’s kingdom, His church (Acts 2:47). The church is the kingdom that cannot be shaken by the kingdoms of men (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28). God be thanked Jesus reigns today as “the Lord of righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6; Heb. 1:8-9).
13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:13–16, NKJV).
Jesus loves the little children. Their innocence, humble dependence, and eagerness are among the qualities that illustrate the character of all who receive the kingdom of God. We can learn much from this tender scene. (1) Parents should bring their children to Jesus by teaching and leading them to Christ. Those who brought their children to Jesus knew the value of His blessing. Even so, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Train your children in the ways of the Lord. (2) Like Jesus, we should take time to be with children. They remind us of a simpler time, pure and free from the stresses, anxieties, and troubles of life. Time spent with children invigorates the soul. Children are not in the way, nuisances or unwarranted distractions. (They were not that to Jesus.) Among the tragedies of every abortion is the devaluing of an innocent child’s life. Additionally, abandoning children to an evil world without the presence and blessing of Jesus is a horrifying reality in the lives of far too many children. (3) Never prevent someone from coming to Jesus. Once we grasp the value of His blessing, we will help others seek Him (John 1:41-42, 43-46; Matt. 11:28-30).
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV).
The scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians continually tried to ensnare Jesus with His words (Luke 11:53-54). They utterly failed. After witnessing one such occasion, this scribe acknowledged the truth Jesus spoke and applied it to loving God and others. He was beginning to grasp the Savior’s teaching. Jesus said he was near the kingdom. Christians should guard against being like the scribes and others by seeking loopholes in Christ’s word. Our hearts should be noble and receptive toward God’s truth, not obstinate and combative (Luke 8:15). This text also teaches us we cannot excuse the ill-treatment of others with religious offerings and sacrifices. Deeds of spiritual piety do not conceal inward hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt. 23:27-28). Jesus laid down His life because He loved the Father and every one of us. We are called to God and others as He has loved us (1 John 3:16; 4:10-11). Remember, “we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7:28–29, NKJV).
Those who heard Jesus’s message were astonished when His sermon on the mountain concluded. Utter amazement swept over the Galilean crowd who, with rapt attention, had listened to the Teacher from Nazareth. They had not heard teaching like this before. Jesus taught authoritatively from within Himself, not like the rabbis in their synagogues who leaned upon previous experts in the law to support their premises. Jesus spoke truth with the authority of heaven, independent of what men opined and postulated. His words bore the voice of heaven’s power (not the impotent regulations of men). They still do. Jesus competently and boldly taught the righteousness of the kingdom because He possessed the authority (power, the right) to do so. He is God with us, the Word who became flesh, full of grace and truth (Matt. 1:23; John 1:1-3, 14, 17). To honor the Father, we must hear (receive) the teachings of His Son, Jesus (Matt. 17:5). We stand in awe of the truth Jesus taught and its power to save the lost and secure the saved (Matt. 4:23; 9:35). So may we ever submit to the authority of Jesus Christ and be counted righteous by faith instead of futilely trying to establish our own brand of righteousness (Matt. 5:20; Rom. 1:16-17; 10:1-3). The Master Teacher has spoken. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matt. 13:9, 13-17).
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21–23, NKJV)!
Self-identifying as a Christian does not make it so. The identifying mark of one who enters the kingdom of heaven is doing the will of God the Father who is in heaven. Self-identifying as a prophet of Christ does not make it so. Jesus has just warned of false prophets whose fruit is against the word of God (Matt. 7:15-20). Self-identifying as a miracle worker does not make it so. The incident of the sons of Sceva reminds us that only Christ’s apostles and prophets worked miracles (Mark 16:17-20; Acts 19:11-16; Heb. 2:3-4). Self-identifying as a wonderworker does not make it so. Simon amazed many Samaritans with his sorcery until Philip worked miracles by the power of God (Acts 8:5-13). Jesus does not receive those who “practice lawlessness” (iniquity). We do the will of the Father by looking into and living by His law, the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:23-25). Let us carefully do God’s word and not be among those who identify with Jesus but do not obey God’s word (James 1:23-24). Only sadness and sorrow await those who practice lawlessness and hear Christ say, “Depart from Me!”
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NKJV).
Kingdom citizens are the Father’s children who receive “good things” from His hand in answer to our childlike prayers (Matt. 7:7-11). Whether we are falsely judged or suffer any other ill-treatment, God’s children do not “return evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9). The Law and the Prophets taught Israel to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Isa. 1:21-23). Solomon’s proverb reminded them (and us) not to deal with others out of vengeance or to “settle the score.” He wrote, “Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work’” (Prov. 24:29). This “Golden Rule” urges every disciple of Jesus to look inward before acting outwardly. Our words and treatment of others should reflect how we want others to treat us. For example, our judgments will be righteous, not hypocritical (Matt. 7:1-5). We will love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us for our faith (Matt. 5:43-48). We will turn the other cheek and not retaliate (Matt. 5:38-42). We will recall our Father treats us with all kindness, mercy, and love. And in turn, we will reflect the nature of our Father by giving “good things” to others (Matt. 7:11-12).
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, NKJV).
Jesus has given us multiple reasons not to be drawn away from the righteousness of the kingdom in Matthew 6:25-33) by temporal cares, including (1) Our value to the Father (Matt. 6:25-26), (2) Worrying does not improve our condition (Matt. 6:27), (3) God proves He provides for His creation, so trust Him to provide our needs (Matt. 6:28-31); and (4) God knows our needs (so seek first His kingdom and righteousness, unlike the Gentiles who do not know God, Matt. 6:32-33). Finally, today’s passage assigns distracting cares (which take us away from kingdom righteousness) to the uncertainty of tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). We have today, with no promise of tomorrow. Therefore, address today’s problems; Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow that may not come at all. The answer to anxiety is not detachment from personal responsibility. The resolve to meet daily duties with the focus of faith that relies on Him (“if the Lord wills,” James 4:15) replaces worry with contentment. The most important things to those who follow Jesus are the heavenly treasures that endure long after our physical life with its needs have ended. God provides for our needs on earth. How much more abundant are the eternal treasures He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Do not worry; Have faith in God. Seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and your reward will be far greater physical goods (2 Tim. 4:7-8).