Jesus majored on two themes and priorities in His earthly ministry: the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the need for a life-long transformative response called discipleship. We could summarize them as ‘Seek the Kingdom’ and ‘Make Disciples’.
To Jesus, these two aspects of the Gospel message were non-negotiable. We see this clearly at the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matthew 4:17-19; Mark 1:14-17). Jesus proclaims the good news by coupling an announcement of the coming of the Kingdom of God (with its corollary response of repentance and faith) with a further call to follow Him. Being a disciple (‘follow me’) is a prerequisite to making other disciples (‘I will make you fishers of men’).
At the end of his earthly ministry in Matthew 28:18-20, we see again the same pronouncement of His rule in heaven and earth as the risen king of the Kingdom preceding a command to make disciples of the whole earth under that authority.
‘Seek the Kingdom’
Jesus told us to make His kingdom and His righteousness the consummate aim of our lives (Matthew 6:33). The context of this statement is His ‘Sermon on the Mount’. He has been challenging and contrasting the all-consuming pagan concerns for the temporal here-and-now, that which will pass away, with a call to seek an altogether greater, more enduring reality called God’s Kingdom. Provision for our needs follows—rather than precede or predominate—this great endeavor.
‘Seek’ in Matthew 6:33 is the word zēteō in the Greek which carried the idea of both a desiring for and striving after God in worship. It engages heart and mind and issues into action. You cannot seek the Kingdom of God by sitting down and merely thinking good thoughts. You must move towards God by obedience and determined action.
As we seek, we also start to see anew with great clarity and focus. I never used glasses until I turned forty, when small print on pages became all a blur. It was only when I went to an optometrist that I was able to see clearly. Seeking God’s kingdom is like putting on God’s spectacles to see clearly as never before.
The great American puritan Jonathan Edwards is said to have prayed: ‘Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.’ In the light of God’s purpose and eternal plan, we see things and people very differently from when we were unregenerate sinners (2 Corinthians 5:16, Colossians 3:1-2).
A faithful disciple of Jesus will recognize that he is now under the rule and authority of God’s kingly rule in Christ. He is a soldier of Christ called to obey and please His commanding officer (2 Timothy 2:4). It is this higher authority and reality that now shapes his life. Seeking God’s kingdom will make us obedient disciples.
Therefore Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Your will be done, Your kingdom come.’ The question for the disciple of Jesus is then not ‘what would Jesus do?’ but ‘what would Jesus have me do?’ Learn to ask that question, and often, as you seek His kingdom first.
Next Week: ‘Make Disciples’