Lesson 49: A Picture of the Kingdom and a Pharisee Confrontation
Matthew 12:46-50, 13:51-52; Mark 3:19-35, 4:26-29; Luke 8:19-21
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome to lesson # 49. John DID NOT record the parables we covered in our last lesson. Mark gave one parable that neither Matthew nor Luke recorded. I'm talking about Mark 4:26-29. It's taken from the agricultural realm and Jesus gave it to explain the nature of the kingdom. So, let's begin reading in Mark 4:26. Four verses. Are you ready? "And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because harvest is come." O.K. again this is a picture of the kingdom that was coming. Jesus explained SOME MORE characteristics of the kingdom. In some way the kingdom is like growing a crop; I would assume wheat or barley. Look at the last phrase in v.27! "...he knoweth not how." That very well may be the key thought in this parable. What are a man's duties in producing a crop of grain? A man must first prepare the soil. After the soil is prepared, he sows the seed. After sowing the seed some cultivation, weeding or watering may be needed. Then he puts in the sickle and gathers his food and stores it for the future. The seed here (v.26), spiritually speaking, represents the word of God as defined in Luke 8:11. The soil again, spiritually speaking, is the human heart as in the parable of the sower. So, in the kingdom, very much like in the natural realm; one's duty is to cultivate the soil of human hearts AND sow the seed, i.e. teach God's word. They DO NOT manufacture the seed. God does that! A man "knoweth not how..." Amen! God giveth the increase (I Cor. 3:6); but, the citizens of Christ's kingdom ARE GIVEN responsibility for certain critical steps in the spiritual crop production process, you see. Other steps or duties are assigned to the angels and forbidden to be done by the citizens of Christ's kingdom. So, we must be VERY MUCH aware of God's part in this spiritual grain growing process. When a wheat seed germinates, all you can do is watch for that little blade to spring up (v.27) and observe the physical results. You can check it and observe it day after day as v.27 suggests. But, you can't really see or observe what is happening inside that little seed that is transforming its self into a living, green and productive plant. In a like manner, you can't see what's happening inside the human mind as the word of God begins to germinate there. But, you may observe symptoms of change in overt conduct as a result. All you can do is pray, counsel, teach and hope, day-by-day similar to the way you must do with a grain crop. So, the citizens in God's kingdom DO have a part in bringing souls to harvest and filling God's garner called heaven, you see, where they will be protected and shine forth as the sun in that future life. We are forbidden to remove the tares, or those competing weeds that grow in the same soil as the citizens of the kingdom; that job is reserved for the angels and thus removed from the citizen's jurisdiction. But, all citizens in Christ's kingdom ARE assigned certain critical duties. So, in a sense, you see, Christ's church is like growing a grain crop.
Alright, now, look back over the eight parables in which Jesus described in advance the •nature of his kingdom. You see, Jesus put together a pretty good conceptual picture, or profile, of the nature of that coming kingdom. Thus, the apostles and disciples were given a preview of coming attractions and these things should help us to identify Christ's kingdom and to know what Jesus expects in His kingdom. Thus, we learn Christ's kingdom is NOT a kingdom of physical force, hostility, antagonism and malice like most earthly kingdom are. Rom. 14:17 says, "For the kingdom of God is NOT meat and drink; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." At a later time Jesus said, "My kingdom is NOT of this world." (John 18:36).
In Luke 17:21 Jesus told a group of Pharisees, "the kingdom of God is
within you." i.e. you see, it's an inner-man concept. Thus, Jesus said in the verse preceding that, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation." Forcing us to conclude that Jesus' kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. So, Jesus' kingdom defied the concept of the Jews. It defied their expectations and didn't fit their preconceived ideas. Even today, we find much, much confusion on this subject in most religious circles. Some think the kingdom HAS NOT come yet and they're still looking. Many misconceptions and much misinformation is circulated on this subject; particularly in what is described as the doctrine of premillennialism.
Now, there are a couple verses in Matthew that Iwould like for us to close out. I'm talking about Matt. 13:51-52. If you'll turn to that, let's read. Are you ready? "Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old." Some consider this a parable. However, I consider it only a comment that Jesus made to his disciples at the end of this lesson on the kingdom. Remember this was an apostle training session, we've called it. In effect, Jesus was asking if there were more questions or comments on the lesson before he brought it to a close. His question was: "Have you understood all these things?" When they answered in the affirmative; Jesus gave this comment. And his comment is a parable in a sense. He said in essence that any good teacher must have a good store house of illustrations. Today we talk about audio-visual aids. Jesus said that a good teacher is like a householder, i.e. maintaining a home required a lot of gadgets even then. Any good house keeper at that time had a lot of little ingenious devices stored away in their closets for food processing, garment making and repair, sewing, starting a fire, etc. Starting a fire was more than striking a match back in those days; because, matches as we know them didn't exist. Some gadgets were old and familiar; but, a good house keeper was continuously adding new items from time to time. Now, what's the application? Remember Jesus was conducting what we might call an apostle-training workshop. Thus, Jesus was telling these disciples that they must learn to use parables and illustrations in THEIR TEACHING also, i.e. if they were going to be a good teacher — "scribe" is the word Jesus used in v.52. Thus, when Jesus referred to a "scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven..." he was implying they were to teach about the kingdom of heaven also, as Jesus had done in the session they were concluding. In effect, Jesus was saying they must learn to communicate effectively. They must be observant and grow in the art of illustration and build up their own store-house of parables and illustrations.
Now, let's go back to our lead book and read Luke 8:19-21. The days were long and it seems Jesus was on the go from sun up to sun down. We have spent several lessons on his parables that you must keep in mind took only a matter of a few minutes to give. Jesus apparently gave several speeches that same day. But, let's read Luke 8:19-21. Are you ready? "Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it."
It seems most likely that the parables from the little ship were given on the sea shore either in or near Capernaum, probably near Peter and Andrew's house. Mary the mother of Jesus and those four brothers, James, Joses, Simon and Judas came to see Jesus that day. Whether they came from Nazareth or whether they had moved to Capernaum; we don't know. But, when they arrived, they Didn't have immediate access to Jesus because of the crowd, i.e. "the press" (v.19). O.K., now, back up to Mark's account. Starting in the second sentence of Mark 3:19, let's read. Mark 3:19. "And they went into a house. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."
Now, I'm assuming that the friends that came to Jesus here was his family. They had apparently heard a rumor that Jesus was deranged, i.e. he and gone insane. Thus, they came to take Jesus away. But, Jesus was going strong teaching an informal class of scribes and Pharisees inside the house. It's possible that the rumor, his family heard, was started maliciously by Jesus' enemies. Most likely was! It seems they were pretty good at dirty tricks in those days like in the parable of the tares. Hold your finger there at v.22; but let's scoot on down to v.31 and read the rest of that chapter. Mark 3:31-35. Ready? "There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto Him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever Shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister and my mother."
So, Jesus picked up on what had happened, you see, right away. When he was interrupted with the message that him is Mother and brothers were out side; it didn't daunt Jesus' presentation in the least. He simply used that message to make one more point. Can't you just see Jesus gesturing with his hand toward that inner circle of disciples like he was making an introduction when he said, "Behold my mother and my brethren."? And of course this must have sounded very strange to Mary and the others, i.e. if they were in range of hearing. But Jesus' point was that in the spiritual realm, there is and can be a relationship just as dear and even more enduring than any family ties upon this earth. How does one qualify for this relationship with Jesus? Look at v.35. "Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother."
Now, I told you to hold your finger at v.22; but, before we read that let's read five more verses at the end of Matt. ch. 12. Beginning in v.46, are you ready? Did you find that? Matt. 12:46. Let's read. "While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth is hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Notice that the next verse, Matt. 13:1 is where Jesus went out of the house the same day and entered into the little ship and gave the parables we've just covered.
Now, have you still got your finger at Mark 3:22? Let's go back in the house where Jesus was teaching and read that scripture where you've got your finger, Mark 3:22. Are you ready? "And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house: Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, He hath an unclean spirit."
O.K. did you catch on that these scribes, came down from Jerusalem? They are called Pharisees in Matthew's account. They said Jesus' powers came from the devil, i.e. Jesus was in Cahoots with the devil. Just about the most slanderous statement that could have been made. But in Jesus' question he went right to the heart of their accusation. Then, Jesus gave them stern warning as to the consequences of such a slanderous statement. Not only was it slanderous of Jesus; but, it was slanderous of the Holy Spirit as well. Matthew covers this same event with a little more detail than Mark. It is found beginning in Matt. 12:22. But, since it is long reading and because Matthew follows up with more details than Mark gives; we're not going to read that in this lesson. Instead, we'll use that as a summary to get us started in our next lesson. However, in the moment or two that we have left in this lesson, let's focus in on a couple words here in Mark's account; that we just read. This is the first time we've come across the word "Beelzebub". Matthew's account makes this a little clearer in that Beelzebub IS the prince of the devils it says there. This word is used about seven times in the N.T. But, it apparently goes back to Baal worship in the O.T. About, all that I could find on it was that "Beelzebub" was one of the pagan gods of the Philistines. The word literally means, "the lord of the flies." The spelling is slightly different; but the word is used in the first few verses II Kings in the O.T. making reference to the enemy of God. Then we came across the word "blasphemy" in a slightly different form back in Matt. 9:3 and also in Mark 2:7. But, we didn't take the time to discuss it there. The word blasphemy means simply to curse or to revile God. Sometimes the word is used in a lesser sense, i.e. to curse or revile a king or some lesser dignitary. In the Mosaic period this sin fit under one of the ten commandments, the third commandment, stated like this: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain..." in Ex. 20:7 and then re-stated in Deut. 5:11. Moses dealt with a case of blasphemy in Lev. 24th ch. and the law is stated more specifically there in Lev. 24:16 and the punishment for blasphemy of God was death by stoning in the Mosaic law. Here in Mark 3:28-29; Jesus classified the actions of these scribes and their statements as blasphemy, i.e. as cursing or downgrading of God. But, notice that Jesus tries to deal, even with this, in a positive way, i.e. he told them how they could overcome this sin or have it forgiven in v.28. But, then in v.29, Jesus laid down a rule for his kingdom. This is often discussed and certainly is worthy of our attention, "he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation..." As I said, we'll start with Matt. 12:22 in our next lesson. Thanks for coming! Have a good day!