Summary: The Secret message of Jesus is not found in some conspiracy therory, it is found in clear sight in the New Testament. It is the Kingdom of Heaven
The Secret Message of Jesus May 28, 2006
I’ll let you in on a secret.
The secret message of Jesus isn’t found in some lost manuscript found recently in the Egyptian desert. The secret message of Jesus isn’t found in an old Da Vinci painting, or a book by Dan Brown. The secret message of Jesus is not being guarded by some secret society who will release it when all the planets are aligned. The secret message of Jesus is hiding in plain sight, right in the New Testament.
The secret is… wait for it…. The Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ secretive talk of the Kingdom
If you go on to Biblegateway.com and type in kingdom, you’ll get all the times kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven occurs in the New Testament.
Jesus never gives a good definition of the kingdom, he instead talks in metaphors: the kingdom of heaven is like a woman who lost coin, an shepherd who lost a sheep, a father who lost a son; the kingdom is like a treasure buried in a field, a pearl of great worth, like seed in a field, yeast in dough, a net in the sea… And even then, he doesn’t much say what the kingdom is, he speaks more about how to enter or join the kingdom, or how to miss it rather than what it looks like when we do enter.
Let me read one of these metaphors to you. We usually call them parables
Parable of the sower: Matthew 13:1-23
It’s amazing, when the disciples ask why Jesus speaks in parables rather than in clear, definitive statements, his answer is “because it is a secret!”
We often say that Jesus talked in parables or metaphors and illustrations because he was such a good teacher: people understand your point so much better if it is connected to a story. But Jesus himself says that he tells stories so that the people who don’t get it won’t get it, and the people that do, will.
There are a few stories that he tells that are there for the people who don’t get it. He tells on story of people who are supposed to look after a vineyard, but instead they rebel and try to take it over for themselves. The religious leaders of the day suddenly get his stories and the say “hey, he’s talking about us!”
In Matthew 13:11, Jesus is basically saying, “If you are into what God is doing, you’ll get this, if you’re not, it’s going to fly right over your head (in the mouth of some birds). In fact, the parable itself is about who will receive the message of the kingdom, and who won’t get it at all. There are some for whom the message bounces right off: when you talk to them about the kingdom, their eyes glaze over: as a friend of mine used to say “I keep pitching ‘em, you keep miss’n ‘em.”
Some people are really entertained by all these Kingdom stories, they like the feel it gives them, but they don’t do anything about it.
For others, they like the sound of this whole kingdom of God thing, they sign up for it, lock, stock and barrel, but when they realize that it’s going to cost them, it no longer sounds so good, and they unsubscribe. The goodness of the kingdom remains a secret to them.
The last group (you want to be in this group) accept the message, they get it, and the parts they don’t get can be worked out later. They enter the kingdom.
So what is the Kingdom of God, and is it still a secret?
In Jesus day, when he used the words “the Kingdom of Heaven” the people who were listening at least thought they knew what he was talking about.
Because of the command not to use the name of the Lord in vain, Jews were reticent to say “god” at all, so they often substituted “heaven” when they meant “God” So the Kingdom of heaven was the kingdom of God and visa versa. The Kingdom of heaven was a time when God would be king once again. For some, this meant ridding the nation of Israel of outside forces like the Romans, for others it included a renewal of religious piety, where everyone obeyed God’s rules in the way that they interpreted them. For Jesus’ contemporaries the Kingdom of heaven always involved a specific geography, and a specific ethnic group: both of those being Israel. The kingdom of heaven included spiritual renewal, economic renewal, social and cultural renewal and a great peace. It might be better to say God’s reign, or what things look like when God’s in charge.
One of my favorite descriptions of the Kingdom is found in Isaiah 65. Here it is in Eugene Peterson’s translation: