“The rule of god has come upon you.” Last week the offense of Jesus’ message reached a tipping point. John the Baptist, one of Jesus’ biggest allies, began questioning what Jesus was doing and then the rulers of the people became so fed up that they began looking for a way to destroy and eradicate Jesus. Jesus saw that the people were wanting him to play their games on their own terms, like children playing “Simon Says.” They wanted Jesus to do Sabbath their way and according to their rules and regulations. But Jesus did Sabbath his own way, insisting that he was the one who was offering true “rest” by allowing the poor to eat and for the broken to be healed. But when Jesus continued to refuse to do what the rulers demanded they became confused, angry, and then finally ready to kill him. The only ones who were truly getting Jesus’ message were the nobodies of the world who had no social, political, or economic power or value.
Seeing this growing opposition, Jesus in our text begins to move on while continuing to bring healing to those on the margins of his world. As he is going, a man who is blinded, deafened, and muted by the powers of the world is brought to Jesus—this is a man totally unable to perceive the truth of the world around him, cut off from participating in that truth in almost every conceivable way. Reaching out in compassion, Jesus rescues him so that he can see, hear, and speak again. This man is a microcosm of the world at large, a world that cannot see or hear the truth, a world that cannot speak truth.
Observing this, the crowds wonder if Jesus’ ability to restore sight, hearing, and speaking points to Jesus being the “Son of David,” the long awaited ruler from David’s line who will conquer all the other kingdoms in the world. Threatened by the possibility of these crowds wanting to replace them with Jesus as their ruler, the current rulers then begin openly accusing Jesus of being in league with the forces of evil—the satanic forces opposed to the living god.
Responding, Jesus tells them that every kingdom, government, or household that is divided and at war with itself will eventually destroy itself. If Jesus works for satan, then satan is only defeating itself. So Jesus declares, “But if I cast out demons with the very breath of god, then the rule of god has come upon you.” The evil, injustice, and oppression throughout our world can only be defeated and undone if the powerful forces that are trying to rule god’s world are first bound. And this is exactly what Jesus is doing as he comes into our world caring for the weak and lowly—he is overcoming and conquering those causing injustice and oppression, he is binding the powerful of the world and bringing god’s very rule upon us. The problem is that the rulers and authorities standing against Jesus are not aware of the fact that they themselves are in league with satan and are his very workers as they themselves try to rule and control others.
To be with Jesus is to be on the side of god’s rule, but to oppose Jesus and what he is doing is to stand against god’s rule coming into our world. Those with Jesus will be liberated and rescued from all slavery, oppression, and bondage—but those who attack and resist Jesus and his spirit and Way of life will cut themselves off from god in both this age and in the age to come. Jesus is the dividing line and no one can be a fence-rider. A person must either produce the good fruit of walking in Jesus’ Way or he will be producing the bad fruit of the evil one. And so as these rulers reject Jesus, they show themselves to be filled with evil and to be representatives of satan. Their words against Jesus reveal that their whole tree has gone bad.
In response, the scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign—something to verify his bold and outrageous claims. But Jesus refuses, for he tells them that only those who are evil look for a sign—only those who are evil demand that god work on their own terms. Jesus then declares that only the sign of Jonah will be given to the world. The people marvelled that Jonah, a lowly prophet was able to call the great Assyrian Empire to repentance and bring even their emperor to his knees. But Jesus says one much greater than Jonah is here—one who will be in the belly of the earth, not a fish, for three days. The people also marvelled that their great king of old, Solomon, was able to bring a great queen from afar to listen to his teachings and wisdom. But Jesus says one much greater than Solomon is here—one whose teaching will humble all the rulers of the earth. Therefore, those who do not live out Jesus’ preaching and teaching will be like a man rescued from an evil spirit who does not fill the vacated space in his life and as a result is reoccupied by even more evil forces and is left in a far worse state. Jesus is bringing the rule of god and his liberation upon us, but those who refuse to fill their lives with his Way and teachings will only make themselves far worse than they were before they ever knew Jesus.
While Jesus is proclaiming and teaching all this, someone from the crowd calls out to him and tells him that his mother and brothers are outside trying to get to him. Jesus responds, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Then he motions to his apprentices and students all around him and says, “Look! My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister, and mother.” This is what determines who is in and who is out of god’s family—those who do the will of Jesus’ Father are in, those who don’t are out.
Leaving that place, Jesus moves on to rest and sit by the sea for awhile. As great crowds gather, he then gets into a boat and starts teaching the crowds on the beach. He teaches them in parables, teaching them about this rule of god that he just told them “has come upon you.”
Jesus teaches them that the rule of god is like a person generously scattering seed all over. Some of the seeds fall upon very hard hearts and get eaten up by the world’s teachings and wisdom before the seeds ever have a chance to sink in. Some of the seeds fall upon shallow hearts and sprout up quickly, but their very shallow roots cause them to shrivel up and die when things get tough for following Jesus’ Way. Some of the seeds fall among a crowded life and sprout up among worries, busyness, and wealth—those things quickly choke and kill the new sprouts before they can grow into full plants. Finally, some of the seeds fall upon soft and cleared hearts and they grow into large plants that produce an abundance of good works. Jesus teaches that three things can make a person reject god’s rule when it comes upon them—a hard heart, a shallow heart, or a heart cluttered with worries and wealth.
Then Jesus compares the rule of god to a person scattering good seed throughout a field and an enemy coming through and scattering bad seed right afterwards. The good and bad plants are then allowed to grow up intermixed and intermingled, lest the good plants get pulled up with the weeds. They are left together until harvest time when the good plants are preserved and the bad plants are thrown away and burned up. The faithful followers of the rule of god will have to grow right alongside and in the midst of the evil of the world.
Then Jesus compares the rule of god to a tiny, tiny seed that is far smaller than any other. This tiny seed is planted and then grows up into the largest of all the plants, taking over the garden and providing shelter and food for animals. The rule of god is also like yeast, the tiny microorganism put in flour that slowly and quietly transforms the whole loaf. The rule of god comes upon our world in a tiny, small, and unnoticeable way, but it will eventually take over and transform everything.
Then Jesus compares the rule of god to a treasure hidden in a field. A treasure so valuable that the person who discovers it goes out and sells everything they have in order to attain that buried treasure. The rule of god is also like a merchant seeking fine pearls who finds the greatest and most valuable pearl in the world and sells everything he has to buy that pearl. The rule of god comes upon us in our world and it will require that we give up everything if we want to attain it.
Then Jesus compares the rule of god to a giant net that will gather up all the fish of the sea, in order to save the good fish and throw out the bad. The rule of god comes upon us in order to sort through and cleanse our world—to bring true judgment and justice to a world full of evil.
“The rule of god has come upon you.” Jesus has come forth into our world and as such the rule of god is already here and present—it has come upon us. What will be our response? Will we be offended by this Jesus? Will we question his bold claims as he draws a line in the sand? Will we continue to blindly live as children of satan? Or will we be doers of the Father’s will? As the word of Jesus comes upon us will it fall upon a hard, shallow, or cluttered heart? Or will it fall upon a clear and soft heart? Will we embrace the smallness of the rule of god or will we continue to blindly look for something bigger and fancier? As the rule of god comes upon us will we see its value and leave everything behind in order to attain it? Or will we pass it by in order to keep our lives undisturbed? “The rule of god has come upon you.” Are you ready for it? Amen.