KING JESUS: HIS WORDS AND WORKS
These are my teaching notes for King Jesus: His Words and Works. I presented this at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, February 3, 2019.
JESUS: THE SHEPHERD OF ISRAEL
In the ancient near east, raising flocks of sheep and goats was the major industry. Some flocks were small and the owners of the sheep were also the shepherds. Other flocks were huge and their owners hired shepherds and under-shepherds. Shepherding required knowledge and skill. The sheep had to moved from pasture to pasture. They had to be led to water. They had to be protected from wolves and lions. As you might expect, some shepherds were good and they faithfully tended the sheep. Some shepherds were bad and they abused and abandoned the flocks.
Eventually, shepherd and sheep became a metaphor for ruler and people. Sometimes, God was called the shepherd of Israel and sometimes the king was called the shepherd of Israel. For example:
God: (Psalm 80:1) Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim ...
King David: (2 Samuel 5:2) And the Lord said to you (David), ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.'
Unfortunately, the kings of Israel were bad shepherds. This is the context of Ezekiel 34. It was written to address the failings of Israel's kings. God indicts them for abusing their power and not caring for the people. Then, God himself promises to shepherd his people, to rescue, gather, heal, and feed. The Kingdom of God will be revealed.
READ EZEKIEL 34:1-16
Did God keep his promise? Yes, he did. In the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was good shepherd or king of Israel. He said to a group of Pharisees:
(John 10:11-16) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."
God's Kingdom rule broke into the daily routines of ancient Israel through King Jesus.
KING JESUS: HIS WORDS AND WORKS
The Kingdom of God on earth is the lens by which examine Jesus' words and works.
1. THE WORDS OF JESUS
Jesus' teaching was guided by a Kingdom agenda and he spoke with Kingdom authority. People felt that his teachings were truly the words of God.
(Matthew 7:28-29) When Jesus had finished saying these things (the Sermon on the Mount), the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
New Testament scholar, Dr. Mark L. Strauss, comments:
"In addition to this sense of personal authority, Jesus' teaching style also captivated his audience. He spoke in a clear and concrete manner, using down-to-earth language and stories drawn from everyday life... Jesus also used a range of literary devices, including proverbs, metaphors, similes, riddles, puns, hyperbole, paradox, and irony." (Four Portraits, One Jesus, p. 436.)
His words advanced his Kingdom agenda in four ways:
Jesus preached the presence of the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 4:17) From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Jesus taught the nature and ethics of the Kingdom of God (eg., Matthew 5-7). (Matthew 13:24) “The kingdom of heaven is like ..."
Jesus spoke with Kingdom power and authority. (Matthew 8:16) Many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.
Jesus called people to receive the Kingdom as a gift, and to follow him with radical obedience. (Matthew 11:28-30) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus was known as a rabbi, a teacher, but he was really so much more. Nicodemus called him a teacher come from God (John 3:1-2), but Jesus was actually God come to teach. One hundred times, the Gospels record Jesus said, "Truly, truly ..." to preface his teaching. He meant, "you are about to hear something from God," similar to the OT phrase, "Thus says the Lord." Consequently, his teaching had unique authority: those who received it, entered the Kingdom; those who rejected it, did not enter the Kingdom:
(John 5:24-25) Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the (spiritually) dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear (and receive it) will live.
Matthew's Gospel is a great source for the study of Jesus' words. The book is organized around five "discourses" or teaching units. Let's look at those:
Discourse one - Matthew 5-7: The Sermon on the Mount is his initial Kingdom speech. It describes the lifestyle of Kingdom people.
Discourse two - Matthew 10: Jesus commissioned his twelve apostles to take the message of the Kingdom to Israel.
Discourse three - Matthew 13: Jesus taught the parables of the Kingdom.
Discourse four - Matthew 18: Jesus instructed his disciples about the church.
Discourse five - Matthew 23-25: His Olivet Discourse denounced Israel's leaders in a series of prophetic "woes." He also predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and his return in glory.
Now, let's turn our attention to the works of Jesus ...
2. THE WORKS OF JESUS
Jesus not only taught about the Kingdom of God, he demonstrated it with power and authority. Before we look into that, let me give a little background:
Jesus was active in a public way for approximately three years. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) focus on events around his birth in Bethlehem. Then, there is a gap in the story of around three decades until the it resumes at the Jordan River. There, Jesus was baptized by his cousin John. The Holy Spirit filled him and his three year public life began, culminating in his crucifixion and resurrection.
His baptism took place just a little east and south of Jerusalem. Then he moved back north to the region of Galilee near his hometown of Nazareth. His ministry base was Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. Then, towards the end, Jesus travelled south to Jerusalem for Passover week. There, his conflict with the religious leaders intensified and he was arrested, tried and crucified. The Gospel accounts end with his resurrection and his meetings with disciples. The Gospel of Matthew is typical:
Chapters 1-2: Jesus' conception and birth.
Chapters 3-4: Jesus' baptism in water and the Holy Spirit.
Chapters 4-16: Jesus' public words and works in Galilee.
Chapters 16-28: Jesus' final week in Jerusalem.
The scholars tell us that nailing down the dates of Jesus' life is tricky. The best options seem to be two: Jesus was born between 7 and 4 BC. Possibly, he was baptized in 27 AD and crucified in the spring of 30 AD. Or, he was baptized in 30 AD and crucified in the spring of 33 AD.
Jesus' works were guided by a Kingdom agenda and, once again, we can only understand them from the a Kingdom perspective. Basically, his works are powerful demonstrations of the presence of the Kingdom. Even something as simple as eating a meal with a notorious sinner was a Kingdom message. Everything Jesus did during the three years was strategic. It all served to identify Jesus as the promised shepherd of Ezekiel 34, God ruling on earth. Jesus came to rescue his flock from bad shepherds and enemies. He came to "bind up the injured and strengthen the weak." (Ezekiel 34:16)
Matthew sums up Jesus' words and works:
(Matthew 4:23-24) Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.
Jesus' miracles fall into three main groups: nature miracles, exorcisms, and healings:
Nature Miracles: Jesus had Kingdom authority over the natural world. He turned water into wine. He multiplied bread and fish. He subdued the wind and the waves.
(Matthew 8:27) The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
The nature miracles are enacted parables: The parables reveal the Kingdom in words and the miracles reveal the Kingdom in works. They demonstrate that there is a new reality breaking into the world: Jesus and his Kingdom.
Exorcisms: When some complained that Jesus drove out demons by the power of satan, Jesus explained why they were talking nonsense:
(Luke 11:17-20) Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Jesus waged war against Satan and won. The dominion of Satan is no match for the Kingdom of God.
Physical Healings: When John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the King, Jesus pointed to the signs of the Kingdom promised in Isaiah (e.g. Isaiah 35:5-6). Those same signs were present in his ministry:
(Matthew 11:4-5) Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
The Kingdom broke in to heal the broken as a sign of the promised new creation.
HOW TO EXPERIENCE THE KINGDOM OF GOD
It must have been "something else" to meet Jesus, to hear him teach, and to watch him cast out demons or heal the sick. But that was then and this is now, and you may be left asking, "How can I experience the Kingdom of God now? Is there any freedom or healing now?"
I've been asking and answering that question for over twenty years. I'm sure I don't have all the answers, but here's what I've discovered:
Jesus reigns. He is the King here and now.
His rule extends to people and events and sickness and demons and all of life in general. But it is often invisible, elusive, and hard to figure out.
Satan tries to keep us away from Jesus and his Kingdom power. He traps us in lies that blind us to Kingdom realities.
We experience the Kingdom in some form or other as soon as we turn to Jesus as our Savior and God. This experience includes being delivered from Satan's dominion and transferred into the Kingdom of Christ.
Jesus manifests his Kingdom in us and through us. The supernatural does exist. But just how the Kingdom shows up is unpredictable. Sometimes we are healed, and sometimes we are not. Sometimes miracles happen, and sometimes they do not. Sometimes there is amazing joy, other times meh. Sometimes we speak in Jesus' name and it shakes people to the core, and sometimes not so much.
The more we seek the Kingdom, the more of the Kingdom we will experience. Worship and prayer are key preparation for experiencing Kingdom power. More than anything else, it is doing Kingdom work that opens the door to Kingdom power. Pray for people to be healed. Feed the poor and pray for supernatural provision. Pray for deliverance. Stand up for the powerless and oppressed and pray that people turn to Jesus. Prayer for his love poured out, for more of his Holy Spirit, for more joy, for an overcoming attitude.
The best is yet to come. One day, Jesus will appear in power and glory. Then, his Kingdom will be fully revealed. Sin, Satan, sickness, poverty, pain, oppression, death and sorrow will flee from him. The new creation will dawn in all its fulness.
All of this can be summarized using an acronym: T.R.I. P.
T - TRANSFER. Jesus transfers us from Satan's kingdom into his Kingdom. This has massive practical results. We can live free from demonic oppression. We can know the truth and reject satanic lies that keep us bound. We can do the will of God. We can serve Jesus and make a positive impact in the world.
R - REST. Our lives and ministries are not ultimately down to what we can do. Yes, we have a role to play and choices to make. We must step up and follow Jesus. But we aren't the deciding factor. We can rest in the ultimate power and authority of God. The Kingdom is here, now. True, it's not as manifestly here as it will appear to be one day. But we should do our part and leave the results up to God. Rest. Don't fret. Pray for the sick and leave the healing up to God. Teach the Word and leave the results up to God. Do what is right and good and loving and leave the results up to God. Rest.
I - INTERVENTION. We can expect the Kingdom of God to intervene in our lives. We can ask for Jesus to work in and through us with his powerful words and works. We should train our thinking to look for and welcome the supernatural dimension of life even when we can't see with eyes what is going on.
P - POWER. There is no reason to live in negativity and defeat. We aren't helpless victims to circumstances and evil powers. No, the Kingdom of God is within us. Jesus is reigning in power. Because of him, we are more than conquerors. We may feel weak, but the power and authority of the Kingdom of God are at work in and through us. God makes us able. Where he guides, he provides.