Summary: Jesus makes a very inclusive invitation to all men to come into this exclusive kingdom. But there is only one way in—through the cross.
The Kingdom of Heaven Includes You!
Pastor Jim Luthy
I hold in my hand a crisp $100 bill. Would you be excited if I said I want one of you to have it? Let me see if you qualify…
Everyone please stand. If you were not born in the state of Oregon, you can have a seat. You do not qualify. Remain standing only if you are a man, if you were raised in a Christian home, married and never divorced, with children, AND you have a college degree or are currently working on a college degree.
For those of you already seated, I want to encourage you to come back next week. I’ll have another $100 to give away. All you have to do is become more like the one(s) still standing. Simple as that—you become more like them, and you might enjoy what they might enjoy. You want my $100? Then look like Scott. Dress like Scott. Be born into Scott’s family. Be educated like Scott.
For those of you still standing, let me ask you a series of questions, and if you can answer affirmatively to all of these questions, I will give you this $100. For your sake, I will ask you to remain standing until I have asked all of these questions, because I don’t want you to have to show which question knocked you out. After all the questions have been asked, you may be seated if you cannot answer affirmatively to them all.
Have you memorized all of the books of the Bible?
Read your Bible every day for the past month?
Given 10% of all your paychecks in the last year?
Taken a Sabbath day of rest every week for the past year?
Never had sex outside of marriage?
Never been drunk or consumed illegal drugs?
Never listened to Rock N’ Roll music?
Never watched an R-rated movie?
And do you drive a mini-van?
If you’re still standing, here’s your $100.
This was the religious order of Jesus’ day. It wasn’t $100 bills, but there were certain privileges and status given to those who were men born in the right place to the right family of the right tribe who had all the religious education and practiced all the religious practices. People who qualified would wear special headgear and robes and other adornments meant to help them be easily recognized as those who were with it.
But what about those who didn’t qualify? How did it make you feel to be so easily disqualified from my $100 prize? For example: Ladies, did it bother you that I had decided that only men could have my prize? What about whatever qualification or qualifications that knocked you out of the running? Did it discourage you? And what if I said that I would be back next week with another $100 to give away to one who qualifies? Would you show? I sincerely doubt you would. Sooner or later you would feel that $100 is not meant for you.
As Jesus arrived on the scene, most people felt like you did only compounded with eternal ramifications. The common people—people like you and me—were, for the most part, left out. Try as they may, they couldn’t find approval from the religious leaders and couldn’t find power in any other god. What would happen to your belief if that were how you felt? Would you be discouraged? Hopeless? Ready to give up? Sooner or later you would think all the promises of God were not meant for you.
Then Jesus comes on the scene and starts preaching about a new kingdom. Not only was he preaching about a new kingdom, he was demonstrating the power of the new kingdom:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. – Matthew 4:23-25.
Jesus wasn’t exactly handing out $100 bills. He was handing out hope. He wasn’t just coming to reward those who arrived. He was healing the common folk. He was healing the grubby people. He was proclaiming the availability of his new kingdom to the people on welfare, the folks who drove 1980-something Datsuns, the laborers who worked the land or were hired by the people who had arrived, the down-and-out, the dropouts, the drugged out, and even to those who spent a day or two in the Psych ward. Jesus was touching the people like you and me and they were being healed. “Oh, a new kingdom” you think to yourself. “Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe I can go live in this new kingdom.”