Have you ever wanted something so bad you would do anything to get it? I bet there is something. Maybe it is someone? Have you been that teenaged boy or girl who would do the dumbest things to impress the other? How about your spouse? Have you ever made a total fool of yourself and didn’t care at all because you were so in love?
OK, how about something not so pleasant? Have you had a family member or loved one so sick that you would give up everything for them to well? Would you give one of you kidneys to your spouse? Would you “take a bullet” for you children?
Hollywood is sometimes successful in bringing that desperation emotion to the surface. You know the apocalyptic end of the world movie where the only way to survive is to get on the futuristic Ark to be saved by the flood waters that are moments away. Or the asteroid is bearing down and only the deep deep caves of sanctuary will save a select few. Or the earth quakes are swallowing up the landscape and that helicopter just over the hill is the last chance to live. Are you there yet? Have I brought you to the place? Good, now read this:
Mat 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (ESVST)
And here is a parallel passage:
Luk 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. (ESVST)
Those bolded phrases are the same word in the Greek. Yep, same word. (the second “violent” of 11:12 comes from the same word). Here is a different translation of the Matthew verse:
Mat 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, life is given unto the kingdom of the heavens, and the valiant take hold of it. (Jubilee Bible 2000)
If you don’t see it all ready let me paint a picture. What Jesus is talking about is what the Hollywood movie makers already know. The Kingdom of Heaven is the “futuristic ark” or the “deep cave of salvation” or the “helicopter” and the people were desperate for it. See it this way: There was the law. The prophets and Moses talked about how awesome God was and how He would come to be with us. John the Baptist was “Elijah” announcing the arrival of “God is with us.” Now here is Jesus. He brings the Kingdom wherever He goes because the Kingdom is where the King is. All the fullness of God was with Jesus in the Holy Spirit. So when He came to tell us about the Kingdom it was more of a show and tell than and dissertation. He even said He used parables so that we would learn to “see” and “hear” what He was really saying. And of course the goodness of God (The Kingdom of Heaven) manifest on the Earth looked just like this:
Luk 6:17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. (ESV)
Sometimes the people were so desperate for Jesus, for the goodness of God, for the Kingdom of Heaven, they “pressed” in on Him. This word “pressed” in the Greek is akin to crushing or being so close that things merge. Yeah it was probably pretty “violent” in nature:
Mar 3:9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “ You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. (ESVST)
Wherever He went they “implored” Him. This Greek word for implore is to beg up close. Like getting in your face and not giving up. That is how badly they wanted what Jesus had:
Mar 6:56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. (ESV)
Some were so desperate for Jesus, even just a touch of His robe, they would risk it all. Under the law a woman with a known bleeding condition was unclean and was to be put out of the town. She could be stoned for touching someone and still she came:
Mar 5:24 And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. (ESV)
When John the Baptist was in prison and began to doubt, how did Jesus remind Him that He was God on Earth? How did Jesus encourage John that the Kingdom of God had come to Earth? What evidence of the Kingdom and the goodness of God did Jesus cite?
Mat 11:2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “ Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “ Go and tell John what you hear and see:5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (ESVST)
The Kingdom of God is too good to be true, or at least it appears that way for our fallen human understanding. Jesus is too awesome and God is too good. Those that see God’s goodness must have Him at all costs. They will press into the Kingdom no matter what. They will desperately seek Him and His Kingdom for all the answers.
So when we do what Jesus told us to do by making disciples of all nations do they see the Kingdom? Come on, what do they see when you tell them about Jesus? Do they see something that is so good they will do anything to get it? I don’t mean to be mean. Let me say it a different way so you won’t be offended. I want them to see me like they saw Jesus. Yes I really mean that. The Kingdom of God is that good, God is that good, the Holy Spirit in me wants to show people that Jesus is that good. When I go somewhere and tell them about the Kingdom of God (His charter for me) then it should look like it did for the people Jesus is describing in the opening passage (Matt 11:12). That is what it means to be conformed into His image. Think about it.
There will be those who oppose me (and you). There are many many Pharisees out there who will want me to shut up. There are many scoffers who will insult me and debate me. And of course the enemy will put me on the most wanted list (if I’m not already there). I have no doubt that comes with the deal. Still all of the fullness of God dwells in me through the revelation of the love of Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings power to back me because the Gospel is power and God said so. The good news of Jesus changes lives, brings answers and sets people free. The love of God is more powerful than any lie or disease or hardship or hangup or opposition. Jesus is King. I am His brother. Abba is my Dad. The Holy Spirit is my comforter and helper. I pray that God will give me the privilege of revealing the Kingdom as He intended. I can’t wait for the day when those who “hear” and “see” will take it by force.