The Bible As Story (#14) Act 4: Jesus – Preaching the Kingdom

If, as we argued in yesterday’s article that Jesus came to reveal God to man, how did He do this? What are we to look for in Jesus that will enable us to come to an understanding of the Father? Jesus Himself said,

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7).

Knowing Jesus is equal to knowing the Father. There was no other way for the disciples to know God in the first century. There is no other way for us to know God today. Knowledge of God comes from knowing the Son.

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (John 14:8-10).

If we follow the narrative of the life of Jesus and notice what He did, how He did it, what He said and how He said it, how He thought and how He responded to the thoughts He had about people we will begin to see something of what God is like. Remember that He is reflecting the image of God into the world in His life, His thoughts and His actions.

Matthew tells us of the very beginning of His ministry…

And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned
.” (Matthew 4:13-16).

So great was the impact of His life and work among these people it was if the sun had just risen, dispelling a great darkness. That darkness was the ignorance of God that had prevented them from knowing and doing what God truly wanted of them. Even though there were synagogues and rabbis and “experts” in the law of Moses in abundance in the region where Jesus did most of His work, still this region is seen as being in darkness and those dwelling there in the “shadow of death.” Their teachers had been responsible for the darkness because they, too, were ignorant of what God truly wanted.

The light began to dawn when He began preaching.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 4:17).

The necessity of repentance was on account of the kingdom of heaven being at hand. Remember that “kingdom” means “the right to rule.” Jesus’ message was that God was reclaiming His right to rule over His creation and that to be subject to the rule of heaven, people had to change their attitudes and their lives in order to participate in the blessings of God’s rule or kingdom.

The first example of His teaching is given in Matthew 5-7 in what is known as the sermon on the mount. In this teaching, Jesus sets forth what God expects of human beings. Those who make up the kingdom will be “poor in spirit” or humble and teachable. They will people who “mourn” for their sins,are “meek” or “gentle” and will “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” They will be “merciful,” “pure in heart” and “peacemakers.”

He tells His followers that they are like light and salt to the world – having a revealing and preserving effect to others. He contrasts the mistaken teaching of the law common in that day with what God really meant when He gave the law. He taught His disciples how to pray and how to live and how to love even their enemies.

So powerful, so radical, so different and fresh – so authentic – was His teaching that people were amazed. His teaching was radical in the original sense of the word in that it was basic or fundamental and not at all forced or contrived like the religious authorities of the day.

And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22).

We must remember that Jesus was not beginning something new. He was simply revealing God to them and to us. His explanation of the law enabled them to see God as they could not see Him in the erroneous teaching of he scribes and Pharisees. They “got it” and were amazed at the simplicity and clarity of what He said. And why shouldn’t it be clear and understandable to these people. After all, He is the One who gave it in the first place!

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