daily biblical sermons

Jesus has a burning desire that the gospel of the kingdom of God be preached
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, First Week of Advent, December 04, 2021
Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26, Psalm 147, Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

Scripture quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity … These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay’” (Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5-8).



Jesus had a message to preach – the gospel of the kingdom of God. He also sent out his apostles to preach throughout the towns of Galilee so that the news would spread from person-to-person and all Israel would hear the gospel of the kingdom of God that he was sent into the world to preach. Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, saying, “And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 10:7).



The actual Greek of this statement is that the kingdom of God has approached or come near, which is the meaning of the Greek verb engizo (BAGD, second edition, page 213). I suppose the English translation, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7) approximates the Greek if we understand it as meaning that the kingdom of God is just about ready to begin.



We must keep this in mind, because the gospel dispensation and the powers of the kingdom would not fully come until Jesus’ death and resurrection had taken place and until the Holy Spirit had illuminated and inspired his disciples at Pentecost to understand and be able to preach it. Only then did the Jewish dispensation come to an end and the new dispensation of the kingdom of God begin.



So during Jesus’ actual lifetime the kingdom had not yet fully arrived, and the disciples who went out during his lifetime to preach that the kingdom of God was approaching or coming near did not really understand what the kingdom was all about, since they thought it would be a kingdom like other kingdoms and that Jesus would inaugurate this kingdom and be a great military/political leader as its king similar to other kings.



So at this early stage the kingdom had not yet fully arrived nor did his disciples understand what this kingdom was all about that they were supposed to preach. Nonetheless this is how Jesus began his movement. He started with disciples who were novices and sent them out to preach about something that they themselves did not yet understand, because it had not yet fully come, nor did they know how it would come, namely by his death and resurrection.



All this would take place in due time, and then the Holy Spirit would come upon them at Pentecost, finally enabling them to put everything together and understand what the kingdom of God is all about. That is when they would experience the power of the kingdom, which is the power of salvation, whereby we ungodly sinners are declared righteous by God, because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross for the sins of all who put their faith in him.



The way the disciples preached during Jesus’ lifetime was very different from the way we preach the kingdom today, for both Jesus and his disciples performed numerous miracles – healings and exorcisms, even nature miracles, multiplying five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand men, not counting the women and children (Mark 6:37-44).  



This was very important in the beginning of Christianity, because the doctrines which Jesus and his disciples would preach after Pentecost were a radical departure from what the Jews had believed up until then. The Jews were monotheists and that Jesus, who to all appearances was a man like them, claimed to be one with God the Father was considered by them to be blasphemy. How would Jesus and his disciples ever get Jews to accept and believe such a radically new teaching?



The answer is miracles. Jesus worked them and not only that but he gave his disciples the power to work miracles, even raising the dead and giving sight to people born blind. In this way the apostles, who had no advanced education, were able to gain the attention and respect of their fellow countrymen to believe the radically new doctrine they were preaching (Joseph Benson, 1749-1821 on Matthew 10:8).



Jesus’ desire that the gospel be preached and that people hear it was so intense that he said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).



Jesus does not explain to his disciples exactly what the kingdom of God was about, because it was too early, and so they would not be able to understand what he was explaining. They were simply to proclaim that this mysterious kingdom was about to appear and that people should repent and be ready to receive it. People should accept what Jesus preaches now and listen to his parables. Then after Pentecost the disciples would remember these parables and be able to explain them more adequately. Then the people would fully understand them.



What does all this mean to us today? Most of us cannot work miracles that will demand respect and convince people of the truth of what we are preaching, of its importance, and that it comes from God; but today the Church is already established throughout the world and there are millions of people who firmly believe in the gospel and experience its saving effects in their lives.



Therefore it is no longer necessary that those who preach the gospel today should also work miracles. This seems to put us at a disadvantage compared to the apostles, but we can preach in a far more intelligent way than they could during Jesus’s lifetime, for they had a minimal understanding of what the gospel and the kingdom were all about.



So while most of us cannot work miracles to convince people that our preaching is true and comes from God, we can give them a much more adequate explanation of what it is that Jesus brings to the world than the apostles could during Jesus’s lifetime.



Like the apostles after Pentecost, we can preach in a way that touches the deepest needs of people’s hearts, their feelings of sinfulness and guilt and their longing to be freed from their sins and from the depression that their guilt for their sins causes them. Such people if they are not Christians do not know where to get this relief. The solution is faith in Jesus Christ, because of his atoning death on the cross that suffered our punishment for our sins for us.



We have a debt with God of suffering and death in punishment for our sins, and until that debt is paid, we cannot be reconciled with him. Jesus was sent by God to reconcile us with himself by paying for us our debt of suffering and death in punishment for our sins. But for that payment, which Jesus made on the cross, to be applied to me personally, I must put my trusting faith in it for my salvation.



It is then that God declares that I, an ungodly sinner, am now righteous and reckons to me his own righteousness so that I shine with the righteousness of God himself (Romans 4:5). This is what St. Paul calls justification by faith, not by works, for the justification that Christ brings us does not come through our good works, but through Christ’s good work on the cross in suffering our death penalty for our sins for us.



My part is to put my trusting faith in Christ and receive his gift of justification, whereby my sins are paid for and God pardons and declares me, an ungodly sinner, righteous.



Then we are to live a new life, because this justification makes us new creatures, a new creation, new men in Christ. We are henceforth to obey God’s biblically revealed moral law (the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus) with the new power which our justification gives us and thereby grow in holiness (sanctification).



If we do not keep God’s commandments with our new power of justification, we were not really justified – we only thought we were justified – or we lost our justification by sin, for every justified Christian lives a life of good works in obedience to God’s biblically revealed moral law, whereby he grows in holiness (sanctification) and will be rewarded proportionately on the last day, “for the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27 NKJV).

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