Hearing the Message of the Kingdom
By Dennis S. Hankins
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:16-17)
My faith is the result of hearing the rich and deep biblical preaching of God’s word. I can vouch that “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NRSVCE) Pentecostal preachers of my youth, faithful to bring God’s word to their flock, preached with the unmistakable fragrance of Christ. Because the Holy Spirit blessed their effort, the Scriptures became for me “spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
In my youth I was encouraged to memorize Holy Scripture. And because the preaching I heard was filled with Scripture, only reinforced my desire to “treasure (God’s) word in my heart.” (Psalm 119:11 NRSVCE) Revivals and Camp Meetings were additional feasts of hearing the Bible preached with conviction, and solemnity, and with the Holy Spirit. All of this underscored the truth and served the truth because we understood that to be free from sin and alive to God was to know and to embrace the Truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Here’s what St. Paul had to say about the importance and necessity of good preaching: How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15 NRSVCE)
Jesus lamented that some ‘look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’ In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells us that the world, the flesh, and the devil all conspire to keep us from grasping and growing in our understanding of the ‘mysteries of the kingdom.’ The Evil one is not interested a bit in you or me hearing the message of the kingdom of God’s infinite love and being transformed by that message into followers of Christ. Take the Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Queen Candace for example. He was on his way back home from worshipping in Jerusalem and studying a passage from the Old Testament. Philip, led by the Holy Spirit, ran up to the Ethiopian’s chariot and heard him reading aloud from the prophet Isaiah this passage:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
So Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. (Acts 26-38 NRSVCE)
God made sure that the Ethiopian official got his questions answered. The rest of his journey home he rejoiced in the love of Jesus and his baptism into the family of God. The Lord is just as interested in you and me hearing and understanding the message of the kingdom. We have Bible studies we can attend and Spirit-filled priests and deacons who preach the Bible and other teachers of the Bible. We also have the Holy Spirit in us to guide us into all truth, especially the truth of Holy Scripture.
May the Lord give us the grace to be like the Bereans who welcomed the message with great interest and examined the scriptures every day to see whether the things Paul and Silas were telling them were so. You might say they brought their ‘Bibles’ to the meeting and followed closely the teaching and preaching of Paul and Silas. But not everybody was happy. Some folks from Thessalonica heard that the message of the kingdom had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea. So they came to the community to stir up some animosity about the seeds of faith Paul and Silas were sowing. But God’s word had already taken root; for God’s word cannot return to him unfulfilled. God’s word is alive and filled with power; one sows, another waters, and God gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6)
The message of the kingdom? Let him with ears to hear, listen! Amen.