1, The Kingdom & The Code

“Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” (Matthew 4.23)

The gospel; good news. We hear that term and immediately our minds picture Jesus’ sacrifice, the redemption found only in His blood, the love of God demonstrated in the most horrible way imaginable. But the good news of the Kingdom? Yet, that was the message Jesus proclaimed as He went out preaching (Matt. 4.23). Strange as that may seem to our ears, Jesus’ audience would have whole-heartedly agreed that the Kingdom is good news. They would have been familiar with what God had promised regarding His Kingdom in the prophets. “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the LORD is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 33.14–16, NASB95) The gospel of the Kingdom indeed.

Throughout Matthew’s gospel Jesus is presented as King. He has a royal lineage (1.1,6); He is proclaimed as King soon after His birth (2.1-3) and shortly before His death (21.5); He promises to issue judgments from His throne (25.31ff); and even though many mock His kingship at His death (27.11,29,37,42), He is vindicated by the resurrection and granted all authority (28.18).

But a King is nothing without a Kingdom, so this too is a prevalent theme in Matthew’s gospel. The coming of the Kingdom was proclaimed by John, Jesus and the apostles (3.2; 4.17,23; 10.7). The Kingdom was the major theme of Jesus’ preaching (note the parables in Matthew 13). Satan tried to tempt Jesus by offering Him a lesser kingdom than the one promised, but a kingdom that would not require His death (4.8). And Jesus’ works of power were proof that the Kingdom had come (12.28).

Matthew’s gospel proclaimed Jesus as King and looked to the establishment of His Kingdom. But who would be the citizens of the Kingdom?

The Citizens of the Kingdom

The Jews of Jesus’ day knew God promised to establish His Kingdom (cf. Isaiah 2.2-4; Daniel 2.44; etc.) and they eagerly looked for its arrival. However, Jesus challenged their notion of who would be in the Kingdom: “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8.11–12) The Kingdom would include many of the Gentiles, but many of the “sons of the kingdom”, i.e. the Jews, would be excluded! Jesus would go on to reveal that those in the Kingdom would be “like children” (19.14), that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom before the chief priests and elders (21.31) and that the Kingdom would be taken away from them (the Jewish leaders) and given to those who bear fruit for God (21.43). Who would be citizens in the Kingdom? Not who the Jews thought!

They shouldn’t have been surprised, because God had foretold through His prophets exactly what kind of people would be in His Kingdom:

  • Foreigners would be welcome to join themselves to the Lord (Isaiah 56.3-8).
  • The nations would come to the Lord and He would make His Kingdom out of the “lame” and “outcasts” (Micah 4.2, 6-7).
  • The nations (peoples) would serve the Lord “shoulder to shoulder” and the Kingdom would be composed of “a humble and lowly people” (Zephaniah 3.9,12).

Who would be citizens in the Kingdom? Anyone, regardless of race or nationality, who would humble themselves before God!

The Code of the Kingdom

Perhaps you think of a code as a list of rules. For instance, a code of conduct typically contains a listing of inappropriate behavior as well as prescribed conduct for an organization. But a code is much deeper than a mere listing of rules; a code defines who you are! Your code is the set of principles you live by, the standard you strive for.

And this is why the Sermon on the Mount is so important, for it is perhaps Jesus’ most complete giving of the Christian’s code. It’s the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 4.23) because it proclaims the Kingdom’s existence AND defines the kind of people who are its citizens! It is the set of principles Christians are to live by, the standard we strive for.

Are you a citizen of the Kingdom? If so, learn your code… live your code!

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