Text: Matthew 9:35-10:8
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
When Jesus sent out His twelve apostles in our Gospel reading today He told them to preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is the same message that John the Baptist proclaimed out in the wilderness as he prepared the way for the coming saviour and it is the same message that Jesus preached as He set out to begin His ministry of teaching and healing. Now, as Jesus sends out His twelve closest followers He gives them this same message to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
I love that message and I love hearing it echo through the teaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, and His disciples. I love it because of the immediacy that it brings. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, it is here right now, it is breaking into the world as we speak. It’s immediate.
For a number of months now we have had events coming up in our house that were a source of great anticipation. First, it was Olivia’s birth. For a while there Leah and I were fielding questions daily like “Is the baby coming today?” Then, after Olivia was born, the anticipation started building for her baptism because grandpa from Alberta was coming. For weeks we got asked, “Is Olivia getting baptised today?” or “Is grandpa coming today?” Then, the day after Olivia’s baptism it was Leah’s birthday. Once the kids figured that out it became, “Is it mommy’s birthday today?” Each time those questions were asked the answer was almost always “No, not today.” Then we would have to go over the number of sleeps or the number of days or review the days of the week in order to put the time of waiting into perspective.
I wonder, sometimes, if our life at Christians starts to feel that way too, like we are always waiting for and anticipating something that never seems to be happening today. Our eyes can get so fixed on what its down the road that we don’t see what is happening right here and right now. This is the great thing about the message that Jesus gives to His disciples as He sends them out, it is right here and right now, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The kingdom of heaven is wherever Jesus is. When Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem the kingdom of heaven was there. When Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River the kingdom of heaven was there. When Jesus taught people, healed the sick, and raised the dead the kingdom of heaven was there. When Jesus was handed over to the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and was led away to be crucified the kingdom of heaven was there. When He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven the kingdom of heaven was there. And now, when Jesus comes to us in bread and wine in Holy Communion, when we hear and read His Words, the kingdom of heaven is here. Where ever Jesus is the kingdom of God is there and powers of sin, death, and darkness can’t exist in that kingdom.
When Jesus sent out the twelve this is the message that they carried with them. They went out into a world that was trapped under a very different kind of kingdom, the kingdom of death. Our epistle reading today said that “death reigned from Adam to Moses.” Beginning with Adam the kingdom of death took hold of this world and all the people in it. Adam sinned, and the reign of death began. Every man and woman after Adam including you and me sinned and the reign of death spread. Like a thick, gray fog, death covered over all people surrounding them with the hopelessness that comes from knowing that death is inevitable and there is nothing that we can do to avoid it. Generation after generation everyone’s life story ended the same way, “and he died.” From Adam to Moses and the people of Israel right on down to today the story remains the same. The kingdom of death surrounds us on all sides.
Into this dismal picture the disciples go out with this message, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Into the darkness of the kingdom of death they shout the good news that there is a new kingdom on the scene, a new way of life available to mankind, a new hope for those in the valley of the shadow of death: Jesus Himself, the kingdom of heaven. The Son of God has entered into our human flesh, put himself under the reign of death, and even allowed Himself to be put to death in order to destroy death forever by burst forth from the grave on the third day. On Easter the kingdom of death was put on notice, it no longer could hold mankind in prison forever.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand and you and me, we live in this kingdom now. We live in the kingdom of heaven now. Death is still a thing, it is still a reality for everyone in this world, but it has no power over you. Death reigned from Adam to Moses and death kept of reigning after Moses. But after Jesus death does not reign over you anymore. The devil, the prince of the kingdom of death, makes some bold claims and tries to convince you that he has some kind of power over you. He wants you to think that death is an unavoidable fate that you have to somehow try to avoid. He wants you to be afraid. But it is all a lie. You live in the kingdom of heaven now. You live in Jesus now. You have eternal life now. Death is not a fearful enemy waiting for you at the end of your life, for you death is a peaceful rest until the day when Jesus comes again to raise up your body from the ground. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, it is here right now, you are living in it, and in that kingdom death has no power.
Understanding this, understanding that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and that we live in it right now as Christians who trust in Jesus for salvation, changes how we see the world around us and especially people who don’t know about the kingdom of heaven. The world around us and the people in it are not just people going about their everyday lives and minding their own business. They are people who are living in the kingdom of death and don’t know that Jesus has brought the kingdom of heaven to us right here, right now by His death on the cross. They are dying in the kingdom of death without any hope. The last verse of the hymn we just sand before the sermon hits it on the head:
Let none hear you idly saying,
“There is nothing I can do,”
While the multitudes are dying
And the master calls for you.
Take the task he gives you gladly;
Let his work your pleasure be.
Answer quickly when he calls you,
“Here am I. Send me, send me!”
The multitudes, the people of the world trapped in the kingdom of death, are dying without the hope that we have in the kingdom of heaven!
What do we do about that? How do we bring the kingdom of heaven to the multitudes that are dying? Well the disciples were sent out by Jesus to bring the kingdom to the world. Jesus gave them authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons. Is that what it’s going to take? No, not really. Jesus gave the disciples the authority and power to do those things, but not us. We can’t do that stuff. Instead our task is much simpler, we point people to Jesus. Ultimately, it is Jesus who heals the sick, raises the dead, cleanses lepers, and casts out demons. It is Jesus who brings the kingdom of heaven to people. Jesus gathers people into His kingdom where where the sick are healed forever, where the dead are raised to life everlasting, where the lepers are cleansed permanently, and where there are no more demons or evil things to afflict or harm us. All we do is point people to Jesus and the kingdom that He brings.
A lot of people think that Christianity and the Bible doesn’t have much to say that is relevant to the world today. Maybe we are tempted to think that too. Jesus begs to differ. Jesus brings His Kingdom to you today. He rescues you from death today. He gives you life everlasting today. If you ask, “Is the Kingdom of God coming to me today?” the answer is “Yes, it has come to you today and will be yours forever. It’s here right now. In Jesus name. Amen.