From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Verse 12 in Matthew 11 is a famous crux of interpretation.
It offers an immediate contrasting paradox to understand the way of God’s reign.
And it brings to light an example of our faith tradition
The Reformation that kicked off in 1517 from a monk Who in Wittenberg Germany nailed, what was labeled as an attack on the Christian Church on earth. You see, like John the Baptist
Martin Luther too found himself struggling with his faith. John, the one who surpassed all the other prophets Because he was God’s chosen messenger, specifically identified as such, to prepare for the way of the messiah. And there he is, sitting in prison, about to be beheaded
Is trying to connect where the majesty is in the kingdom of God.
Jesus commends John – that no one born of women has arisen greater than John…
Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. That’s the majesty because it expresses Jesus’ high self-consciousness. Yet with it, brings the conviction that the kingdom that John foretells, and that Jesus embodies – suffers.
And as with all suffering in this life – it requires a response of faith. It is what Habakkuk foretells of as well as was read in the OT today – that the righteous shall live by his faith.
The very verse that Paul quotes in the Epistle Letter to the church at Rome: The power of God for salvation is revealed from faith for faith As it is written: the righteous shall live by faith.
That folks is justification talk, for righteousness and being justified go hand in hand.
It is the Chief Article of the Christian faith- We are justified by faith alone. We have not reached the end-time fulfillment The prophecy of John was as yet unfulfilled And even now, faith clings to the eschatological reign of God active now on earth. Yet, in truth, God’s eschatological reign on earth can be resisted. Evil men can make God’s deeds to be of no effect, at least in some sense.
To be sure, no matter what, God’s ultimate purposes in Jesus will prevail.
But Jesus now reveals that in Him, God is reigning in a hidden, lowly, and resistible fashion.
The one true faith (and there is only one)
Will be met with increasingly opposition, unbelief, and opposition with condemnation
Opposition where there is no repentance from the grace of God in Christ Jesus for those who are ashamed of the Gospel. Yet it is the Gospel that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. You can say the period of the Reformation and thereafter was a violent time.
Many people suffered And they were hunted down and suffered because the Gospel
The true meaning and message of the Gospel (after being held back for so long) Was going forward once again. Are violent people trying to wipe it out?
You see, though divine, the kingdom in this world is a victim (outwardly) Not a victor.
The church will always be confronted with this puzzling. The puzzling Messiah and His suffering way of working in the world. Is Jesus saying that the kingdom suffers violence or is He saying that the kingdom of heaven presses forward violently? Yes, it is both and.
The preaching of the Gospel comes on powerfully and the “violent” are those who so hear the preaching That no power on earth can stop them from believing. The violent ones are those aspiring after Jesus with burning affection And are the ones who break through by a vehement effort. It is not easy. It is not a trick or a treat. There is no smooth as butter or like taking candy from a baby. This is why we are in constant need of reformation – reforming our flesh and its sinful desires.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 4:7 – that we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. It is fragile – jars of clay, if dropped can easily break into a million pieces. Jesus speaks of the victories of the advancing kingdom of heaven. The devil and all false Christians are the violent ones who attack the sons of the kingdom and lead them astray which causes them to lose their faith. John had lost his head to sensualist, not zealots. Jesus was crucified by the establishment, not revolutionaries. There was an established cultural violence. So, as Christians we must learn to recognize the same violence in secular culture. Soft culture with its Gucci shoes is more dangerous than terrorist counterculture with its guerilla boots. The religion of culture, the value system of modern entertainment
All the way from comedy to crime, to the sensualism and secularity of pop culture
Do more real violence to Jesus than do His rebels Though we can easily be assimilated into all those macho values of the world. So where do we go from here?
We must take our stand. The just shall live by faith? Whose faith? God, our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. The nations rage and the kingdoms totter He utters His voice the earth melts.
Whose faith? The faith of the force of the kingdom. Where I will take my stand at my watchpost
And station myself on the tower And look to see what he shall say to me And what I will answer concerning my complaint. The reformation started because of a complaint. A complaint that the Word of God was being snatched away And that the pure preaching of the Gospel was not going out. The just shall live by faith. And yet I ask again as I have kept asking: whose faith?
And the Lord answered me: Write the vision, make it plain on tablets so he may run who reads it
For still the vision awaits its appointed time It hasten till the end – it will not lie.
If it seems slow- wait for it. It will surely come; it will not delay. And then lastly there in verse 4 of the Habakkuk reading: The puffed up soul is not right within him But the just shall live by his faith. Whose faith? Christ’s faith – that’s who the His is in the text.
The justified (by Him) shall live by His faithfulness is the literal translation. You must see the force of that and not take it for granted. The worship Psalm, the Psalm of the Church triumphant in Psalm 96 states: Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice Let the sea roar and all that fills it; Let the field exult and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord For he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness Habakkuk knew Psalm 96 well, for that’s the same vocabulary word he uses for His faith Shall live by His faith And the peoples in His faithfulness, that is, in trusting in the Lord because of how the Lord has been faithful. It is the truth that must always be guarded against all foes Against all false teachings. And on this dawn of our celebration of the Reformation Here we must stand by the force of the kingdom for as long as it takes. That’s what the rest of the Gospel text explains His own people would not listen to him What can this generation be compared to? Christ’s person and work demonstrates His wisdom. It is greater and more surpassing than any violent force that can take place Beyond the violence of being nailed to a cross. Happy is the one who He has called faithful to the end.
We enjoy the privilege of the kingdom by belief. And the one who is justified will demonstrate that no power on earth can stop them from believing. The force of the kingdom gives aspirations to uphold the Word of God Even when you experience unfulfilled expectations.
This is the promise of God in Christ Jesus. As it is written: All the promises of God find their Yes in Him.” In Him, in His faithfulness His word will not go out void
And those who suppress the truth will be put to shame. Yes, the Lord certainly reigns now.
He reigns through the forgiveness of sins and by His church
The church that proclaims all His wondrous deeds to the nations. And in the church which patiently awaits and endures Until the Lord returns on the Last Day All effects of sins will be gone The created realm will enjoy the new heavens and earth. New / Force / Kingdom
All words satisfied by Christ alone. So that your salvation would not be left to your own wisdom and doing Not by earthly standards But by the force, the action of the way, the truth, and the life. We can have a great peace this day Knowing how God uses men to enact on His behalf
And yes, even if force is necessary To reveal the salvific power from faith for faith.
Fulfilled in the Gospel going forward once again. Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus Going on before Christ the royal master, leads against the foe
Forward into battle See His banners go. That’s the meaning of the reformation And you, His people, are His banners. His banners that go And take the kingdom By His force.
In the name of Jesus + Amen.