I have avoided writing about this next verse. Honestly, I had no clue where to begin, and when I looked up the opinions of various theologians and scholars, they didn’t seem to have a clue, either! Oh, they all had an opinion. But none of them seemed to agree with each other.
So, since a commentary is really just a person’s comments on a text, I figure, why not add my own thoughts to the mix? They can’t be any more far-fetched than the next guy’s. Well, maybe they can be, but I’m going to comment on this text anyway.
Without further ado, here’s the next verse written in the cover of Daddy’s Bible. (Thanks a lot, Dad. <3 )
Matthew 11:12 “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it.”
Some translations use the word violently instead of forcefully.
At first, I thought this verse was talking about spiritual warfare. And of course, there is that aspect. But as I’ve mulled this over in my mind, I’ve been reminded about all the violence that’s taken place against the kingdom of heaven.
First, let’s talk about the kingdom, itself. Is it a place? Well, yes. Of course it is. But more importantly, the kingdom of heaven is people. It’s all the saints. (That’s me and you, and anyone who has accepted God’s gift of salvation through His son, Jesus Christ.) And let’s just look at some of the more prominent saints throughout history, shall we?
There was John the Baptist. He was beheaded.
James, son of Zebedee, was also beheaded.
Stephen was stoned.
Philip, the apostle, was crucified.
James, the brother of Jesus, was beaten to death, after being crucified and stoned.
Matthew was killed with a halberd (an ax/spear combination).
Andrew was crucified.
Peter was crucified upside-down.
Paul was beheaded.
Bartholomew was flayed alive, then crucified.
Thomas was killed with a spear.
Luke was hanged.
Simon was crucified.
And that’s just a few of the biblical martyrs. There are others in the
Bible, and there have been many, many more throughout history.
Yet, Christianity is still alive and kicking.
You see, Christianity has advanced and advanced through the ages, despite the hostile, violent acts of those who would shut the mouths of Christians forever.
Even today, in many parts of the world, people are violently dying for their belief in Jesus Christ.
Even here in the United States, where we pretend to be tolerant of multiple beliefs, Christians are attacked for their belief in Christ.
One recent example that came to my mind was not a violent attack, but an attack nonetheless. You probably heard about it. Some high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas decided to paint banners with a positive message. Instead of “Kill the Vikings!” or “Maul the Bears!”, these girls decided to display encouraging scripture on their banners. They wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
How about that? A group of cheerleaders, cheering on their own team members without insulting the other team. And offering encouragement to the players on both sides. Scandalous, I know.
It really did become scandalous when an anonymous person complained to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which in turn complained to the school district’s superintendent. The superintendent told the girls he appreciated what they were doing, but they had to stop.
Thus began a series of court battles that, last I heard, ended in the girls being told they could paint their banners with scriptures. Score one for the kingdom of heaven. But it didn’t come without a fight, or without controversy.
God’s Word tells us time and again that in this world, we will have many troubles. This world is not our home. We are strangers here; we are truly strange by comparison. We don’t fit in. We are aliens, and though we may reside legally here, we’ll still never really belong. Our home is a kingdom far away, in another time and place. As Christians, our true residency is in the kingdom of heaven.
So when we get home at the end of the day and we feel like we’ve been through a battle, we shouldn’t be surprised. When neighbors and co-workers gossip about us and treat us like we’re freaks, simply because we don’t live by the same code of ethics as the rest of the world, we should take it in stride. And every time we get treated poorly because of our belief in Christ, and the poor treatment doesn’t stomp out our faith . . . that’s another point scored for team heaven.
And even if the worst comes—which it probably won’t—and we are beaten or beheaded or crucified or killed because of our love for Christ, we can remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”