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Sermon Illustrations: Kingdom of God

In May 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man ever to run a mile in under four minutes. But the following month, Australian John Landy beat Bannister's record by 1.4 seconds. A showdown was inevitable, and in August of that year, the two athletes met for a momentous race at Vancouver, Canada. Bannister and Landy were well in front of the pack as they went into the last lap. Slightly in front of Bannister, Landy looked like he was going to win. But as he approached the finish line, he started to wonder: Where is Bannister? His need to know was so strong that he couldn't resist the temptation to look over his shoulder. And just as he did, he lost his stride. Bannister raced past him and broke the tape. Later, Landy said, "If I hadn't looked back, I would have won the race." (Luke 9:62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.")


One dark and stormy night, a gang of thieves broke into a jewellery store, but they were on a mission with a difference. They didn't steal a thing. But they carefully went round the whole shop and switched all the price tags. Then they left. The next day, the staff came in, and because the thieves had been so careful, nobody noticed they'd even been there. Customers came and people were spending huge amounts of money to buy cheap junk, while others were paying a couple of dollars for jewellery worth thousands of dollars. Someone has switched the tags on our planet. We are continually bombarded with a different set of values from those of the Kingdom of God.


Shortly after arriving in Australia as migrants, our family was invited to lunch with Australian friends. "Bring a plate," they said. We thought: What a strange custom! We turned up dutifully with a plate, only to find that they were expecting us to bring something on it. This is what happens when you go from one country to another. We also discovered that there was no point in asking for an ice lolly, for some pop, or for a pair of daps or plimsolls. Everything was different: the accent, the customs, the way of thinking, the terms that were used - it was all different. (Col 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love)


The emperor Julian the Apostate (332-63) is reputed to have said that he wanted to confiscate Christians' property so that they might all become poor and enter the kingdom of heaven.1


Imagine a man who's out digging in a field - someone else's field - and he hears a clunk. He digs around a little bit more, and there really is something there. He puts down his mattock, picks up his spade, and clears away all the dirt. And what he sees is the top of a chest. He looks around, but there's nobody there. He starts to get excited. So he digs all round till he can open the lid. And when he does, he just about falls over backwards. It's got gold and silver and diamonds and rubies and emeralds and sapphires. This treasure will bring him immeasurable wealth. He covers it back up, races into town, places his house on the market, places his car on the market, puts his wife and kids on the market. He doesn't care what it takes: He's got to have that field, because he's got to have that treasure. Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that when the Kingdom of God is our treasure it becomes an all-consuming passion. (Mat 13:44)


In the early gold rush days in Australia in the 1850s, the discovery of gold had a profound effect on our country. It transformed it. People got excited. And in two years the population of Victoria exploded from 77,000 to 540,000. The treasure generated enthusiasm, excitement. That's how it should affect us when we discover the Kingdom of God. (Mat 13:44)


Matthew, a tax collector, is making money hand over fist. Despised by all the people for collaborating with the Romans, he absorbs himself in his world of money. Then one day, Jesus passes by, looks at Matthew, and simply says, "Follow Me." And for one brief moment, Matthew has a dilemma. A split-second image of all his gold and his silver and his house and his possessions. Then he looks at Jesus and realises he's got to make a choice - he can't have both. But there was no comparison. He recognised instantly that he was looking at the True Treasure, the true riches. And he left everything: He made a sacrifice that turned out to be no sacrifice at all. He made a choice for the Kingdom.


1 Carson, D.A. Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew 1-12 p132