April/May 2014 - Vol. 73
The Kingdom of God series
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Part 2: Jesus' Teaching on the Kingdom of God

by Carlos Mantica

The Lord Jesus explained to Nicodemus that one had to be born again in order to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:1-15). There will be no Kingdom of God without new people Ė new people who have Godís law written in their hearts by the Spirit, with his power inside them to fulfill the Law. 

As long as this does not take place, all paradises built through weapons will become a hell again. Thatís because they have not first evicted the FORMER KING Ė the evil one who was a murderer from the beginning, the accuser, the father of lies, the enemy, the one who is also called Beelzebul or Beelzebub, a name which means ďlord of the fliesĒ or, according to a different rendering, ďlord of dungĒ. Demons are now ridiculous clowns in my Lordís glorious parade. They are now obliged to obey the smallest of us who are the citizens of the Kingdom. 

The word of the Lord has come true, that even the smallest in the Kingdom was greater than John the Baptist, of whom Jesus himself said that he was the greatest among those born of women. Thatís how the devil sees us too, and our new worth is the reason for his rage. In fact, in Christ Jesus we are all now sitting at the right hand of the Father.

Parable of the mustard seed
Surely you will say, ďThen I donít understand. If all of this is so, why then do things go on as before?Ē The Lord explains:
The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. (Matthew 13:31-32)
Do you understand, my brothers and sisters? The Lord says that these things are revealed to the humble and understood by them, but not by the wise and prudent of this world (Matthew 11:25).

The Kingdom of God is here, but it has not yet reached the fullness of its growth. The seed has been scattered, but  the parable of the sower says that, even though the seed is good, it doesnít always bear fruit.

There are some, in fact, who are too shallow, and the seed cannot take root in them. The Lord compares them to ground that lacks depth. And he says that the seed sprang up immediately, but when the sun came out it was scorched, and withered away because it had no root. These are the people, says the Lord, who hear the word and welcome it with joy, but who lack roots, who do not internalize what they have heard until it has become a deep conviction and a firm decision, and therefore, when tribulation or persecution comes, they succumb immediately.

Others are too hard-hearted, and the word is lost like seed that has fallen among the rocks. 

Other seed fell among the thorns, that is, in a hostile or corrupted environment that choked the little plant that was beginning to grow. The Lord says these are the people who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the enticement of riches choke the word, which remains fruitless.

Other seed is taken away by the birds. The Lord says these are the people who hear the word of the Kingdom and do not understand it, so the evil one comes and steals what has been planted in their hearts. Some of these evil birds are birds that soar up on high. Other people just lose the word because they are fond of doing business with the birds (Matthew 13:3-9).

Parable of the Dragnet
But the Kingdom of God also resembles a dragnet which is cast and which gathers all kinds of fish. When it is full they take it out to the shore, they sit down, and the good fish are gathered in baskets and the bad ones are thrown away (Matthew 13:47-49). For there will be a time of judgment, and the evildoers will be thrown ďinto the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hearĒ (Matthew 13:42-43).

Parable of the Leaven
Now you will say, ďAll of this sounds beautiful, but Ė what does it all have to do with us? What are we supposed to do?Ē The Lord replies, 

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened. (Matthew 13:33) 
Such is our mission, brothers and sisters: to make the whole dough leaven through our word, through our witness, through our way of life as a people.

Kingdom of God within us 
The Kingdom of God is within us by the Spirit, like leaven that is gradually transforming us according to Godís plan. We, in turn, need to be inserted into the world, like yeast, in order to transform it into what God wants it to be.

God needs citizens of the Kingdom who will be instruments of the Kingdom, with the word and the power of God. The way the Kingdom of God comes to us is through the Holy Spirit, who is Godís dominion and power. To invoke the Spirit of the Lord upon us is to surrender to him the reins of our lives; it is to ascribe him his right place in the center of our hearts. Thus we will no longer be our own masters. God doesnít come to us to do our errands. God comes to us in order to reign in us. And if he reigns in us we are then part of his Kingdom, and a sign of his Kingdom, and instruments for the extension of the Kingdom.

Godís people Ė beginning of the kingdom
But God also wants us as a people to be the beginning of Godís Kingdom on earth. In case you donít know, thatís the way the world-wide council of Catholic bishops defined the Church at Vatican Council II (1962-65). The Church is the beginning of Godís Kingdom on earth, the new Israel, the concrete domain where God is known, praised and obeyed. It also defined itself as a sacrament of the Kingdom, that is, as a visible sign and an instrument of the Kingdom, in order to show it forth and to expand it. Its mission is to extend the Kingdom of God on earth.

It was us who decided to change Christianity into an intimate, exclusive relationship between God and me. We lost the notion of being a people, the concept of people, of nation. God  had to begin playing the fool, by being the King of a single citizen: ME, the ďlonely ChristianĒ who is the very denial of the commandment of love.

But thatís not what the apostles understood. When Peter explains to new Christians what they are, what he says is:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Godís own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people, but now you are Godís people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Christians living in community
Thatís why, from the very day of Pentecost, Christians began living in community. They were one family, children of the same Father, a people that was different from all others.  They had a distinct way of life, that would be for all others what the whole world will be one day.

The concept of a nation is very deeply rooted in the minds of the Jewish people. For generations they dwelt in the midst of other nations, sometimes as slaves (Egypt and Babylon), sometimes as freemen, but they never ceased to regard themselves above all as the Jewish nation, as the people of God.

They had their own culture, they preserved their own language, they obeyed their own laws, they followed only their own leaders, and it was forbidden to them to worship or serve other gods. Even those who managed to enslave them had to accept governing them through their own authorities, and to respect certain precepts of their law, for thousands preferred to die rather than betray such precepts.

Their first identity was that of Jews, and their first allegiance was to their own people. Something similar happens today with the Basque in Spain and the Miskito in Nicaragua. They recognize themselves as a nation living within another nation. Thus they will identify more with the French Basque or with the Honduran Miskito than with the rest of the Spanish or of the Nicaraguans.

Our Church is our Israel, and it is also a nation. Its people has been gathered from all nations. As Paul says, now there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or freeman. We are all citizens of the same Kingdom. Like the Jewish people, the Church dwells in dispersion among all nations, but it has its own law, its own authorities, its own way of life, and acknowledges no king but God. It is immersed in the whole world, precisely in order to leaven all of it like yeast in the dough, so that someday the whole world will be a single fold with a single Shepherd.

Go to > Part 3: Extending the Kingdom - Parable of the Apartment Building
The Kingdom of God

Part 1: What is the Kingdom of God?
Part 2: Jesus' Teaching on the Kingdom of God
Part 3: Extending the Kingdom - Parable of the Apartment Building
Part 4: Tools for Building the Kingdom: Word, Witness, and Community


This article is adapted from the book, From Egghead to Birdhood (hatch or rot as a Christian), (c) copyright 2001 Carlos Mantica. 

Carlos Mantica is a founder of The City of God community (La Cuidad de Dios) in Managua, Nicaragua, and a founding leader of the Sword of the Spirit. He served as president of the Sword of the Spirit between 1991 and 1995. 



top illustration: Jesus preaching in the Temple, by James Tissot
 
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