“I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence [or forcefully advancing], and the violent have been seizing it by force.”Matthew 11:11-12 (HCSB)
John the Baptist was a mighty man of God, but Jesus said that the least person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John. John did not have access to the baptism of the Spirit and fire that was promised (Matthew 3:11). We do.
Then Jesus said that everything has changed since John the Baptist. Before John the Baptist came, the law and the prophets testified about the coming kingdom, but after John, the Kingdom of Heaven began forcefully advancing.
It amazes me that some versions translate this to say the kingdom of God is “suffering violence.” The Greek verb is biazo and it comes from its root, bios from which we get “biology” the study of life. The idea is that the Kingdom is alive and thriving. The Greek verb is given in a voice used to when the subject doing something for himself as in, “he dressed himself.” The kingdom is on the move in its own interest. This is not passive! Since John the Baptist, Jesus had come, and the Kingdom of Heaven was just beginning to flex its muscles.
I think the next phrase is why translators say the kingdom is suffering violence. It says that violent men take it by force. The word for violent is biastes, and it means lively, forceful, or a violent. It’s actually the noun form of biazo that was used of the kingdom earlier. The word translated, ‚”take it by force” literally means to snatch something up for oneself. But He is using the same root word to describe the Kingdom’s advance and the men’s behavior. These are Kingdom men, not thieves! They are harvesting, not stealing!
Jesus is saying that everything the law and prophets foretold is now coming to pass. The kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing, and everybody’s getting in on it. He’s not talking about passive people just waiting on God to be spoonfed. He’s talking about active men and women energetically grabbing the amazing goodness of God that is suddenly available. Jesus saw this all the time: people forcing their way through crowds to get to him, multitudes thronging to touch him, people interrupting him day and night to get what he had. He’s not condemning this, by the way. He always gave those people what they were looking for. But He’s pointing out that now is not the time to sit back and wait. The wait is over. The kingdom is here! Come and get it!The kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing, and everybody's getting in on it… The wait is over. The kingdom is here! Click To Tweet
Many are satisfied to live in bondage, waiting and hoping that someday God will rescue them. Many beg fervently in prayer to see God’s good purposes come to pass. But it was not those who waited around or begged who got what Jesus was offering.
Take a look at the kinds of people who received what they wanted from Jesus:
- In Mark 2, four guys wanted to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, but they had to hoist him onto the roof and dig a hole through the ceiling to let him in.
- The woman with the issue of blood risked being stoned to death and forced her way through the crowd to touch His robe (Mark 5)
- Jairus in the same chapter only received from Jesus because he kept believing even after hearing word that his daughter was dead and it was too late for Jesus to heal her.
- In Mark 10, blind Bartimaeus would not stop yelling out for Jesus to heal him even though everyone was trying to shut him up.
- In Luke 11, Jesus tells a parable of a man who got what he wanted from his friend only because of his shameless audacity to knock on his door at midnight.
Pretty obviously, Jesus wasn’t bothered by impetuous asking. Asking shows you’re alive, forceful, willing to work for it. If you want it, come and get it!
Jesus’ attitude is different though towards the rich, the self-righteous, and the lazy. The parables or the talents (Matthew 18) and the minas (Luke 19) tell us about laziness: the servant with the least did the least. He hid his money in the ground and returned it to his Master when he returned. Contrast the wicked lazy servant with the other, industrious servants. They put the money they had been given to work, and they doubled it. Their increase was their justification. But the lazy servant was given much, produced nothing, and then actually blamed the Master for his high expectations! Jesus is expecting a return on His investment!It is not what you have but what you do with what you have that marks you as a kingdom citizen. Click To Tweet
In Luke 18, the rich, young ruler comes to Jesus asking what he must do to be saved. He has all the right answers for Jesus’ questions. He’s done everything right. But Jesus still isn’t satisfied. He tells him that he must sell all he has and give to the poor to gain treasure in heaven. This was not what the ruler wanted to hear. After all, wasn’t his wealth already a sign of God’s favor? Wasn’t his perfect obedience to the law enough to guarantee a cushy position in the afterlife? But as Jesus said earlier (Luke 12), “To whom much is given much shall be required.”
Here’s the deal: You cannot depend on your blessings, your position, or your previous accomplishments to gain the kingdom. It is not what you have, but what you do with what you have that marks you as a kingdom citizen. The character of hunger and thirst for righteousness pervades Jesus’ speech and his desire for us. We cannot rest on our laurels. We dare not trust our own righteousness. If we are truly sons and daughters of God, we must move forward. The kingdom is forcefully advancing. Only those who live forceful lives will be able to keep up with its advance. Let us not sit back in ease or be satisfied with begging more from God. As soldiers of the Kingdom we must fight!
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