The Kingdom Of God Has Come
March 4, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Satan And His Rule
1. In the recitation of today's gospel, Jesus said the following. "If I am driving out evil spirits with the finger of God, the kingdom of God has come to you." Today we are given these words of Jesus.
2. It was the time when Jesus drove out "the mute making demon." When the spirit was driven out, the man who was mute began to say things. The crowd that was there was terribly amazed. Stories of driving out of such evil spirits appear repeatedly in the gospels. Everybody, what do you think about it reading this kind of story?
3. Some hold a deep interest in such passages. There are some people who love stories associated with "spirits" of this sort in society. There are not a few television programs of this type. Some people get their curiosity aroused by weird phenomena unexplainable by means of science. Or, I suppose that there might be some not curious but rather fearful about these spirit related situations. When such a person reads the details in the scriptures associated with "demons," he or she may regard every single occurrence of sickness and misfortune as demonic acts.
4. Whether one has such an interest in this or holds to a fearful position on this, in either case though, if a person reads these passages concerned primarily with "the demons," then I think that he or she will fail to catch the message which the scripture is truly wanting to relate to him or her. [I say that] because the concern of Jesus was not in pointing to the existence of evil spirits; for, Jesus was not proclaiming demons, rather he was proclaiming the kingdom of God.
5. On the one hand there are some who may be in the habit of having a particular interest or fear concerning demons, yet though, there are also some who have no concern whatsoever about them. Even though they read the descriptions about these evil spirits, they simply dispose of it as an ancient superstition, "People from long ago used to think like that. It has nothing to do with us in modern times." But, I don't think that is the right attitude either for reading these passages; because whether we call it demon, devil, evil spirit or call it what you may, yet we should expect there to be something related to the human experience behind such words and expressions. It is the experience of being tossed about by that kind of power, that power that far exceeds our own power, such that we [can] only call it "an evil force, an evil spirit."
6. As a matter of fact, I wonder is the reason that human history is so filled with such misery as this, is the reason our lives are filled with sorrow and pain because we humans are just so ignorant and foolish? If we were wiser, would we solve [it all]? The people of the eighteenth century used to think that way. And then the essential nature of the word "demon" was lost. But, then it was believed that later history would show that foolishness and ignorance was simply not the problem. A destructive power is certainly at work, and we are living in a world in which a dark power wields its menacing authority. That same experience as human beings is not one bit different whether in Jesus' times or today. Indeed, don't we ourselves today feel so real upon our skin a demonic reality? Thus then, we can not dispose of the issue of "demons" as just some superstition that ancient and naive peoples used to believe.
7. With that then, the important thing is how Jesus looked at it. Some of the people looked at Jesus driving out demons and said, "That man is driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub the head of the demons." Going by the Japanese, "Beelzebub" is a word for "lord of the house (head of the household)," which, to get to the point, means the boss over the evil spirits. They were saying that because the boss [of the demons] was dwelling [within him] he drove the demons out by its power. But then Jesus said, "You say that I am driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub, however, if Satan causes internal family dissension, how will that kingdom [of his] continue to be established?," (verse eighteen).
8. Please take note that in this text here Jesus changes the word to "Satan." It is not only here, but is a word that often comes upon the lips of Jesus. Jesus saw Satan and his kingdom. "Satan" originally means "opponent" or "agitator." Whom was he opposing? Of course, it is God. Jesus was not merely looking at the activities of the spirits who bring disease and disaster, but was looking at the power that was at work in opposition against God, the force in opposition against God that controls and tosses human beings about.
9. The true nature of Satan is in the enmity against God. Since God is love itself, Satan could be defined as the power that opposes love. Since God desires fellowship with humans, Satan could be defined as the power that breaks apart and destroys that fellowship. Since God desires that each person live together in love for one another, Satan could be defined as the power that puts hatred and animosity between one person and another and that breaks apart relationships and destroys fellowship. Since God created humans as precious beings and desires that they live as precious beings, Satan could be defined as a power that causes a person to lose sight of one's own value, to make a person despise oneself, and to cause one to destroy oneself.
10. Wouldn't you all agree that such power is certainly at work? Don't we see, even today, this reality of where a satanic rule is wielding its menacing power in the world? [We see] the figure of human beings turning their backs against God's grace no matter how much he shows it. Even though the sun is brightly shining, [we see] the figure of human beings looking at and walking in just their own dark shadows, not going in the direction of the light but turning their backs against the light. [We see] the figure of human beings, even though they want to live together in love for one another and though they understand that in that there is joy for living, but yet for some reason they are actually hurting each other, hating each other, and even killing each other. [We see] the figure of human beings showing behaviors where they are throwing away their own dignity, hurting themselves, causing pain, despising [themselves], and trampling on themselves. Is it because human beings are ignorant? Is it because they are foolish? Were they a bit wiser would everything just sound perfect? No, no it wouldn't. The power that fights against the will of a loving God wields its menacing power. We are living in that kind of world.
The Kingdom Of God Has Come
11. But, we have not been dumped off into this such a world. Jesus has proclaimed that "The kingdom of God has come to you." The act of banishing the demons which appear repeatedly in the gospels is but a sign of that.
12. "The kingdom of God has come to you." What does that mean I wonder? Jesus spoke this parable. "When a strong man is armed and guards his own mansion, his possessions are safe. But, when a stronger man attacks and defeats him, he takes by force all the trusted weaponry and divides all the spoil," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two). You probably understand already. The strong man stands for Satan. It is the power of Satan that captures human beings. Humans are not able to flee from him just as they are because the strong man Satan is armed. However, a stronger one has come. It is the Christ. A stronger man has come and has defeated the armed Satan. And he has taken by force all the trusted weapons and divides the spoil. The spoil or loot stands for human beings. He has set them free from the rule of Satan and has taken them by force unto God, unto the kingdom of God. Since the rule of Satan is a mighty power, (and it is actually a herculean power!), by a stronger power outmatching it being set free will first begin to occur at that point.
13. Be not mistaken. Jesus has not merely carried in with him a set of morals. Jesus has not merely brought in with him "good teaching." More than that even, he has brought in with him "the kingdom of God." [He has come] in order to give us the kingdom of God. [He has come] in order that we might experience the kingdom of God.
14. Jesus preached to give out the kingdom of God. Also, Jesus was crucified and atoned for our sins in order to give the kingdom of God. Also, Jesus was raised from the dead in order to give the kingdom of God. In order to give the kingdom of God, Christ ascended to heaven; in order to give the kingdom of God he poured out the Holy Spirit. In order for us to experience the kingdom of God in this world, the Lord has given us the church. He has given us baptism. He has given us the bread and the cup of the Lord's Table. In order for us to experience the kingdom of God in this world, he has given us the faith life to live out. Aren't all of these things things that are here now, things that are right before the eyes of every one of you, things that are right among us? It is just as the Lord said it was, that "The kingdom of God has come unto you."
15. He has already come. The kingdom of God has come in and penetrated into this world where Satan has wielded his menacing powers. We do get a taste of the kingdom of God while in this world. Those who have lived with their backs turned against God will turn around towards God. They will begin to live with God. Those who have hated each other and have been in opposition to one another will be set free from Satan's power, and will be restored unto a relationship and a fellowship once again where they love each other. Those who have held themselves in light esteem, who have trampled upon themselves, and muddied their own lives will be set free from the power of Satan and will awaken to the preciousness they have as beings created in the image of God. And with dignity, as someone most precious, they will begin to live holding sacred and dear both their own lives and the lives of others. Yes, that's right, the kingdom of God has come.
In Order To Live Filled With Joy And Hope
16. And since we're talking about "the kingdom of God" we can't stop on it half way done. The words "kingdom of God" are eschatological. It is a statement that points to ultimate and perfect salvation.
17. We certainly are permitted to experience the kingdom of God while in this world. The kingdom of God we're tasting in this world in our day to day faith lives, the salvation that God will ultimately give us, are very much no more than just one part [of it all]. The kingdom of God has come. But, the power of Satan is not wiped out and completely gone from this world. You might say we're still on the battlefield. The battle continues. We [still] wait in hope for the ultimate victory and perfect salvation in the future.
18. However, still and all, tasting in this world now the kingdom of God which the Lord said, it "has come unto you" does have decisive and major significance. It is necessary in order for us to live with true hope because unless we have experienced it on a partial level, we cannot wait with joy in a true sense for the coming perfect [and complete kingdom]. That seems to be it.
19. For example, let's suppose that somebody has never tasted in full cake, cream, and sweet things. If I'd said to that person, "Tomorrow I'll give you some cake," what could it mean to him or her? Of course, I could explain cake with words. I could probably explain the general notion of something sweet. Thus, the statement of "Tomorrow I'll give you some cake" may arouse some measure of expectation. But, were I to give that person a very small lick of the cream as a small taste, the meaning of the statement "Tomorrow I'll give you some cake" will change completely. Those words must surely make him or her feel great joy. They would surely become a great power. How ever many hours there might be until the next day, he or she should be able to wait filled with joy in that interval.
20. God has given us a lick of that cream to taste. And we know that we are waiting for that which is perfect and complete. The one who has begun good works in us will surely accomplish his work. The kingdom of God will not finish half way. We await perfect salvation. The Lord has said, that this kingdom of God is already "come unto you." Let us steadfastly seek the kingdom of God. Are we not being allowed to taste of the kingdom of God more and more? It is so that we live filled with joy and hope.