Week Forty-Three Reading Assignment:
Mark 10 - Luke 16
"The Word of God is the powerful means, since faith must be enkindled through the gospel, and the law provides the rules for good works and many wonderful impulses to attain them. The more at home the Word of God is among us, the more we shall bring about faith and its fruits."
(Philip Jacob Spenser)
(Philip Jacob Spenser)
This Week's Teaching Video: The Gospels and the Gospel
Character Profile: Hinge of History
“Among those born of women,” Jesus said, “none is greater than John. Yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
With that statement, John’s pivotal role in history is identified and secured.
John the Baptist is something of an after-thought for most Christians. And yet, all four Gospel writers include him in their stories, which is more than can be said for Christmas. His unanimous inclusion in the Gospels suggests that he may be somehow essential to the story of Jesus.
John is a mysterious figure — a popular hermit; a desert man most associated with water; a prophet sent to preach to the people, though he lives apart from them.
John doesn’t fall really into any other category of New Testament characters. He recognizes and proclaims Jesus, yet he is not one of Jesus’ disciples. He is not among the scribes and Pharisees. He is not Roman. He is not part of the crowds, which flock to Jesus or rally against him. John stands alone.
He seems anachronistic. His style is reminiscent of an Old Testament prophet, and yet his primary act (baptism) is so ahead of its time, for we associate it with the church.
Indeed, John is like no one else, either in his own time or in the larger context of human history. He is the greatest person ever born, according to Jesus. And yet, still, the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.
John stands on history’s boundary line — the watershed, marking the break between all of human history that has gone before and the ushering in of
the kingdom of God. John’s arrival signals of the beginning of the end. Accordingly, he calls out, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
What We May Not See Right Before Our Eyes
We've all lost things along the way. Some have been lost permanently. Some have been temporarily buried or misplaced. And some, we are embarrassed to admit, have been lost in plain sight. We say that we can't find them anywhere, and then we realize they're right there: the glasses that we have on our head, the pen that is in our hand, the keys that are still in the door, and such.
In our reading of Scripture, we may have lost sight of a theme. It is not permanently lost and it is not temporarily buried. It is right there before our eyes, and yet we fail to see it. The theme is the kingdom of God.
When John the Baptist appears on the scene, he proclaims, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2). Jesus begins His public ministry with the same message (4:17). And literally from the day of His birth (2:2) till the day of His death (John 18:33-37), there is talk about Jesus as king and His kingdom.
As we noted last week, a significant number of Jesus' parables are designed to teach folks about the kingdom of God, beginning with phrases like "to what shall we compare the kingdom" or "the king-dom of heaven is like." Jesus told His followers to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). And when He taught them how to pray -- a prayer that many of us say with weekly or perhaps even daily regularity -- it includes both a prayer for His kingdom to come and an affirmation that the kingdom, the power, and the glory are His.
The kingdom of God is a theme we may have lost, but not because it's not right there before our eyes. And so, as we continue our reading in the Gospels, watch for the kingdom. You may be surprised how many places you find it!