Jacob had been on his sickbed for years. With each stroke, his condition worsened. Physicians from his village were unable to help much. Religious teachers from the region could not help, either. They would say, “You are being inflicted with God’s punishment for the sins you have committed.” “When God is punishing you, how can we help you? You are cursed!” Their unkind comments brought him more pain than did the disease.
One day, his childhood friends told him about a great Teacher, Jesus, a wonderful Healer. When he heard about the miraculous cures, his darkened heart began to see a light.
Ever since he had been condemned by the religious teachers, he had focused on his sins. To receive favor from God, he wanted to be fully repentant before Jesus, as well.
“I want to see Jesus,” he said to his friends. “Please, take me to Jesus.”
His friends carried him on a mat to the house where Jesus was. The house was surrounded by such a crowd that they could not enter. They felt it was impossible to see Jesus. Better to go back home. But Jacob thought that there must be a way. When he saw the roof, he begged them to take him up there. They tore up the roof and lowered Jacob down in front of Jesus.
The house was hushed. Jesus saw Jacob, and He said, “ ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’ ” (Mark 2:5, NIV). And then, “ ‘Get up, take your mat and go home’ ” (v. 11, NIV). Jacob knew that he was healed. He got up and went home, thanking the Lord. Jacob was healed because he had faith in Jesus, and Jesus showed him mercy and the power of God.
There were many obstacles in his way to Jesus: he could not move; the house was blocked; the roof needed to be broken up. But Jacob moved forward in faith, no matter what. He was forceful, almost violent in his desire to see Jesus.
Mark (chapter 2) tells this beautiful story with power. The story is saturated with a faith that will not retreat even when confronted by obstacles. What we see here is an example of how, ultimately, salvation comes to those who, determinedly, even forcefully, seek the grace that God offers us all.
The invaded kingdom?
In Matthew 11:12, Jesus says, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (KJV). What may lend difficulty to the text is the Greek verb biazo, translated “suffereth violence.” The form here is biazetai, either a passive voice or a middle voice. The KJV takes biazetai as a passive. The translation sounds as if the kingdom is under attack by violent and evil people. On the other hand, the 1984 edition of the New International Version (1984 NIV) translates it: “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” This version translates biazetai as a middle verb, making it sound as if the kingdom is pushing its way forward. Violent people with negative intentions are transformed into forceful people with positive intentions.
Jesus is saying, The kingdom of heaven has been established and is moving forward forcefully, and those who respond forcefully will take it.
I want to follow the NIV translation in two accounts: Luke 16:16 and John the Baptist.
Let me begin with Luke because a quick connection can be established. The King James Version translates Luke 16:16 as, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” The NIV uses different words but holds the same basic meaning. The NIV translates: “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.”
The NIV translation of Matthew 11:12 seems to reflect Luke 16:16, although the saying of Jesus was put in a different narrative than in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus, in Luke, is using less ambiguous words. The expression “The kingdom of God is preached” is more straightforward. So, according to the NIV translation, the kingdom of heaven is moving ahead forcefully in the preaching of the gospel.
John the Baptist
John’s story seems to support the NIV. John was in prison. Perhaps he was waiting for the Messiah to rescue him, but Jesus did not, and so John began to doubt. Thus, he sent his disciples to ask, “Are You the Messiah?” We can read between the lines. John sounds as if he is asking: If You are the Messiah, why didn’t You come to rescue me? Jesus answered his question by summarizing His Messianic ministry, which focused on healing and restoring humanity—not on a political state for the Jews.
John, and others at that time, had a confused notion of the Messiah’s role, expecting a political, not a spiritual, restoration. For those still under the notion of political messiahship, Jesus was using the verb biazo. It is not the political messianic kingdom that should push itself strongly ahead, but instead, the spiritual Messianic kingdom should move forcefully in the preaching of the gospel.
The verb biazo could be more properly described as a political movement. In this notion, the Davidic messiah would come with his troops to overturn the Romans and establish the kingdom of the Jews. When Jesus applied this verb to the spiritual movement that He was initiating, He was discouraging His disciples from political restoration as the Messianic goal. In Matthew, Jesus uses the word biazo more figuratively and symbolically.
To summarize, Jesus used a verb that belongs to a political movement to describe the movement of the heavenly kingdom. Jesus is saying, The kingdom of heaven has been established and is moving forward forcefully, and those who respond forcefully will take it.
Such was Jacquelyn.
Jacquelyn was extremely feeble. She had had a flow of blood for 12 years! Having wasted all of her money on physicians who were no help, the ailing woman was wishing for death. The end of life would bring her more happiness than living in this horrible condition.
One day, Jacquelyn heard hopeful news that a certain Teacher was healing people—and without charging either. He healed all kinds of ailments and diseases. She wanted to see this Teacher and ask Him to heal her.
When Jacquelyn arrived where Jesus was, He was surrounded by a huge crowd; a wall of humanity was an insurmountable obstacle before her. She did not have the energy or courage to cry out, “Son of David, help me!” Too weak to wade through the multitude, Jacquelyn was disappointed.
Suddenly, the crowd began to move. The wall was crumbling. Jacquelyn pushed her way to Jesus, almost fainting in the process. Happily, she noticed a shift in the crowd’s direction and realized that Jesus was coming closer to her. If only I could touch the hem of His garment, I would be healed, Jacquelyn thought. When Jesus was near, she reached out her hand and, yes, touched the hem.
Suddenly, Jacquelyn felt something was done to her. A warm shock. She knew it worked. Jacquelyn turned and started moving away. Then she was stopped by Jesus, who said, “Who touched Me?” The woman had to confess. And after she explained why she needed that touch, Jesus made it very clear that the healing did not come from the hem but from her faith. Her faith was her response to the kingdom message. Yes, Jacquelyn was one of the invaders of the kingdom. She got it.
The invaders in the Gospels
Employing the expressions of Jesus, we can define those who came to Jesus for help as the forceful invaders of the kingdom. The list of the invaders would be long because of the many people who came to Jesus for help. All of them responded heartily to the message. They were open to the power of the King who was willing to serve them.
And many had obstacles on their way to Jesus, too, but they moved forward in their faith despite them. They kept moving forward until they could ask Jesus for help.
Am I one of them?
Even now, the gospel of the kingdom is being preached. It is forcing its way in the world where pain, problems, sickness, and death rule. The Lord of the kingdom is the same as He was 20 centuries ago. Jesus is calling us to be forceful in our faith to come to Him with our burdens, and hear the words, “Son [and daughter], your sins are forgiven.” Jesus alone can say and mean those words, just as He did centuries ago. There are many obstacles on our way to Jesus, but we need to move on despite them. Will you be a Jacob or a Jacquelyn and become a forceful person entering the kingdom of God?