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The Kingdom of God
“The Kingdom Mystery”
Tonight we’ll be looking at the mystery of the Kingdom of God, so let’s get right into it and read our passage.
Read Matthew 13:10-17
This passage follows the very first parable spoken by Jesus, “The Seed and the Sower,” or “The Parable of the Soils.” The last words Jesus spoke in the parable is, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:9)
After hearing the parable the disciples were surprised that Jesus used this particular teaching method. A parable was usually a short simple story that placed one thing beside something else for the sake of comparison. Therefore, figurative sayings, similes, and metaphors were all considered parables.
In his book, “Interpreting The Parables,” A. M. Hunter defined a parable as “a comparison drawn from nature or daily life and designed to illuminate some spiritual truth.”
After Jesus had told this parable, He answered the disciples question as to why He was teaching in this particular manner or way, and in so doing relates a misunderstanding about the Kingdom of God that many people have.
People today think of Christianity and our teaching of the Scriptures and using biblical terminology as ancient and outmoded seeing how we’re living in the 21st century with all of its scientific advantages and philosophies, as compared to those who lived in the 1st century and their unsophisticated world.
Further they have a problem with miracles and the supernatural because science hasn’t been able to explain the power of faith and belief. Their point is that as long as we continue to give the gospel message with all this biblical baggage, as they call it, attached, then it’s all just old religion, and it isn’t applicable for our day.
They basically say that we have to get back to the simplicity of what Jesus taught, and that we have to leave behind theology, biblical terminology, and all these outdated ideas that led to the Reformation. And what even sadder is that many within the church, and a lot of the teaching that comes from the pulpit, seem to agree with this assessment.
They have made their messages seeker friendly, so much so that people confuse church services with motivational talks. They have also done away with words like sin, Satan, and hell, along with their doctrines.
And the really incredible part is that the words Jesus spoke concerning parables in our text directly refute that position.
So let’s take a look at what Jesus said about the Kingdom of God.
“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (Matthew 13:11 NKJV)
Wow, talk about being seeker unfriendly. “I speak in parables so they don’t get it,” Jesus was saying. People today say that the whole idea that Christian truth being something that is simple if we just get all these words and old fashioned ideas like Jesus’ miracles, absolute truth, and when we get out of the way that Jesus is the only way, then everything will be fine, but this is totally against what Jesus was saying.
The Apostle Paul said,
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)
The New Living Translations says, “But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”
The misunderstanding comes from a misperception that unconverted people by nature and reason can understand God’s word, follow what it says, and put it into practice.
But Jesus said, no way. The reason He spoke in parables is because the Kingdom of God is a mystery, that is, it’s totally and completely unlike anything humanity has ever heard, or even imagined. And until they’re born again, until they’re minds are spiritually renewed and have the Holy Spirit living inside, they never will.
The word Jesus uses is “mystery.” The message concerning the Kingdom of God is neither obvious nor is it simple. This is seen in that the disciples didn’t know what He was talking about in His parable.
Jesus actually told them of the necessity of His leaving, and that was to send the Holy Spirit who would then be their guide into God’s truth.
“It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you … when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:7, 13a)
Yet, prior to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and accession, the disciples were like all the others, they didn’t get it. When Jesus spoke of His upcoming death and resurrection, Peter basically said it should never take place. Peter didn’t understand things from God’s perspective or point of view.
Here Peter and the rest of the disciples who had been with Him day and night for three years still didn’t get it, and they were downcast and rejected even though Jesus told them up front what was going to happen and why.
The Religious leader Nicodemus didn’t get it either, even with all his religious training. When Jesus said that to enter the Kingdom of God a person must be born again, Nicodemus didn’t understand and questioned how someone could go back into their mother’s womb.
Jesus said, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” (John 3:10 NKJV) Jesus went on to tell Him why, because they are only spiritually discerned, and He wasn’t.
Paul said that this mystery is the hidden wisdom of God.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:7 NKJV)
Paul didn’t speak just any words, but words of wisdom, but not the wisdom of man, but the wisdom of God that had been hidden in times past.
A mystery is a truth that’s been hidden and has to be revealed in order to be understood. It’s a truth supernaturally revealed through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In other words, our own natural abilities and understanding cannot fathom it, so it must be divinely revealed through the Holy Spirit who leads and guides us into all truth as Jesus promised.
Another reason Jesus spoke in parables is that if He had spoken directly, had He told them exactly who He was and why He had come, they would have tried to kill and silence Him, which is just what they tried to do after He did tell them.
And so the message concerning the Kingdom of God is not something that is obvious, but it is a mystery, and needs to be divinely revealed through the Holy Spirit.
To the churches in Revelation Jesus said, “Let those who have ears hear what the Spirit is saying.”
Next Jesus tells us those things that are hindering our understanding.
Most think the main hindrances to understanding the mystery of Gods’ Kingdom is terminology; that we need new and more modern terminology, and get away from all that doctrinal stuff. Others think we should leave biblical theology behind and just teach biblical morals.
But are these really hindrances? According to Jesus, they’re not. So what is?
“I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13 NKJV)
The trouble with the Scribes and Pharisees is that they were thought to be the men who knew God. They knew the law and their interpretation of it. That’s’ why they got nothing out of Jesus’ teachings. It was a confidence in their own knowledge and in their own ability and capability.
In Jesus’ prayer He said,
“I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25 NKJV)
It was the know-it-alls, the intellectuals, the religious who rejected Him, not the everyday man and woman on the street.
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Corinthians 1:26 NKJV)
The reason that Paul mentions this is because no one can boast in God’s presence. (1 Corinthians 1:29)
Intellectual pride is a great obstacle to belief in the gospel message and to an understanding of the Kingdom of God.
“For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:15 NKJV)
Their hearts were hardened. It’s not that the terminology is wrong, it’s outright prejudice against the gospel, against the Bible, against God and the idea that He rules and reigns over people’s lives.
Notice they deliberately shut their ears and eyes. They’ve dismissed the gospel of Jesus Christ without ever hearing it or reading the Bible.
Today people dismiss the case for Christ, dismiss the gospel message without ever giving it a fair hearing, because they are prejudiced. People don’t come with an open mind, but rather they believe they are being intellectual to deny Christianity.
“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.” (Matthew 13:15a NIV)
There is an interesting translation of this word “calloused” when John Wycliffe translated the Greek into Latin. He said that their hearts were “enfattened.” The picture is of a heart that has too much fat around it where it cannot work properly.
In Jesus’ explanation of this first parable he likened the seed that fell among the thorns as those who heard the message but had it choked off by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.
They are filled with everything of the world, they were enfattened, and they haven’t got a clue as to what the gospel is saying, nor they cannot listen for long, or they can only listen in short sound bites.
Let’s take a look now at the second part of Matthew 13:15
“Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:15b NKJV)
The mystery is that God, before the foundation of the world had His salvation already planned out. The message of the Bible is God’s plan of salvation, or God’s great purpose for our redemption. The Old Testament is not so much a history of the Jews as it is the history of God bringing into purpose His great plan of salvation.
To remedy the problem of sin, God set up the law in order to set up His Son to make a way for humanity to get back into His presence through the sacrifice Jesus would make upon the cross so our sins can be forgiven.
And this was not just for a chosen few, but for everyone through belief in Jesus Christ.
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NKJV)
Jesus, in our text said that the mystery that was unknown for the most part throughout the ages has been made clear in and through Him.
“Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:16-17 NKJV)
In essence Jesus said, “I am the mystery. I am the one who brings in the Kingdom.”
Paul confirms this saying,
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16 NKJV)
The mystery of salvation is Jesus coming into this world to save, heal, and deliver us from our captivity to sin and death, and He did it in a manner that the world ridicules, He did it by dying upon the cross.
“We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NKJV)
On the cross Jesus made the way for humanity’s salvation to come, which is at the heart of the very first parable in how God’s kingdom is growing like a seed, and new life is produced blessing those who receive it.
Those blessings are forgiveness, adoption, salvation, and His abiding presence just to name a few.
One last principle given in what Jesus said about this mystery is
“For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matthew 13:12 NKJV)
The teaching concerning the mystery divides the whole of humanity into two groups, the haves and the have-nots.
When the gospel is heard, when the mystery is revealed, it brings judgment: to those who believe, everlasting life and heaven, but to those who don’t, everlasting condemnation and hell.
The wise and the knowledgeable that look upon the gospel with distain, what they have will be taken away, and on the Day of Judgment will find that they have nothing left but an eternity in hell.
What value is all our scientific knowledge? Does it tell us anything about the human soul, or how to avoid sin? Does it help when things go wrong or when a loved one dies?
And so the mystery of the Kingdom of God is that Jesus Christ came, died upon the cross, and rose from the dead on the third day, and all who believe in Him shall be saved.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study