The Twelve continued
Satan, the prince of this world comes disguised as an angel of light. Satan blinds us with his glitter of falsified truth. Even good religious people, like the Pharisees of old, were and are misled by Satan. Jesus has come to bring us spiritual sight, but like the Pharisees, we too ask, “Are we blind?” Jesus’ answer has not changed; namely, “If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now your sin remains” (Jn. 9:39-41). The judgment that Jesus has brought was to give sight to the spiritually blind and blind those who hold on to their self-made truth. We already are judged if we cannot distinguish right from wrong and make wrong right. The remarkable thing is that a simple blind man whose eyes were opened could accept Christ and believe in His Message, while good men with stubborn hearts remained in spiritual darkness. It is utterly impossible to see Christ or to hear His Words without the Spirit of God in our life. Peter was told that it was not flesh and blood that helped him see who Jesus was, but the Father in heaven (Mt. 16:17). Those who saw the Spirit also heard the voice from heaven saying, “This is my son, my beloved, who pleases me” (Mt. 3:16-17). Only three of the disciples heard the voice saying, “This is my son, hear him!” (Mk. 9:7). The spiritually deaf heard thunder, angels, or merely noises (Jn. 12:28-29).
How intelligent do we have to be to see Jesus as God’s Messenger and understand His Message? We already have seen that little children have more faith than adults. But there is something even less intelligent and that is a sheep, which Jesus used as the fourth kind of individual. Jesus held that like sheep, which can hear and distinguish the voice of their shepherd, so could those who believed in Him and His Word (Jn. 10:3-4). Yet, to the leaders, he said, “You have never heard his voice, nor seen his form, nor does his word live in you, for you do not believe the one he sent” (Jn. 5:37). In particular, what we should cherish is that Jesus thought of us when He regarded us as future members of His Sheepfold. “I have other sheep,” Jesus said, “… they too will hear my voice” (Jn. 10:16). To Pilate, He said, “Everyone who is on the side of truth listens to me” (Jn. 18:37). Even though only a few understood the Message from heaven, it was intended for all mankind (Jn. 12:30). All man had to do is ask for the Holy Spirit and He would come in and live in man (Lk. 11:11-13). The Spirit of the Lord would teach and lead man to do what is right (Lk. 12:12; Jn. 16:13). And it is the Spirit that would give life and Christ’s Words was and is Spirit (Jn. 6:63). Without the Spirit, our flesh could survive (Mt. 24:41).
The disciples or the “blessed” were allowed to see what the mystery of the kingdom was. What then was this mystery? The mystery was not some deep incomprehensible secret; but rather, a puzzle as to why God would make it so simple for mankind to be saved? The mystery was not centered in rituals and sacrifices, but in the trust in another human being. In this case, it was faith in what Christ was about to do for man. In the parable of “The Sower,” the Words of Jesus, the Christ, was the His Message and His Power that lead to salvation for those who believed. The mystery was the conquest of the heart—more accurately the conquest of the soul of man, and not some earthly domain. The conquest was the “spirit” within man that needed rest, and the “Spirit” came to all human beings, both Jews and Gentiles alike. Jesus put the emphasis on his disciples as the recipients of His mystery. He said, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom,” that would be in the heart of ma and not in the world. Mark, the Evangelist, understood that it meant the mystery itself (Mk. 4:11). Matthew and Luke took the mystery to mean the knowledge or the understanding of it (Mt. 13:11; Lk. 8:10). Jesus had given insight into the meaning of the “Parables” regarding His kingdom. The mystery was always there, but the understanding of what that mystery meant was lacking. Like in the case of Peter and later the Apostle Paul, the Lord had to open their understanding as to who Jesus was. To both of these leaders, it was quite a shock that the Gentiles were also included in God’s mystory of salvation. That is why Paul called it a mystery (Eph. 3:6). Perhaps, the shock was even greater when the new Church, rather than the old Israel congregation, began to spread the mystery (Eph. 3:10). In Jesus’ Word, “The Other Sheep” were coming into the fold and they felt their presence (Jn. 10:16). At the end, these “Other Sheep” will glorify Him and carry His Message to the ends of the earth. It was when Greeks had come to see Jesus prior to His death that Jesus felt that His time for His glorification had come (Jn. 12:20-23).
That same lack of understanding prevailed regarding what the kingdom of heaven consisted of. The charge against Jesus was that He was a rival to Caesar. To Jesus’ own disciples, He was going to set up a kingdom on earth. And when the Church took roots, people began to see the kingdom of heaven as God’s physical domain on earth. In our day, many Christians believe that Christ will establish another reign on planet earth. Of course, no one really knows what or when any of the apocalyptic events will occur and what they really mean. What we do know is what Jesus said regarding the heavenly kingdom when He was alive. And then, each Evangelist saw the kingdom a little differently. t is their understanding that has been passed down to us, and the Spirit of God has confirmed their understanding. The interesting thing is that man looks for unanimity in seeing one thing the same way. God looks for more than one witness who similarly sees the same thing. The Lord allows us to see things our way, provided that our understanding reaches the goal He has set for us.
Mark found no need to explain the kingdom of heaven. Those who kept and practiced the Law were not far from the kingdom of heaven (12:34). Mark was satisfied that the kingdom was the Good News, evidenced by healing and helping the needy. Matthew understood that the kingdom existed prior to creation, was heavenly, entered the world with Christ, to do God’s will on earth, and that man must seek the kingdom in justice and in good deeds. Man has charge over the salvation of others. Also man has charge over his faithful service, which will determine whether he joins in the ultimate kingdom, which is in heaven. To Luke, the kingdom was the kingdom of God and it had no physical appearance, but was in the heart of man. The kingdom was an eternal bond with God and not just heavenly. The kingdom was God’s pleasure to give it to man and the Gospel was proof that God had done so. John understood Jesus as saying, “… the kingdom was not of this world nor were its members.” To enter the kingdom, one has to be born of the Spirit, and the Spirit would lead to the truth as to how to worship the Father. And, of course, the kingdom was a place of many mansions, the bosom of Abraham, and paradise. In the final analysis, our view of the kingdom shall not matter if we fail to enter into Jesus’ world. Do we see ourselves in Jesus and do we hear His Words, which secure our presence in paradise?
Winston Churchill once said, “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see” (S.S., p. 277). Victor Hugo held, “Men have sight; women insight” (S.S., p. 277). Perhaps, it would be wise to aim at both, sight and insight. It would be tedious to follow sight without insight. Far too often, we look at our condition and not at what got us into that condition. The “Parable of the Lost Son” is demonstrative of what we get ourselves into. We, too, leave home with our hands full. We spend our life unwisely among strangers tending and feeding their pigs. When we hit bottom, we, too, come to our senses and return home to our father; not as sons or daughters, but as servants. And even as servants, we are welcomed back. That is the message Jesus still wants us to hear and Jesus wants us to respond.
Charles H. Spurgeon gave this advice, “When you speak of heaven, let your eyes shine with reflected glory. And when you speak of hell—well, then your everyday face will do” (Wa. 885). Jesus, too, wants us to speak more of heaven than of hell. Heaven represents hope and hope leads to patience and endurance. We keep that Message of hope too much to ourselves. We believe it in our hearts, but we must also confess it with our lips. We hear the first part, but we do not clearly hear the second part. And when we speak, our face does not reflect the glory of heaven. We allow the everyday face that is clouded with disappointments and with misery to prevail. And that is what others hear and they do not want what we have. Let our hearts burn with the vision of Christ like it burned in the hearts of the Emmaus disciples (Lk. 24:32).
The witty Benjamin Franklin humored his fellowmen with this remark, “A pair of good ears will drink dry a hundred tongues” (S.S. p.150). But, where does one acquire a pair of good ears or a pair of good eyes? Jesus gave us a hint with this invitation, “Come to me all you who are tired and burdened and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). It is difficult, for us, to see or hear in the midst of stress and turbulence. We must withdraw in our minds to Christ and learn from Him as to how He could cope with situations, which are beyond human comprehension and strength. I felt that I knew what Jesus had in mind. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was shocked. The ugly truth about death hung over me. When I focused on Christ, who had prepared a place of salvation for me, before the foundation of the world was laid, peace came into my heart instantly (Eph. 1:4). I found rest, and it no longer mattered what the outcome of my condition would be. The point is this, never before did I hear Christ’s Words more clearly, even though I had preached them for over forty years. And the reason was that I had come to a point where I had to listen with full attention.
Jesus was very specific when He said, “Blessed are your eyes and your ears.” It does matter what others see and hear, but not as much as when we see and hear for ourselves. No matter what nor how good their interpretation of Christ’s message may be, it can never take the place of what each person can see and hear. Every individual sheep must and can hear His Shepherd’s voice and follow Him because His Voice offers life eternal. And those who do see and hear with their spiritual eyes and ears are truly blessed indeed. For us, “A time has come when man does not accept sound Biblical teaching. He is seeking out teachers that please his ears and desires. He has turned from truth to follow myths” (II Tim. 4:3-4). The “makarioi” have been blessed with the truth within them (I Jn. 4:4).
The human mind is a remarkable instrument. It can open and shut like a shutter on a camera. It only will let in what the mind likes and desires. One of our granddaughters, when she was six years old, made that point quite clear to me, “Grandpa,” she said, “if I don’t want to, I pretend I don’t hear.” And when she is to see how things are done what appears right to grandpa, she merely closed her eyes. It is admirable when youngsters can close their eyes and ears to evil; but, if they close their minds to what can be beneficial, then it can be tragic. We adults instill such an attitude into our children. Jesus, however, granted such an attitude to his disciples, and that was the reason they became “makarioi.” The same blessedness can be ours, regardless of what happens to us in this world.