Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. II Nephi 14:4
My mother used to ask me, "What would Jesus do?" That was the standard by which we were expected to gage the legitimacy of our actions. In asking the question, it was assumed that we knew pretty well what Jesus did during his life, and that we could make the application to the task at hand. I would like to change the question slightly, and ask, "What would Jesus say?" That is, what would Jesus talk about if He were here today? Let us begin with the mission statement that Jesus gave while he was alive. Jesus said,
I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, for therefore am I sent. Luke 4:43
I know of no other place where Jesus says why he came as clearly as in this verse. The setting for this saying was probably the town of Capernaum. Jesus had just healed Peter's mother in law, among other things. When he got ready to leave, the people naturally wanted him to stay. When they asked him to stay, he replied that he was compelled to leave because he was sent to preach the kingdom of God in other places as well. This was more important than the healing and the miracles that he was doing. It was the reason he was sent. In describing the ministry of Jesus shortly afterwards, Luke says that Jesus
...went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God... Luke 8:1,2
Jesus was not alone in his ministry. He chose twelve disciples and prepared them for ministry as well. Jesus' instructions to these hand picked ministers is recorded by Luke as follows:
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and he gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. Luke 9:1,2
In the next chapter Luke records the sending forth of the seventy. The instructions recorded there are much more detailed than the instructions to the twelve. Jesus tells these ministers, among other things, to "eat such things as are set before you." I personally have always found that particular duty very enjoyable as I have traveled as a seventy. However, the focus of the instructions about what the seventy should preach are these:
And heal the sick that are therein, and say, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. Luke 10:9
For both the twelve and the seventy, the instruction was to preach the kingdom of God. The following chapter begins with the disciples' request for Jesus to teach them to pray. Listen carefully to the very first request that Jesus teaches his disciples to make.
When ye pray, say, Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth. Luke 11:2
We note that before asking for forgiveness or even daily bread, his disciples were to pray for the kingdom. Jesus again stresses to his disciples the importance of the kingdom compared to daily bread in the next chapter.
Seek not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind; for all these things do the nations of the world seek after; and your Father who is in heaven, knoweth that ye have need of these thingsÉ Therefore seek ye to bring forth the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:31-35 (29-32)
Jesus often taught in parables which contain within them an illustration of his main point. Often, the parables were given in response to a question. For example, when asked, "Who is my neighbor," Jesus replied with the parable of the good Samaritan. But what was the focus of Jesus' parables when he was not answering questions from others? We find some of these parables in the next chapter. (A larger collection can be found in Matthew 13.)
Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? And whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Luke 13: 18-21
What are these parables about? Some would say they are about a mustard seed, or leaven. But that is only the surface illustration. The beginning of understanding of these parables is the realization that the subject is the kingdom of God.
I believe that a real key to understanding Jesus' message is to understand the importance of the kingdom. It was, after all, his preaching of the kingdom that finally led to his crucifixion. The final accusation that accompanied him on the cross was,
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Luke 23:39 (38)
The list goes on and on. In Luke's account alone, the word "kingdom" appears 45 times. The total for the four gospels is about 122. For those interested in such statistics, a more detailed tabulation of the occurrence of this word is given below, along with "love" and "peace" for comparison.
|Note: Does not include phileo lit., to be a friend; or sigao lit., to be quiet.
Source: Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible.
After his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days talking with his apostles. Can you guess what Jesus talked to them about?
He showed himself alive after his sufferings by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3
By this time, the alert reader will begin to discern what I believe to be a definite pattern that runs throughout the ministry of Jesus. The kingdom of God was a central concern of his ministry. He preached it, he taught his disciples to preach it, he taught them to pray for it, he told them to seek for it first, he died because of it, and he taught it after his resurrection.
If Jesus were here today, I believe that he would speak to us about the kingdom. In our day, he has spoken to the church and said:
I will be with you and strengthen you for the tasks that lie ahead if you will continue to be faithful and commit yourselves without reservation to the building of my kingdom. DC 153:9c