Summary: Seeking means intentional effort to find. Finding Waldo is not always easy. Neither is finding his kingdom and his righteousness. Yet it is worth the effort.
When I think of seeking or searching, “Where’s Waldo?” The busy pictures where you search for Waldo and other objects that often blend into the rest of the picture. You have to search and search to find him. Sometimes it is easy and it jumps right out at you but usually it is not.
The righteousness of Jesus is something to be sought after. Finding the Kingdom means searching and looking. It involves action. It means following the map perhaps as Jesus lays out in the Sermon on the Mount which is really not as much of a map as it is a direction to follow on a compass. However, I think Jesus is reminding us as Matthew is reminding his community that we cannot be passive in following Jesus.
My three-year-old cousin, Mark, accidentally spilled his fruit punch on the floor one day. He decided to clean up the mess himself and dashed to the back porch to get the mop. Suddenly realizing it was dark outside, he became apprehensive about reaching out the door for the mop. His mother reminded him Jesus is everywhere—even in the dark. Mark thought for a minute. Then, putting his face to the door, he said, "Jesus, if you’re out there, will you hand me the mop?"
—Kathy Gunter Martin, Dandridge, TN. "Small Talk," Today’s Christian Woman.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. Blessed are you when people persecute you because of me. For Jesus the Kingdom is now. It is present. It comes as his followers live out his Shema: Love God and love others.
In Robert Duvall’s movie, The Apostle, there is a scene of a revival tent meeting where the evangelist has this great big bunch of keys and begins screaming that he has the “keys to the kingdom.” He jingles them in the faces of people to encourage people to respond to his message and to Jesus and “get saved.” It is a comical if not ludicrous mock-up of how some evangelists are perceived by our culture.
Following Jesus means entering the Kingdom. It means entering it through our lives and our actions. As such, there are a few important keys that might help us whether we are just trying out this guy called Jesus or we’ve been walking with him for many years.
Some Keys for the Kingdom
• Keep Searching
Don’t give up. Keep going. Sometimes the Kingdom is not easily found. Sometimes obstacles need to be overcome. Sometimes when a search is undertaken, one comes up empty and has to try looking somewhere else.
• Look for righteousness in others
In fact at the end of this sermon, Jesus tells us to be on the lookout for the false prophets. He is not saying for us to look for people to be perfect but to live under the Lordship of Christ. Sometimes we look for the light to shine in others and it is not there. Lots of smoke and hot air but no fire. Sometimes even in those who are supposed to show evidence of the Kingdom (as we find in the amended Shema of Jesus) but it is not evident.
Luke 13:10-17 gives us an example of a woman who had been crippled for 18 years. Pretty specific. 18 years. In fact, Luke says that there was a spirit responsible. She was plagued by this spirit. Now it was the Sabbath—a day of worship but more importantly a day of non-work to honor God. Jesus in the middle of what appears to be a worship service, calls over to the woman that she is being set free. He lays hands on her and she immediately is healed and stands up straight and begins praising God. The leaders of the synagogue are upset. They have been upstaged but not only that they feel that Jesus has blatantly disobeyed God (of course remembering that Jesus was considered to be an illegitimate child by the Tsadigs [righteous Jews]) and in appropriately took center stage healing this [sin-filled] woman. They tell the people that Jesus had all week to heal this woman but chose today to do so violating all that they hold dear and flaunting his disregard for their authority. Jesus is outraged. “You hypocrites,” he says. Remember that we don’t get the seriousness and the rawness of his explosion with the word “hypocrites.” Perhaps we might interpret this as “morons,” “idiots,” “imbeciles,” or “lying, cheating, dog-fighting, drug-dealing, thieves!” Maybe that is a little over the top but you get the idea. Jesus is furious because they do not live out what he considers to be just as important as the original Shema, “loving others.” What better day to have God set her free than on the Sabbath?!?
• Don’t get distracted
It happens all too easily. Doesn’t it? In a few more verses, Jesus is going to compare living in the Kingdom to going down a narrow road. It is so easy to get off track. Some friends of ours a couple of years ago, told about teaching their teenage daughter to drive. Their daughter had a habit of driving like a passenger—she was always watching what was going on everywhere around her except what was happening on the road. It’s scary when the driving looks out the window following something that is interesting as the car goes by and the hands start to follow steering the car into oncoming traffic.