Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 21 2013 - Matthew 13:47-14:12 – Disciples of the kingdom

Jesus has been teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven / kingdom of God. Many of the things he says seem strange to his hearers – and strange still to us. The kingdom, he says is like a net that draws in fish of all kinds. When it is pulled up upon the shore, the good fish are placed in a container while those not fit for use are thrown away. In our simplistic view we may think of the kingdom as consisting only of saved souls. Jesus pictures it as a movement which will affect many. It's not just about souls; it's about transforming the world to be again what God created it to be. Many will be affected by the life of the kingdom; many will be drawn into its life – tasting the power of the age to come. Not all those so affected will truly be heirs of the kingdom.

This is a strange parable. It is not easy to work out exactly what it is saying to us. It would be easy simply to suggest that it means that not all who belong to our churches will be saved. That may be part of the picture, but I suspect that it is only part of it. Jesus' teaching on the kingdom is far wider than the church.

I find Jesus' words puzzling and a continual challenge. But when Jesus asks his disciples whether they understand what he is teaching them, they reply with a simple "Yes" (Matthew 13:51). I'm not sure that I'm altogether convinced by their reply – particularly as they seem to have retained the view, even after Christ's resurrection, that the kingdom would be established by might and raw power (see Acts 1:6).

Jesus goes on to say, "Every teacher of the law [scribe] who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old" (13:52). The scribe (or teacher of the law), was someone knowledgeable in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus says that when someone like that becomes a disciple in the kingdom, they will see the Old Testament in a new way. They will not abandon all that they knew beforehand, but their understanding will be transformed; they will now see the old in the light of the new. More particularly, they will see the acts and promises of God that form the drama of the Old Testament as having their fulfilment and focus in Jesus the Christ.

There is much about Jesus' teaching concerning the kingdom that I still find puzzling; it stretches my understanding. But one thing is crystal clear; Jesus' teaching concerning the kingdom is a declaration that he is the king; this carpenter’s son from Nazareth is the promised Messiah who has come to create a people for his own possession. The kingdom can only be rightly understood in the light of Jesus – his teaching, the things he did as signs of the kingdom and particularly his cross and resurrection. The kingdom is all about Jesus, the king. The cross shows us what kind of king he is and what manner of kingdom he has come to establish.

King Jesus, help me to be a faithful disciple of the kingdom, to follow you and to be taught by you. Help me by your Spirit to rightly understand your word and to see that you are the focus and key to all the Scriptures. You have given me new life by your death and resurrection. Help me to live the life of your kingdom in the fellowship of your people and to draw others to you that they too may share in that life, now and in the age to come.

Peter Misselbrook