Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

Three Major Themes in the Gospel of Matthew


In the previous post, I mentioned that the Gospel of Matthew has a special Jewish flavor in its contents and characteristics, since it was written especially for Jews in mind. It’s Matthew’s effort to tell the story of Jesus in the backyards and alleys of Jerusalem and the hills and plains of Galilee and beyond that Jesus was the Promised One, a true deliverer – Messiah – who came to establish the Kingdom of God. Let’s review briefly three major themes that run throughout the gospel account here.

1. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

a. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy.

Matthew quotes prophet Isaiah (7:14) to point out how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy through virgin birth (Matthew 1:23). Micah 5:2 is fulfilled by being born in Bethlehem. The prophecies in Hosea 11:9, Micah 7:9 were also affirming that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Isaiah 40:1,2; 52 Psalm 118:12, Zechariah 12:10, and the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52, all these are testifying Jesus as the Coming Messiah.

b. New Moses

Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament have significant similarities. Both were priests, and teachers of the Laws. Their birth caused uproar and disruption in the society. Moses received the Law in the Sinai, and Jesus gave the Golden Rules (first sermon) in the Mount Olive. Moses is the mediator of the Old Covenant through animal sacrifice, whereas Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant through his own blood.

c. Jesus as the King from the line of David.

The genealogy of Jesus clearly shows that he is from the line of David. The significant number of passages in the Scripture tells us that he is from the Davidic line. People in Israel addressed him as the “Son of David” during his earthly ministry (Matthew 12:21; 21:42). Therefore, He is the rightful heir the throne of David.

d. Jesus is the Seed of Abraham

Jesus is attributed as the hope of nations, whereas Abraham is known as the blessings for the nations.

2. God (the Father/King) is the God of both Grace and Judgment

This theme also plays out throughout the book. The Parable of Weeds (13:24-42), the Parable of Talents (25:14-30), and the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (20:1-16) show how gracious God is. At the same time, the Parables of the Great Banquet (22:1-14), the passage of the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees (22-25), and the signs and of the end time and judgement day chapters show how strictly judgmental he is.
3. The Kingdom of God does not Belong to One Particular Ethnic Group.

It is extended to all people from all nations and tribes. Matthew 28:16-20 explicitly talks about people from ends of the earth; the book of Revelation (7:9) also gives us the heavenly glimpse that a great multitude of people beyond our capacity to count come from every nation, and all tribes and people and tongues and worship the Lamb.

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Exegetical and Theological Issues: Mark 4:10-12


10 As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:10-12 NASB95)

This text sits awkwardly in its present context. The previous context is about Jesus teaching the crowd in a boat (4:1-2). Without further explanation, Mark shifts the narrative that takes place in private with those around his Twelve disciples (4:10-12), a small group of disciples. Another textual issue that occurs in the passage is the use of plural form of parables, whereas Jesus completes one parable (4:3-9). The placement of the discourse between Jesus and “those around him” also interrupts the sequence of parable. Jesus was still on the boat in the sea (4:1-2), but he and “those around him” appear to be in a private (4:10-12) and the clarification of the parable occurs again in the boat in the sea (4:35-36). At this point, Jesus is again in the public setting with his disciples in the boat. With few exceptions, some scholars believed this passage to be a latter insertion. But this inconsistency is more likely due to tradition, so he decided to leave the setting the way it is now.

Many ascribed the Markan redaction to traditional material. One cannot avoid the questions no matter whether Mark inserted his independent tradition unit or borrowed from the tradition within the parable collection. If he borrowed it from Pre-Markan tradition, where did he find it and what qualified him to apply this text there (4:10-12)? His form, materials within his redaction, and context show that he found it in tradition. Yet there are some questions to be asked. Why did Mark quote Isaiah 6 here? Is the text is about double predestination that only elect or insiders are foreordained to hear the message while outsiders’ ears divinely closed? Some people think that v. 7:17 supports it. But what do we do with 12:12 when outsiders also knew that the parable was about them? As Robert A. Guelich asserts that the text is not about the “double predestination” but about the hardness of heart of those who constantly rejected Jesus and his message.[1]


[1] Guelich, Robert A. Mark 1–8:26. Vol. 34A. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998.

“That They were Preaching and Teaching…”: Difference Between Two


He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:30-31, English Standard Version (ESV)

For past three and half years, I taught the biblical truth, on Jesus and his redemptive work on the Cross week in and week out to the Nepali-Speaking people group who were resettled here by the US government. I did it wholeheartedly without any reservation, for I wanted to see these people coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus. I worked my butt off to get the message across their heart and mind. However, I was not seeing much fruit that I had anticipated to see in the church. I was feeding them the fundamental Christian principles in a regular basis but failing to produce or harvest any thing out of it. It was the most discouraging and lonesome time in my ministerial life so far.

It took me full 2 years to come to realize that without affecting the heart, head-knowledge alone is not enough for people to know the need of the Savior. God, in his mercy, alone can bring people to Christ. He uses words from a preacher or teacher as a mean to get across his message to people though! Meantime, our message also must meet the need of the restless soul and address their spiritual condition. Our message should be a part of their problem resolution, that is to say, spirit-led sermon or teaching.

The senior pastor of the church, then I was ministering in, called me into his office one day and offered a really good piece of advice. “Satya, I would like to see you approaching these people with the Gospel more of proclaiming it rather than teaching it.” It was an eye-opening moment for me. He did not mean that I should not teach. Almost all preachers or teachers in the ministry know that both element is equally important in communicating the biblical truth. Every good preacher teaches and vice versa.

What then is the difference between preaching and teaching?

Before we delve into the core of the issue, lets look at some of these interesting verses in the New Testament.

Acts 4:2 – “. . being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

Acts 5:42- “. . And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

Acts 15:35 – “Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”

Acts 28:31 – “Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .”

In the above listed passages, we see preaching and teaching happening together. Over times, they seem to overlap. This illustration might be of a little help to understand the difference between two.

Preaching vs TeachingTo simplify it, preaching is geared more towards newbies to the Gospel or nonbelievers. It simply means proclaiming or heralding the message in public. Preaching answers the question, “What should we do?” in any given circumstances. It appeals to the heart to affect the mind. It has a burden to inspire our heart instantly so that our mind agrees to our heart to act. Preaching elevates our desire to obey or act on truth of God. Emotion is the driving factor or the source of drive to act. That is to say, it involves lots of passion that appeals to human heart and emotions that drives the mind to act on what he or she hears.

Contrarily, teaching answers the questions, “What is?” and informs “how to?” Teaching is rarely emotional but rational that strives for burden of proof for its existence. It is driven by reason or evidence, thus, appeals to intellect. Communicating certain truths by appealing to mind or intellect helps a person to perceive things/truths from different perspectives to gain new understanding. As a result, teaching can be boring and dry. Instance, some people find class lecture not so appealing to heart, thus fail to perform or act those truths.

Teaching is expected to step up a gear toward the believers who have already made Jesus Christ as the foundation of their faith. They have basic understanding of the Gospel and now in the process of growing into spiritual maturity. By appealing to their intellect, their heart is affected to act upon those truths. In other words, the intellect convinces the heart now to receive the truth and perform the truth.

For example, we may have learn about the cost of being disciple of Jesus Christ. All the prerequisite qualifications of discipleship can be merely understood in terms of statements made by Jesus Christ. We all know that Jesus demands undivided love and attention to him in this passage (Luke 14:25-33). However, me might not be in the position to really take on this passage and live out in the world. Here, we got good solid teaching but our heart is not moved or motivated to perform the teaching part. Only affecting the heart can produce the result of what we have learned through teaching. Likewise, the same truth need to be communicated to make mind agree with heart by appealing to it. A good teacher might have taught right doctrine in the church, but the church might lack the will or desire to take action. Therefore, we have to have balance between preaching and teaching in our church. Every good teacher preaches too, as every good preacher teaches by presenting explanations, examples and reasonings. Because, Jesus, our Lord and Master, did it.

Biblical Nuggets: Apocalyptic


Apocalyptic: A term used to describe a literary *genre and worldview where “secrets” are revealed about the heavenly world or the kingdom of God (and the end of the world). These secrets are usually delivered through dreams or visions or by otherworldly messengers (e.g., angels) and are expressed in vivid symbols or metaphors. Apocalyptic works flourished during the Greco-Roman period (c. 200 B.C. to A.D. 200) and are not limited to biblical books but were part of the broader culture of the Mediterranean world. Often in apocalyptic literature an admonition is given to the audience to persevere and to be faithful. The community is warned that it will experience a time of suffering, but this will be followed by vindication of the righteous and a punishment of the wicked. See also apocalypse; apocalypticism.

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Arthur G. Patzia;Anthony J. Petrotta. Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (p. 13). Kindle Edition.

 

What I Think Could Happen When One Looks Back While Ploughing


Satya Maharjan ||

Reading the calling of the would-be-disciples (Luke 9:62) in native language and context makes it more sense to us who have either plowed themselves or seen firsthand before. I could not have understood the text clearer than the one who has lived his life with plow. This is my attempt to explain the text in Nepali context. The passage (9:57-62) is a call from Jesus to three prospective disciples, where Jesus highlights this verse (62) as the main qualification to become his disciple.

A. Qualification of a disciple (Luke 9:62): No one puts a hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God. The analogy of putting a hand on a plow and looking back seems to be taken out from Jewish traditions. Apparently, the plow in the ancient Jewish world is more or less similar to the plow still being used in today’s world in the southern hemisphere. Plow, in its simplest structure, is a triangular blade that fits in the wooden forked frame. Often times, oxen pull the plow. In some cultures, water buffaloes, asses, or sometimes people also pull the plow to furrow the field. When a plower plows the field, he must look straight ahead to make furrow straight. Looking back is a sign of distraction or being ignorant of his work and responsibility. Such a man cannot be trusted. Master can only hope that this kind of servant will finish the job well. In the same manners, Jesus says that person with such character cannot be entrusted with kingdom responsibilities thus misfit in his kingdom.

B. Assessment and Application

We usually undermine the challenges of following Christ. Self-denial, bearing-cross and following Jesus are three major qualifying attributes that Jesus’ followers must possess. In our present day self-centered culture, we promote self-indulgence, egocentricity, and narcissism than denying our pride, prejudices, and ungodliness. And we take great comfort on what Jesus has achieved for us. We want Jesus in our lives. We love church and church calendar with full of events. Also we love to identify ourselves as Christian, followers of Christ. In return, we do not want to talk about the other aspect of our personal and communal relationship with Jesus. To associate ourselves with Jesus or be called followers of Jesus bears a significant meaning. It is a serious business in light of the passage where Jesus has put certain qualifications in order to be called his followers.

In the Gospel narratives, the crowd also followed him to the certain degree. They were following Jesus more in a physical sense than spiritual sense. But when Jesus calls us to follow him, he expects us to follow him wholeheartedly. From his reactions to those three would-be-followers about putting a hand on plow and not looking back, I can put this narrative into my own culture and context.

This is a common sense that a hardworking plowman is never going to put his hand on plow and look back. There are certain ramifications for what I think could happen when ignoring this common sense:

  1. If a plowman looks back or getting distracted while his one hand on plow, he will most likely miss the furrow and plowing will not be straight.
  2. Putting one hand on plow and looking back cannot dig the earth deep enough for proper cultivation. Harvesting good crop depends also in the depth of the furrow.
  3. Often times, it takes steady and firm grab on the plow to get done job well.
  4. Another serious consequence of putting one hand on plow and looking back is breaking the plow-blade in the process of furrowing. Plowing too deep in the earth can dismantle plow and occasionally break the plow-blade. That means, a chunk of time will be needed to the plow. It is waste of time and energy. In the context of this text, it is very unlikely that a family keeps extra plough or blade in their homes.
  5. Putting one hand on plow and looking back can be a hazard for cattle too. If the plow-man is not careful enough and blade is either in too deep earth or up in the shallow, plow-blade can pierce the hind legs of oxen or any other animal that are used to pull the plow. Once blade cut one of the oxen, you have to find another one. Again, it is most unlikely that a neighbor let you borrow his ox in the busy season of farming.

Assessing all these possible implications of putting one hand on plow and looking back when you are in work, we as a hirer also do not want such people in the job in first place. Then, how can we be such ignorant of Jesus’ calling us to not put our one hand on plow and look back? From this passage, I take away these three qualifications of discipleship: self-denial, bearing-cross, and following Jesus with putting my sight ahead and hand firm on the plow.