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Marks of Living in God’s Kingdom (Mark 12:18-43)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

INTRODUCTION:

A few years ago, the Thai King passed away. King Bhumibol Adulyadej was one of the world’s longest-reigning monarch, and died in 2016 at the age of 88 years. The  Prime Minister declared that mourning will last for one year, flags will fly at half mast for 30 days and there was to  be no entertainment for 30 days too. He was greatly admired and I understand pictures of him were everywhere. Such was the admiration of their King. As I was in Thailand at the time, I felt surprised at the level of respect the Thai people appeared to have for their King, and this deep respect contrasted with some of the feelings that I’ve been exposed to having grown up in a culture of debates about departing from the commonwealth here in Australia. Today, we will visit the idea about Kingdom, but that, of the Kingdom of God.

A few weeks ago, when we re-entered the story in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has entered Jerusalem. We had the contrasting reception, whilst the crowds shouted ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!  (Mark 11:10)”

Yet we also saw the response to Jesus’s teachings that found in Mark 11;18 ‘The Chief priest and the scribes heard it, and started looking for a way to kill him.”

You probably would have felt the tension cut the air.

As we look at today’s passage, we continue in a series of confrontations that Jesus has had with the religious elders, as they exchanged in a tit for tat hussle about authority and identity.

As these exchanges continue, we consider What does living in God’s kingdom look like? As we listen to Jesus, we see him expose error and reveal truth., and we see pointers or marks to what it looks like to live and belong in God’s kingdom.

To help us consider this, we will look at three main points

  1. 2 questions from the religious leaders (v18-34)
  2. A lesson about the Son of David (v35-37)
  3. Two contrasting examples (v38-43)

So please join with me in your bibles, or on your devices with your bible on it, as we look at our first part, the challenges of the religious leaders.

  1. 2 questions from the religious leaders (v18-34)

First, we see a question from the Sadducees, for a bit of background, the temple was a bit like the Sadducees backyard. The Sadducees were another Jewish group, they were associated with the political High Priestly families, were wealthy and in control of the temple in Jerusalem…

And they ask their curly question, in verse 18,

18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection[a] whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

The Sadducees asked a somewhat ‘what if question’ ..like…’what if cows’ can fly…?’it was about something they didn’t believe in, see verse 18,  and perhaps mocked themselves. They did this likely with the aim to prove Jesus wrong, and perhaps embarrass him in front of others.

It was like perhaps the school kids in the yard who have been there a long time, and perhaps think that they were the boss of the playground. When the new kid comes along, they want to play some tricks on them, or perhaps show them who is boss. Jesus had just turned up in their space and wasn’t welcome. so they question him, and perhaps try to rattle and humiliate him with this seeming tricky but unrealistic question about seven brothers and one wife.

So How does Jesus respond?

Jesus sees through it and He exposes their error and reveals truth.

The problem with the Sadducees was that they had the wrong idea about God. Their starting point was wrong, so their question was misguided. Perhaps they were like a pre-school kid trying to fit a triangle into a square toy, their framework would not fit.

The temple was God’s temple, and Jesus firstly tells them quite plainly their error:

24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[d]27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

The Sadducees referred to Moses and a Levirate law, and Jesus also refers to Moses but recalls what God told Moses in Exodus 3  “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living”. The Sadducees idea of a physical resurrection was fanciful, but in fact, misguided and not correct because they misunderstood God.

The Sadducees thought they could outsmart Jesus and thought they knew better than Him. Instead, they were told… ‘you are badly mistaken’.

There framework was wrong: Perhaps like if building something and the foundation is faulty, the whole project would be shakey. Or like a maths equation, if you apply the wrong formula at the start, you will get the wrong answer. Have you ever felt confident that you had the right answers, or perhaps even understood someone to say something, and found out you completely missed the mark?

Perhaps the Sadducees held proud to their history, societal and family heritage, their long association with ownership of the temple, their knowledge of the law, yet they missed the point.

SO how can we make sure we are not badly mistaken?

We need to remove our biases and rely on God’s word, to study it carefully, and ask for God’s help to reveal himself to us through it. This is our first mark of living in God’s kingdom, as we rely on God’s word and not ourselves to understand God.

If we just twist the scriptures and look at the letter of the law, we may miss the point of the whole thing and be badly mistaken.

We can be thankful to God for culture , family and history, however, we must interpret them through the lens of God’s word to us.

Perhaps it’s important to pause and ask whether we are deepening in our understanding of God through His word.  Some ways that may help us grow is to read the bible regularly, and ask God by His Spirit to help us understand what he has written. Or pick up a trusted devotional, or  Perhaps consider meeting up with an older Christian to read the bible together, or commit to a discipleship group and let iron sharpen iron? Other ways to dive deep into God’s word may be to engage in some commentaries and wrestle with thoughts there, or even sign up for a course to deepen in your understanding of God and His Word and His plans for the world.

  1. ii) The next question comes from the teacher of the law, who we see was also mistaken, but appeared not as far off the mark.

In verse 28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Jesus shows the priority of relationship with God over fulfilling the letter of the law. He recalls Moses’s words from Deuteronomy 6,

Verse 29: The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. The second is this; Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

We then have an interesting reply. The expert of the law commends Jesus, and says, Well said, teacher. (verse 32).

In verse 33 “ To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” There may be a hint here that the expert in the law sees relationship and love as being more important than fulfilling the letter of the law.

Whilst this episode may not feel as sinister as what we have seen from the other exchanges in the temple so far, I would suspect the feeling is still icy. I wonder how genuine the teacher of the law is. What are we to make of this exchange?

The teacher of the law was probably one of the best around in the knowledge of the law, perhaps a subspecialist of some sort. they were already the ‘professionals and experts at  this…if they played cricket, they would be the opening batsmen, perhaps, the top scorers of the 613 laws in the OT, they probably had the top batting averages for laws kept, so they would have known the law pretty well. Why then would they need to Ask Jesus what is the greatest commandment?

Perhaps it’s like the new paralegal commending the senior lawyer at their reply to their basic question. All fresh out of law school, knowing all the 613 laws, and he makes an interesting point: There appears to be an edge of arrogance in approaching Jesus, to tell him he had a good answer.

Jesus tells him “you are not far from the kingdom of god’, but also showing that he was not quite there yet. It is still off the mark.

Perhaps at that time, there were many religious leaders, Pharisees and teachers of the law that would later enter and be part of God’s kingdom…but they were not quite yet there and then.

God’s kingdom is about putting Him first, loving him with the entirety of our beings, and loving our neighbour as ourselves. Relationship is more important than the letter of the law. And that was more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices as the teacher of the law points out, relationships were more important than the letter of the law. Yet there was still something missing.

Today, do we know what is most important to be welcomed in God’s kingdom? You may have come to church, thinking you have some ideas about God and having some ideas… You may see and hear that people love God and love others, and that makes sense, you are not sure why Jesus said that the person was ‘not far from the kingdom of God’. Our next point helps to put this in clearer focus.

So far, we have looked at two questions from two religious leaders- with their prior framework and perceptions…or misconceptions. They reveal how they missed the mark,  one was badly mistaken, and the other was close but not quite there. Jesus exposes their error, and continues to reveal truth about the coming Kingdom.

Living in God’s Kingdom firstly means we remove our own biases and we renew our focus on God’s revealed truth through His word. We need to study the scriptures carefully, and not just read into what we want it to say and in so doing actually deceive ourselves thinking we may be right.

We need to rely on God’s word, to study it carefully, and ask for God’s help to reveal himself to us through it. This is our first mark of living in God’s kingdom, as we rely on God’s word and not ourselves to understand God.

  1. A lesson about the Son of David (v35-37)

In our Next point, Jesus asks a question about the Son of David, and by asking a question, he is really revealing to the crowd, and to us, his identity.

Ultimately, it is a question about who the Christ/Messiah is?

The Messiah would not only be the Son of David, but also, the Son of God.

The question Jesus poses has a few parts, it kind of builds tension. The first part would not have ruffled any feathers. We read in verse 35, Whist Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?”

This first part of this question was completely pc.. it was politically correct… The Jewish nation and teachers of the law were awaiting the promised Messiah from the line of King David to free them from the Roman oppression they were living under.

But, as we read in verse 35 onwards, Whist Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?”

when V36, David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared,

“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”

37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

Then, as now, a father is typically the one who provides, who gives and passes on the family name, protects, brings up the child…the Father is greater than the child to do this…

The question Jesus has here, if the Father is greater than the son, how can David call the Messiah Lord?

This is only possible because the Son of David, is also, the Son of God. The Messiah would not only be descended come from an earthly line, but also a heavenly one.

Jesus quotes from Psalm 110, written by King David, that foreshadows the coming of the Messiah to establish God’s kingdom. It pointed to the day when God’s kingdom would be established through the Messiah.

Jesus is not only an earthly king as the son of David. His kingdom would be beyond the confines of Judea, and extend to all authority over heaven and earth, He was also the Son of God.

Living in God’s kingdom means living with Jesus as King. This is the second mark of living in God’s kingdom.

This was what the teacher of the law in the earlier exchange was missing, he did not see that Jesus was the way to how God’s kingdom would be established. It would be through Jesus that the letter of the law is fulfilled, and relationship made possible.

Jesus came to deliver and free Israel, not from an earthly captivity, but from captivity and slavery to sin, and he offers forgiveness for Sin through his death and resurrection and a righteous standing before God to all who trust in Him. What great news.

So far, in looking at living in God’s kingdom, we have seen the challenge of the religious leaders that questions our own preconceptions about the kingdom. We have seen the Son of David is also the Son of God. Jesus is the one to whom the old testament prophets point to, He is the one who displays power over death at the cross. It is to Him that we are to love with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, because, He first loved us. Living in God’s kingdom means realizing our misconceptions and repenting (turning away from them), and regarding Jesus as King.

In our third and final point, we consider.

  1. Two contrasting examples (v38-43)

What does it look like to respond to Jesus as Lord? It means relying on Jesus in complete devotion and dependence, as we love God and love his people.

Jesus contrasts the failure of the religious leaders and commends the widow for her devotion and dependence.

Reading from Verse 38, Beware of the scribes who want to go around in long robe and who want greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. They devour widows houses and say long prayers just for show. These will receive harsher judgement.

Jesus exposes and warns against hypocrisy and exposes the false religion of the religious leaders. They did things for show, they did it for self interest, and even took advantage of those that were disadvantaged such as the widows. Rather than love God and others, they just loved themselves. These were the type of people that were opposing him. Jesus tells the crowd, don’t be fooled by appearances!

In Christian ministry today, sadly, we hear of leaders who have acted in harmful ways, in misconduct and ungodliness. They have hurt people and casted a sour witness to the church. No matter how big the ministry, or apparently successful, or bright or intelligent, it is damaging. This is not the way of the kingdom and Jesus warns against these leaders, whilst also saying a harsher judgement awaits them.

Meanwhile, across from the temple treasury, Jesus makes a point of teaching his disciples something else about the kingdom. He contrasts the ungodly leadership of the scribes to the example of the poor widow.

Look with me at verse 43, Jesus calls his disciples, and says to them:

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had- all she had to live on.”

A helpless poor widow with her two tiny coins stands in contrast to toga wearing scribes and their showmanship.

The rich gave out of their surplus, that which was extra. But she gave out of her poverty. Jesus knew that she has put everything she had- all she had to live on.

Whilst we may be challenged to read this and think we ought to live as the widow does, I think first we should remember who this widow points to.

As we look at the account of the poor widow, we see in her the example of our Lord Jesus, who came to save us and give himself completely for us. We see him, contrasted to the leadership of the religious elders that was just about serving themselves.

As the apostle Paul encourages the Philippians to not look only to their interests but to the interests of one another, he gives us the example of Christ:

In Philippians 2:5-9, he encourages them,

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

It is to His example that we can understand what living in the Kingdom is like. The Lord Jesus loved us and gave himself completely for us and emptied himself for us. He was opposed, yet he gave all of him, fully devoted to the Father’s cause, and fully devoted to us.

It has been said that to Follow God, it costs nothing, yet it also costs everything. Our salvation is a free gift, yet to follow the Saviour, we also need to follow Him, and that costs everything. By God’s grace, will we be ready to be fully devoted to Loving God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves?

I recently heard that missionaries visiting from Nepal just gave a real life example of this widow. They told the church they visited about a Nepali widow, giving what she had out of her poverty to the church. In our affluent society, we are busy with worrying about many things.  Does that mean that you now go home, sell everything you have, and then donate it to the church? No, I don’t think this passage is telling us to do this. But it challenges us to consider our devotion and our dependance on the Lord.

How are we giving of ourselves? It matters not only how we spend or give our money, but also our other resources like time and our energies.

We may not be giving now to the physical temple, but in fact, if you are believer, we are part of God’s temple, where He resides by His Holy Spirit. How are you being devoted to God’s church and His people? Are you committed to meeting with your brother or sister in Christ to encourage, support and do life together? This may happen as you meet for brekkie before work, or for a drink  or over a meal sometime during the day. It’s been encouraging to see people making back to church as we give thanks to God for the safety we have had from Covid, but lets not neglect the gift that God has given us of each other for supporting and encouraging one another.

Friends, we must take caution we are not just giving our extra time to church activities, that we just give our surplus time to church like the many rich people in verse 41 who threw in large amounts. We must take caution not to just  be busy building our small kingdoms here in our homes, our friendship circles, our workplaces, and just give your Christian fellowship the surplus of your time, finances and energies. How devoted are we?

The third mark of the kingdom is realizing the servant leadership and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and in so doing, fuel our devotion to Him and His people.

Living in a kingdom may be a foreign idea for us. It seems as those in Judea, although they lived in a kingdom, God’s kingdom was not what they expected. Today, we’ve considered some marks of what was God’s coming kingdom, and in following weeks, we will be looking more to what this looks like as we see Jesus approach the cross of calvary.

God’s kingdom is upside down, and may not be what we expect.

A song that has warmed my heart as I’ve thought about this passage is called in His Name by EMU, let me share some of the words. It speaks of God revealing himself to us through the prophets, and then in his Son, A king who left his majesty behind to set us free.

The prophets saw in ages past
Light in the distant dawn
The King is bound in agony
Will rise to life again
And in his name a saving word
Release from every stain
And in the darkness we have heard
This is God’s only plan
This is God’s only plan

Verse 2
The Son of God now in the flesh
He seeks to save the lost
A King who left his majesty
Behind to set us free
And in his name a saving word
Release from every stain
And in the darkness we have heard
This is God’s only plan
And O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great redeemer’s praises

  • We need to remove our biases and rely on God’s word to reveal Himself to us
  • For some of us, that may mean turning from our hard held heritages to embrace God’s truth
  • We need to regard Jesus as King
  • And we need to respond in loving obedience and remain devoted to Jesus revelling in Jesus, our King, our Suffering Servant.

Let us pray as we finish:

Our Father in Heaven,

We thank you that the Lord Jesus gave himself for us so that we may be brought into relationship with you. We thank you that he went to the cross for our sakes, that you loved us that you sent him to take the place we deserved for our sins. We are sorry Father when we have failed to love you as we should, and have loved other things. Help us, by your Spirit, to be fully devoted and dependent on you, by your strength and grace. We ask this in Jesus name, and for His sake Amen.