Thursday

03 November 2011

"Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." (v. 30)

Background

Jesus uses parables to encourage his listeners to question and to think for themselves. We read of two ordinary everyday items, a mustard seed and yeast. The mustard seed is a tiny seed but, under the right conditions, will grow into a bush that provides a home for all the "birds of the air" (v. 19). And a small amount of yeast is needed in order to make the dough rise and grow. In speaking about the kingdom of God in this way Jesus is challenging the thinking of the people about the possibilities of the growth of the kingdom from something small to a thing that has great impact on the world around it.

Jesus then moves on to a new town where once more he is challenged by people about their salvation as to who will be saved. Speculation at the time was about whether God's final judgement and God's new age of full fellowship with himself would be for the whole of the Jewish nation, just part of it, or would Gentiles also be included. (The word Gentiles in the New Testament refers to non-Israelite peoples or nations.)

Jesus states very clearly that the expectations of some will be challenged. Those who think they know 'the Lord' may not be known in the kingdom of God as the way they live means that evil has taken hold. But other people will come from all nations, who will be known in the kingdom and so invited in. This must have been very hard to hear for the religious people of Jesus' day; they would possibly be excluded yet the Gentiles they looked down upon would be welcome. The reversal is complete in the kingdom of God.

We live today in a world that places a high value on those who hold positions of authority or have wealth or have celebrity status. We read about them in the newspapers and hang on their every word. At the same time advertisements constantly remind us that we are special and we can do all things, but the reality is that many people are looked down on by others because they are not as 'good as us' or don't have the latest 'techi' gadget or item of furniture.

To Ponder

How do you react when you encounter the unexpected?

How would you describe the kingdom of God?

How can we begin to place the same value on everyone we meet, seeing them as precious in God's eyes?

Bible notes author: Susan Johnson

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