The Kingdom is Where?
Don't you find it irritating when you give lengthy directions to where something is and you get the response, "It's where?" Either the person can't make sense of your directions or can't believe it's where you say it is. Our lengthy text brings a similar reaction from me: The Kingdom is where?
The Kingdom of God is where the King sends forth workers. The text describes their work as heralding the message of their King that His Kingdom has arrived. A king needs heralds to get his message out to all of the kingdom. It's not enough for him to send notes or letters. No, He sends a man, a personal representative. That's important to recognize. The king's herald goes in the king's authority not his own. You mess with the herald you'll answer to the king. You reject the herald, you reject the king. It's still that way today. You mess with a census taker and you're messing with the federal government.
The king's herald has no authority to alter the king's message. You've seen those Robin Hood type movies where the herald rides into the town square, unrolls a scroll and says, "Hear ye! Hear ye!" Then he reads exactly what's on the scroll. He doesn't change it to suit his hearer's ears. How concerned you ought to be about this now. Paul specifically warns Pastor Timothy, "The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
This is most often done in the name of missions, to get people in the door, to bring in the harvest. Two things to note. It's the Lord's harvest, not the herald's, not the layman's. I dare you to drive up to a farmer's house and tell him he ought to do this or that to bring in his harvest. Better yet; I dare you to hop his fence and start brining in his sheaves. Second, the Lord's harvest is only brought in by His means. The only way the Lord Jesus brings in His harvest is by His Gospel purely heralded and His Sacraments administered as He instructed. You can gather people and money by all sorts of things, but you only gather souls with the tools Jesus left.
And those tools belong in the hands of the heralds He sends. Isn't that what Paul concludes in Romans 10, "How can people believe in one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" Look how many the Lord has sent through you. The Lord's heralds are in Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas through you, and there are two more on the way. But even though you sent them and even though you support me, we remain the King's heralds not yours.
This should be comforting to both heralds and you for two reasons: One, the Lord's heralds are sent out like lambs among wolves. Do you want that responsibility? One thing I've seen in every President I'm old enough to remember is that sending troops into harms way has weighed heavy on them. Second, though the ones the heralds are sent to are to feed, clothe, and shelter them, it's the Lord of the harvest, the King of the Kingdom who takes away their worry of being cared for. He tells His heralds not to take any of the normal necessities of a traveler nor to greet people as fellow travelers because they're not just travelling. They're on the King's business, so the King ultimately will see that they are taken care of.
The Kingdom of God is where? Where the King has sent forth heralds, and where the King's heralds are received. Actually that's not exactly the case. It's not the herald's person that is received but his message. And what's my message? Surprisingly enough, it's that King is at peace with you. Why is that surprising? Because the King has reason to be at war with you people. You don't fear, love, or trust in the King as you should. You don't use the name of King to pray, praise and give thanks but to joke, exclaim, and profane. And don't even get me started on how you treat His Word. You despise it by not holding the preaching and teaching of the King's Word sacred and by not gladly hearing and learning it.
You would tremble more than you do if you didn't live in America. When a city doesn't follow the federal government, monies are withheld and people are taken to court, when a city gave Rome a reason to be angry with it, Rome destroyed the city, tortured all her leaders, killed all the men, and made slaves out of the women and children. Go home and read the 10 verses that follow the Old Testament reading. God brings down temporal and eternal punishment on those who don't listen to His Word says Isaiah. In comparison then, Rome was gentle on those who rebelled against her because she only brought down temporal punishment.
But, as I said, I don't come today proclaiming judgment but, "Peace to this house." The King has made peace with you. All the Commandments you can't keep, He made His Son responsible for, and He kept them in your place, in your stead. But then He sent His Son to the cross to suffer all the temporal and eternal punishment this rebellious house deserves. Down to the last drop Jesus drank the cup of the King's wrath. The King looked and looked for a reason to be angry with you, for a reason to send you to hell for eternity and for a reason to punish you with sickness, disease, and affliction now, but He could find not one single reason for doing any of that.
The Kingdom is where the King's peace, announced by His herald, is received. And that is shown by your "Amen" in the Divine Service. I place my hand on the altar where the Body and Blood of Christ are, the same Body and Blood that made peace for you on the cross, and say, "The peace of the Lord be with you always!" And you say, "Amen!" Likewise, at the altar after eating and drinking Jesus' Body and Blood I say, "Depart in peace," and you who are going away with that peace in your very bodies and souls say, "Amen!"
The Kingdom of God is where the peace of the King in the mouth of His herald is received and this is shown by their "Amen" of faith and by their providing for the herald. The Kingdom is also where the miracles of the Kingdom are experienced at the hands of the herald. That's right: the sick are healed; Satan is cast out, and all the power of that evil one is overcome by the words of eternal life I proclaim, and by the Baptism, Absolution, and Communion I administer. It's a bigger miracle to heal someone of death than it is of sickness. It's a bigger miracle to reborn someone to everlasting life than it is to restore their health. It's a bigger miracle to lift a guilt off a person's soul than it is to lift a burden off their body. It's the biggest miracle of all to put the Body and Blood of God into the hands and mouths of sinners for life.
The Kingdom is where? Where the King sends forth heralds, where the herald's are received, and wonder of wonders, it's where the King's heralds are rejected. Because people don't believe the King's herald, don't receive the King's peace from his lips and hands, and refuse to provide for Him, doesn't mean the Kingdom of God isn't there. Unbelief doesn't nullify the Kingdom. At Calvary who believed Jesus was God's peace? No one. Yet the Kingdom was there, indeed the very King Himself.
Yet this isn't known or shown till judgment day. We learn this from the verses left out of our insert. On the Last Day when all the people who've ever lived stand before the Lord, it'll be more bearable for the homosexuals of Sodom than for those who reject the Lord's heralds. On Judgment Day it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon, 2 Old Testament cities who wanted nothing to do with the faith, than it will be for those who've looked at God's Word or His Holy Sacraments and yawned saying, "That's nothing miraculous, special, sacred, or powerful." On the Last Day even those in closest outward association with the King's heralds will be cast down with Capernaum the city were Jesus lived if they too didn't receive Jesus' peace.
I'm not saying this to warn you but to comfort you. Right now it looks like God's Kingdom is confined to little groups of people here and there. On the Last Day you will see that unbelief has not stopped the Kingdom from being everywhere. Even where the heralds of the Kingdom have been persecuted, mocked, ridiculed, and rejected, you can be sure of this one thing, "The Kingdom of God was there." The Sodoms, the Bethsaidas, the Tyres, the Sidons, and the Capernaums, as well as the people that cling to these earthly kingdoms which look so powerful, so everlasting, so prosperous, so confident, so happy will be shown to be no more than dust compared to the Kingdom of God that they rejected.
It is so important that real heralds of the King of kings keep being sent out even if they are met by unbelief and small numbers because Satan falls wherever the crucified King is preached. Here Jesus says in response to the return of the 72 that He saw "Satan fall like lightening from heaven." Connect this with John 12 where Jesus says He will be crucified and then says, "Now is the prince of this world cast out." When the real King arrives all pretenders to the throne are thrown out. But here's the catch. The real King arrives on a cross, crucified, weak, and apparently powerless. But this is the only King that can cast Satan out, so this is the One the herald must proclaim though few listen, believe, or even care.
The Kingdom of God is where? It's not necessarily where there are lots of people, lots of good feelings, or even lots of good works. It's where God the King is. He's in these Words, in that font, and on that Altar eager to be in your ears, hearts, and mouths for forgiveness, life and salvation. And to this proclamation by the king's herald the people say: A-men!
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (20100711); Luke 10: 1-20