"For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached,..."—II Corinthians 11:4
"...not this modern conception of Jesus of Nazareth, but the church's confession of the Christ is the one that has conquered the world; and that century after century, the best and most pious of our race have paid homage to the Christ of tradition and rejoiced in him as their Savior in the shadow of death."—Abraham Kuyper
The British philosopher G. K. Chesterton, once said that if the majority of those who attended Sunday services in England were to hear the true words of Christ they would leave the service with scowls on their faces not Cheshire cat grins. A pacifying Christ is the object that millions gravitate toward. He will soothe their inner conflicts, assuage their anxieties and enhance their material well-being. God is defined solely as He relates to our circumscribed lives. The name of Christ has no more impact in any given church service than the names of the present cabinet members in Washington. Instead of prostration, we stand tall before him, as if He is incomplete without us. We can speak of a used car in the same breath we muse out loud about his parousia. Such a micro-perception presents a picture of Christ pleading for our attention, not commanding our obedience. Such blindness in the midst of light. The ipsissima verba of Christ is disturbing. His words leave no realm of life untouched. The passing of time does not exhaust the efficacy of His declarations. "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ who is sovereign over all, does not cry, 'Mine!'" (Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, p. VIII).
"And Jesus was going about in 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 'good news' concerns God and the inbreaking of His saving reign in the person of his Son, the Messiah."—D. A. Carson
The burden and quintessential message of Jesus was the "Gospel of the Kingdom of God." The word "gospel" has become currently just an amorphous moniker for simply "good news" with no discernible context. Frequently, the conjoining of such nouns as the "good news of love", "the good news of deliverance", "the good news of prosperity" is heard, altering the phrase used by Jesus into an anthropocentric message, focusing solely on the needs and desires of the individual. But Jesus used the phrase, "the Gospel of the Kingdom of God", to proclaim the present, sovereign reign of God invading every realm of life, natural and spiritual. The usage of the phrase has its historical and theological background in Isaiah chapters 40-52. The Greek word "evangelion" (i.e., gospel) is the translation of the Hebrew word "bisser". The verb "bisser" signifies "to smooth out, to remove wrinkles on the face, to replace sadness with joy." The Isaiah passages, 40:9, 41:27, 52:7, would define Jesus' usage of the word "gospel" in First Century Judaism.
When the kingdom of Babylon crushed Israel in three successive ways of attack, culminating in complete subjugation in 587 B.C. only the poorest, menial Jews were left in the land, to live among the ruins of Jerusalem and the outlying areas. Judah was now a province of the Babylonian empire and only a remnant of impoverished Jews remained. The majority of Jews surviving the invasions were deported to Babylon, leaving the land denuded, with only insignificant pockets of survivors. The country districts of Judah were decimated, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and the towns of Judah were leveled. "For the land of my people in which thorns and briars shall come up; yea, for all the joyful houses, and for the jubilant city. Because the palace has been abandoned, the populated city forsaken. Hill and watch-tower have become caves forever, a delight for wild donkeys, a pasture for flocks; until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fertile field and the fertile field is considered as a forest." (Isa. 32:13-15). To the surviving remnant living in Judea everything looked hopeless. With each successive year the hope that their loved ones would return to the land seemed less and less possible. The sight of the desolate temple with cities in ruin would convince the anemic survivors that God had forsaken the land because of their sin. The circumstances of death and destruction would even challenge their belief that God was sovereign of all the earth. Upon their mind and heart the daily assault would impinge, "Where is God to be found?" They would question if God's presence could be found in such despicable conditions. All evidence seemed to indicate that a kingdom that worshipped petty dieties, stone images, had conquered the God of Israel and His people. "Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God.'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unscrutable." (Isaiah 40:27-28). God preserved a believing remnant living on the plains of Babylon, awaiting the day of an exodus back to the land of Israel. Simultaneously, God kept the forgotten Judean survivors alive who would live to see the day when God's kingdom would be displayed in the returning exiles from the Babylonian captivity. "Isaiah knew that disaster was bound to come, but also that a remnant would survive, that Zion would endure, and that through Israel and out of Zion redemption for all nations would flow." (Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, p. 95).
When faith had reached its nadir of desperation God would put His Spirit upon an unknown ruler from a petty state, to conquer kingdom after kingdom in the power of God Almighty. Cyrus of Persia, a polytheistic king, was anointed by God (Isa. 41:2, 5-7, 25, 44:28, 45:1, 4-6) to conquer the might of the Babylonian empire. In this turning point of history through the unwitting personality of Cyrus, God was revealing to the nations that He alone is the Lord of all history. "It is the paradox of the human situation that those who do not even know God are chosen by Him to be the instruments in enabling men to know God. Cyrus, who did not know Him (Isa. 45:4-5), is consecrated, called and equipped for his great mission..." (Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, p. 154). At God's direction Cyrus issued an edict for the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-5, Isa. 44:28, 45:14-15). A second exodus would commence within history. "The mighty conquest of Cyrus could not have occurred were the king left to his own resources. It is the hand of God that makes the enemy kingdom weak so that they cannot stand before the Persian monarch." "To the world it would seem that Cyrus was a mighty conqueror, wise in the ways of warfare; but whereas this may have been the case, the ultimate reasons for his victories was that God was carrying out His purposes of redemption. It was His will that His people should return from Babylon to Palestine and that there the Christ should be born." (E. J. Young, Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 196, 197).
"...the kingdom of your God is revealed." (Targum on Isaiah 40:9)
On one signal day, in an otherwise mundane existence, the surviving remnant in the land of Judea would hear a distant sound that they had never heard before. A voice would proclaim, "Your God reigns!" "God is king!" "The Lord is ruling in our midst!" As they reached the top of the hills of Jerusalem they would see an unbelievable sight, thousands of returning Jewish exiles. The sight of thousands of returning Jews coming back to the land would present irrefutable evidence, palpable proof, that God was not in abeyance, He was still Lord of all the earth. The returning exiles were to declare throughout all the land, "Thy God reigneth." "Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, 'Here is your God!'" (Isa. 40:9). "How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!' Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when the Lord restores Zion. Break forth, shout joyfully together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God." (Isa. 52:7-10). God had manifested his kingdom to all nations in the exodus of the Jewish exiles from Babylon. The shout of the returning Jews extolling in praise the power of the reigning God would enlighten the hearts of the surviving peasants of Judah. "The watchers on the walls hear the word and repeat it with rejoicing. It rings through the city and messengers carry it through the land: 'Yahweh is King'; 'Behold your God.'" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 709). The saddened, depressed Judean survivors would experience a joy that they had not known for a generation, a joy that would gladden their anxiety-scarred faces. The good news of God's sovereign presence would "smooth out" the sorrow from their care-worn faces replacing it with joy unspeakable. "Isaiah states the content of the message in simple terms, Behold! Your God! The interjection arrests the attention drawing it to the message itself. The cities of Judah are stopped as it were, that they might see their God before them. After the long night of sin and warfare, the time of darkness brought on by the sins of the people, at last God Himself is coming again to His own. In these words is found the heart of the Gospel,...which consists solely in the presence of God." (E. J. Young, Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 38). God was still king even though circumstances refuted such a transcendent reality. Contrary to all appearances, God was still reigning in their midst. "So he [the returing exiles] speeds over the intervening mountains to poor, ruined Jerusalem with this new song in his heart, 'God is not dead after all; He is reigning still, despite all appearances to the contrary." (George A. F. Knight, Deutero-Isaiah, p. 225).
"...the kingdom of heaven was Jesus' belief that he was sent to lead a movement whose task was to announce that the kingdom of heaven was already at hand." (David Flusser, The Sage from Galilee, p. 86).
Among the Jews living in First Century Israel, the picture of the Mebasser, i.e., messenger of God's sovereignty, depicted in Isaiah Ch.40-52, had remained alive. The Mebasser will come, the Messianic era would begin. Against such a background Jesus' use of "bisser" in announcing his message, comes to a nation under the yoke of Roman oppression, the prophetic voice silent for over 450 years and the lineage of David declined into obscurity and ignominy. Into this world where circumstances and appearances refuted God's active involvement, Jesus as the Mebasser, proclaims that contrary to all appearances, the kingdom of God was ruling in the midst of Israel through his words and works. Jesus identifies himself with the messenger in Isaiah who announces the present rule of God. His preaching is repeatedly summarized by it (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, 26:13, Mk. 1:14-15, 8:35, 13:10). His proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom would resonate in the hearts of his audience, the kingdom of God has become a present reality. The Mebasser had arrived who not only announces but is the content of the "Good News." "Isaiah foresaw the coming of the reign of God. No doubt he expected the glorious day to dawn soon. However, in the providence of God, the stream of that great hope was to run underground for more than five centuries till the decisive time came. It came in the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, when a young man from Nazareth appeared in Galilee saying in effect, 'The Time which Isaiah predicted is here. The good news of the reign of God is ringing out. Turn again to God and accept this message as true.' The eschaton was becoming fact. The reign of God was invading history. The final purpose of God was being realized." (A. M. Hunter, The Work and Words of Jesus, p. 93-94).
At the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1, to announce that He is the long-awaited Messiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." (Lk. 4:18-19). The Messiah has come to minister to the needy of spirit, soul and body. Centuries before, God had promised that the Messianic period would be a time of great spiritual and physical blessing for the people. "Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy." (Isa. 35:5-6). In the Midrash on Ecc. 1:9, it is detailed in great length that the Messiah will reenact all the miracles of Israel's past. "As the former redeemer [Moses] cause manna to descend, as it is stated 'Behold, I will cause to rain bread from heaven for you (Ex. 16:4), so with the latter Redeemer cause manna to descend, as it is stated, may he be a rich cornfield in the land (Ps. 72:16)'." (Ecc. R. 1:28). The Tanchuma on Deuteronomy opens with a record of how God would work all the miracles which He had performed for Israel in the wilderness, in a fuller manner for Zion in the latter days. This long-awaited day was now dawning, "And great multitudes came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them, so that the multitude marvelled as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel." (Matt. 15:30-31, see also Matt. 9:27-33, 21:14). The physical healings by the authority of Jesus is, "...the demonstration of the power of Jesus by which He makes it plain that with Him the kingdom of God has broken into this suffering world." (T.D.N.T., Vol. 3, p. 129ff).
"Show signs anew and work further miracles, make Thy hand and Thy right arm glorious." (Ecc. 36:6-7)
In Jesus' answer to John the Baptist regarding the modality of the kingdom of God that has arrived, there is a clear indication that the commencement of God's rule was manifested in Jesus' miraculous healing of disease (Matt. 11:5-6, Lk. 7:22-23). "We have seen in Jesus' answer to the Baptist (Matt. 11:4-6; Lk. 7:22-23) that he understood his healings to be proof that a new era had already begun." (David Flusser, The Sage from Galilee, p. 88). As Israel of old experienced the miraculous power of God to deliver from sickness (Ex. 15:26, Num. 21:4-9, Ps. 107:20) so now, in the inaugural stage of the kingdom of God on earth, the healing power of God comes to Israel again in the person of Jesus as an accreditation of His Messiahship. "Among the full powers of the Messiah is His power to heal the sick." "There is no sickness or weakness which Jesus cannot master. This is the basic thought in all the stories of His healings." (T. D. N. T. Vol. 3, p. 129ff). Through the Messiah, the mighty power of God was being released to bring liberty to the diseased in spirit, mind and body. Whether the afflicting condition had its origin in an organic (the body affected by indwelling sin) or a Satanic source, the power of Messiah broke the bondage that was incurable by the art of medicine to deliver. "And Jesus was going about in 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. And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them." (Matt. 4:23-24, 8:5-13, 16-17, 28-30, 9:2-6, 35, 12:22, 14:14, 15:22-28, Mk. 1:39-42, 2:3-12, 3:10, 6:2, 7:24-30, 14:14, Lk. 4:40, 5:18-26, 8:1-3, 13:10-12, Jn. 10:21). The quintessential message of the "Gospel of the Kingdom" was the triumphant declaration that no realm was independent from God's reign now being exhibited in the most intimate manner through the words and works of Jesus. The kingdom of darkness that held the nation in bondage to sin, sickness and demonic power was being invaded, and was incapable of repelling the powerful assault. "The healing activity of Jesus was a visible demonstration that God's kingdom had drawn near. Sickness was associated with sin. Ecclesiasticus 38:15 reads, 'When a man has sinned against his Maker, let him put himself in the doctor's hands.' It follows that release from sickness (the evidence of sin) proved that One greater than Satan had arrived with the authority and power to rule." (Robert H. Mounce, Matthew, p. 30).
"And then shall his (God's) kingdom appear throughout all His creation; and then shall the Devil meet his end, and sorrow shall depart from him." (Assumption of Moses 10:1)
In the Pesiktha Rabbathi, Chapter 36, written in approximately Fifth Century A.D., Satan, before the world was created, asked God to show him the Messiah in his victorious glory. "Said Satan before the Holy One--Blessed be He! 'Lord of the world, the light hidden under thy throne of glory for whom is it prepared?' And He said to him, 'For Him who in the future will conquer thee, and cover thy face with shame.' Said he, 'Lord of the world, show Him to me.' Come and see was the divine answer; and when he saw Him, he began to tremble and fell on his face saying, 'Surely, this is Messiah, who in the future shall cast me and thee (angelic) princes of the nations of the world in Gehenna, according to Isaiah 25:8...'" In the wilderness temptations of Jesus (Matt. 4:2-11, Lk. 4:2-13) the victory over Satan and all the demonic realm was secured. Strikingly, Jesus would command Satan to worship Him as Lord, an injunction no mortal could ever make (Matt. 4:7, 10, Lk. 4:8, 12). The words "worship" (Gk. proskun) and "serve" (Gk. latreuo) utilized in Matthew and Luke are verbs in the present tense, imperative mood, indicating a command that must be obeyed continually. The Jews were forbidden to speak to Satan in a commanding manner, "Let not a man open his mouth to Satan," i.e., he is not to say anything unpropitious which might recoil upon him. (Ber. 19). "It is not lawful for man to prefer ignominous reproaches, even against wicked spirits." (Synopsis Sohan, p. 69; note 3). No man was to rebuke Satan, as if a superior authority resided in him. He was instructed to pray when in the presence of Satanic power, "May the All-Merciful rebuke Satan." (Kid. 81a, b). Jesus speaks in a manner far transcending that of any man or archangel (Jude 9), in addressing Satan. He commands the tempter as his servant, for He was Satan's sovereign Lord. "From the beginning of his public activity Jesus' power over Satan had already asserted itself. This is not only proved by the casting out of devils itself, but also by the manner in which those possessed by the Devil behave in his presence (Matt. 8:29, Mk. 1:24, 5:7, Lk. 4:34, 8:28, 31). When Jesus approaches they raise a cry, obviously in fear. They show that they have a supernatural knowledge of his person and of the significance of his coming (Mk. 1:34, 3:11). They call him 'The Holy One of God', 'The Son of God', 'Son of the Most High'. By this they recognize his Messianic dignity (Lk. 4:41). They consider him coming as their own destruction (Mk. 1:24, Lk. 4:34), their torment (Mt. 8:29, Mk. 5:7, Lk. 8:28). They feel powerless and try only to lengthen their existence on earth (Mt. 8:29, Mk. 5:10), and implore Him not to send them into the 'the deep', that is to say, the place of their eternal woe (Lk. 8:31, Rev. 20:3ff). All this shows that in Jesus' person and coming the kingdom has become a present reality. For the exercise of God's power over the Devil and his rule has the coming of the kingdom for its foundation." (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 63).
Jesus enters into the realm of spiritual death and bondage, displaying the superiority of God's kingdom over all the powers of evil. In every exorcism by the command of Jesus, the bridgehead of Satan within the souls of men and women is overthrown. The attempt by the evil one and the demons to deface the image of God in man has been thwarted. They flee before an authority that knows no rival in heaven or earth. "In all His words He speaks 'From the mouth of omnipotence', and thus overcomes the kingdom of demonic powers ruling in sickness, sin and death. This brings us to the heart of the New Testament view. The miracles of Jesus are part of the invading dominion of God which Jesus brings with His own person in proclamation and act. They are the dominion of God overcoming and expelling the sway of demons and Satan." (T. D. N. T. Vol. 2, p. 302). Jesus entered the domain of the strongman, he bound him, stripped him of his power, dispossessing him and his legion from their possessions, i.e., the captive lives of men and women. "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strongman's house and carry off his property unless he first binds the strongman? And then he will plunder his house." (Mt. 12:28-29, Mk. 3:26-27, Lk. 11:20-22). The Stronger One has arrived! "So the devil holds men as captives with no hope of escape by any means of their own. And Jesus has the great commission to stand forth as a herald and to proclaim to them release." "This herald-announcement is not an empty message but the authoritative, effective 'release' itself which transfers these sighing captives of Satan into the liberty of the sons of God." (R. C. Lenski, Luke's Gospel, p. 251). Christ alone transcends all the powers of darkness combined. "Jesus is the adversary of Satan, not his associate, and his exorcisms manifest not an agreement but a rescue operation. In fact, the exorcism signified the defeat of the devil. The strongman is helpless to prevent them. For he has been floored and tied up, and must preforce watch his goods go! The one who tied him up is the one who directs the removal of the furniture. There can be none other than Jesus, in whom a power superior to that of the devil is operative." (G. R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God, p. 109).
"Through Jesus' healings God repeats the signs and wonders of the liberation from bondage in Egypt." (David Flusser, The Sage of Galilee, p. 96)
It is no herculean task for Jesus to expell the malignant denizens of evil from the possessed soul, just a lifting of the finger will do. "But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Lk. 11:20). When God sent the plague of gnats upon Egypt in Exodus 8:15, the magicians of Pharoah, considered in Rabbinic literature to be energized by demonic power, could not replicate the miracle and considered it to be the work of the "Finger of God." "Jesus' expulsion of the demons is by the 'Finger of God', i.e., an authoritative word of command. It is to be noted that in expelling demons, Jesus used no more than a word, and every word of his is filled with the Spirit." (R. C. Lenski, Luke 11:30). There is no resistance before such an authoritative word of Jesus. The kingdom of God is present in a powerfully personal manner. Concentrated on individuals under demonic power, the display of God's sovereignty through His Messiah in redeeming the demonized is unmistakable. "The acts of power were weapons Jesus used to reclaim people and the world from the domination of evil. When Jesus healed the sick or resuscitated the dead, he was breaking Satanic power that manifested itself in illness and death." "Jesus by his actions clearly presents himself as changing the governance of the world and of human lives, introducing God's dominion in place of the oppressive Satanic rule." "Jesus is accomplishing something no one has ever done since Adam's sin yielded to Satan's dominion over this world." (Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology, p. 64-66). The saving power of God was fully embodied in Christ Jesus, and through His words and works was dramatically revealed. In the most specific manner the recipients of the Messiah's ministry were experiencing the Kingdom of God. "Jesus thus stood at the center of a movement which was to bring about, step by step, the realization of the kingdom of heaven on earth. It was in accordance with this idea that he explained the miracles, the signs, and the healing he brought about for the people. Miracles in Jesus' view, were not isolated phenomena, but were evidence that the Devil had already fallen and that they were beholding the realization of the kingdom of heaven on earth." (David Flusser, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, p. 54).
"It is the kingdom of God as an eschatological sphere of salvation, which breaks in, makes a small unpretentious beginning, miraculously swells, and increases, as a divine 'field of energy' it extends and expands ever further." (R. Otto, The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man, p. 123-124)
Jesus gives two parables that illustrate the modality of his kingdom. From the horticultural world and the commonality of domestic life, Jesus sets forth axiomatic truths that reveal the objective reality of the Kingdom of God in its present rule among men and of its future consummation. "He presented another parable to them saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full-grown it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. (Mt. 13:31-33, Mk. 4:30-32, Lk. 13:18ff). The expression "small as a mustard seed" had become proverbial in Israel, and was used frequently by the Rabbis to indicate the smallest amount; such as the least drop of blood (Ber. 31a), the least defilement (Nidd. 5.5), or the smallest remnant of sunlight in the sky (Vayyak. R. 31). The seed of the mustard plant was regarded in popular parlance as the smallest of seeds (Mt. 17:20). The decisive feature of the parable is the smallness of the seed and the ultimate outgrowth of the mustard plant which may reach 10 to 12 feet in height. Inconsequential smallness and prominent greatness are set in antithetical juxtaposition. The inauspicious mustard seed looks so different from what we would expect on viewing the mustard plant. Revealed in the parable is the truth that the kingdom of God is already present in the person of Jesus and being manifested in his teaching authority; power over sickness, demons, nature and death. To come "face to face" with kingdom power in the ministry of Jesus, there is still a localized, finite, circumscribed nature to this revelation. The kingdom of God concentrated in the Messiah is in an inaugural stage. As the tiny seed leads to the mature plant, the initial appearance of the Kingdom of God may seem inconsequential but within that revelation lies the promise of the ultimate exercise of God's dominion, the cosmic consummation of history. "Behind the parable there clearly lies the claim that the kingdom of God is already present in sign in the contemporary work of Jesus, even though it is now concealed and inconspicuous. The aim of the parable is that this inconspicuous presence should not be an offense but a guarantee of confidence. In the concealment of present demonstrations of God's power lies the promise of an imminent, victorious exercise of His dominion. God has already made a beginning; this is the pledge that He will carry through His cause to the end. The parable of the grain of mustard seed summons to this confidence." (T. D. N. T., Vol. 7, p. 291).
"He spoke another parable to them, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.'" (Mt. 13:33, Lk. 13:20-21). Jesus sets forth a parable from the commonality of domestic life to illustrate the pervasive and invasive power of the Kingdom of God. The leaven, i.e., yeast, was a piece of dough from a prior baking that had fermented. When placed in fresh dough it would permeate the whole mass and cause the dough to rise. From an insignificant beginning the leaven would ultimately permeate the whole mass. The parable reveals the permeating, transforming power of the Kingdom of God. From small, unnoticed beginnings in the person and redemptive work of Jesus, the Kingdom of God would ultimately change the order of the world. From Rabbinical literature there is an example of the regenerating power of the Torah, compared to leaven, in bringing back to God the rebellious people of Israel. According to Chaya bar Abba (280 C.E.), even if Israel forsakes God there was still redemptive hope if they were to study the Torah. The leaven of the Torah, with its inner power and drawing capacity, would bring the people back to God. "It is written, 'Because your fathers...have forsaken me and have not kept my Torah' (Jer. 16:11). If only they had kept observing my Torah! Indeed, even if they forsake me, everything would turn out well provided that they keep studying my Torah. Because even if they forsake me, but kept occupying themselves with the study of my Torah its leaven [inner force], through their engagement with it, would be so powerful as to bring them back to me." (Pesikta Derav Kahana 15:5, J. Chagigah 76C, Ch. 1, Hal. 7). According to Chaya bar Abba to study Torah is to undergo an inner transformation by its regenerative power. The leaven of Torah changes even the rebellious will into an obedient heart. The kingdom of God in the person of Jesus, did not come apocalyptically, in a universal unveiling. He did not come as a military messiah, crushing all opposition. In contrast to such an anticipatory mindset, the work and words of Jesus were inaugurating the redemptive reign of God within the hearts and minds of men and women. This stage of the Kingdom would seem insignificant and inauspicious. But the leaven, i.e., the Gospel of the Kingdom, preached and embodied by Jesus, would inevitably penetrate all nations, races and cultures. No political, social, economic or religious domain would be insulated from the active sovereignty of the reigning Christ. The kingdom of God through the words of Christ and the regenerative lives of his people, has affected all sectors of life. From the pinnacle of political power to the nadir of poverty, Jesus Christ is ministering as sovereign King of all. "The kingdom produces ultimate consequences out of all proportion to its insignificant beginnings." "If there is a distinction between this parable and the last one [the mustard seed], it is that the mustard seed suggests extensive growth and the yeast [leaven] intensive transformation. The yeast doesn't grow, it permeates;..." "In both parables it is clear that at present the kingdom of God operates, not apocalyptically, but quietly and from small beginnings." (D. A. Carson, Matthew, p. 319). The comparison with the leaven, between minute beginnings and an all-embracing consummation, is quite striking. "The Kingdom or the Word concerning it, is regarded on a strict exegesis, as a kind of power, which, although present only in a small measure (restricted to Jesus and His followers or to Jesus Himself and His small sphere of possible operation) is ordained and able to penetrate the whole world." (T. D. N. T., Vol. 2, p. 905).
"All things are subservient to His will." (David Kimchi)
After His death and resurrection Jesus states unequivocally that all power belongs to him in heaven and on earth. "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Mt. 28:18). This declaration of Jesus is an allusion to Psalms 103:19, which is a succinct declaration of the universal sovereignty of God over all creation. "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all." The word "all" in Matthew 28:18, is the Gk. word "panta". The word indicates everything in totality, nothing excluded. It is a claim of universal authority. In the death and resurrection of Jesus a consummate victory has taken place and He now holds supreme authority over all realms. Nothing is exempt, from the macro to the micro, from a blazing sun to an atom, all is under Christ's sovereign control. "It is not Jesus' authority per se that becomes more absolute. Rather, the spheres in which he now exercises absolute authority are enlarged to include all heaven and earth, i.e., the universe." "The Son becomes the one through whom all God's authority is mediated. He is, as it were, the mediatorial King. This well-defined exercise of authority is given Jesus as the climactic vindication of his humiliation (Phil. 2:5-11); and it marks a turning point in redemptive history, for Messiah's 'kingdom' (i.e., his king-dominion, the exercise of his divine and saving authority) has dawned a new power." (D. A. Carson, Matthew, p. 594-595).
Approximately 60 years after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciple John is a prisoner at the Roman penal colony at Patmos, an island in the Aegean Sea. The exalted Lord, in his sovereign glory, appears to the disciple and describes His sovereign control over all time, history and the cosmos. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "Who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Rev. 1:8, see also 4:8, 11:17, 15:13, 16:7, 14, 19:6, 15, 21:22). The word translated "Almighty" is the Gk. word "pantakrator", literally translated "one who has his hand on everything." The word defines everything severally, that make up the totality of the universe. It encompasses the entirety of the cosmic order and every individual element contained within. Pantakrator is all-comprehensive, not one atom is excluded. Jesus has all things, i.e., all of creation, no exclusion, in the epicenter of His powerful hands. Nothing lies outside of His sovereign control. "The lordship of Christ must extend over every area of creation. If there were a single area excluded from His lordship that lordship would not be complete and Christ would no longer be the 'Kurios'." (Oscar, Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, p. 228). What security in the midst of the vicissitudes of life. Jesus' universal authority is the ultimate foundation within time and eternity.
"For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Col. 1:13-14) Amen!
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