The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
One of the more offensive tenets of the Christian faith is that there is a distinction between those inside the Kingdom of God and those outside the Kingdom. Let’s face it, our culture values inclusiveness…. and at first glance, both of today’s passages seem to paint an exclusive picture of the Christian faith.
In Numbers, we continue to read about the people making preparations to enter the promised land. Today’s passage describes the “cleansing” of the camp (for more information on how to interpret OT cleanliness laws, see Day 42). Those who were “unclean” had to live “outside the camp.” One of the purposes for removing unclean people from the camp was to set Israel apart from other nations, but another reason was to create a picture of purity that pointed forward to God’s Kingdom… The physical act of “cleansing” the camp symbolized the spiritual purity of God’s future Kingdom.
Fast forward to today’s teaching in Mark…Jesus teaches in parables to further emphasize this principle of “insiders” vs. “outsiders.” He says that those who are in God’s Kingdom will understand his teaching, but those outside will not. In today’s passage, the very point of the parable was that there will be those who hear the word of the gospel, and will reject it. In other words, there will be outsiders.
But notice a very important subtlety… Who is the one doing the rejecting? Is it God? No. When Jesus comes, he opens the door of the Kingdom to people from ALL nations and tongues. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave or free.
What the Old Testament and Jesus both teach is that entrance to the Kingdom is absolutely exclusive because it requires perfection. Everyone would be outsiders if Jesus hadn’t paid the price of admission on our behalf. But because of Jesus’ sacrificial payment, all are invited in; therefore, the Kingdom becomes all-inclusive :) Sadly, we know people who choose to reject the invitation…
But. Jesus holds out hope even for those least likely to enter the Kingdom…
[For] those outside, everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
There is always hope for the unbeliever! Lest they should turn and be forgiven! Do you think of the Christian faith like an exclusive club – thus making the unbeliever feel judged and uninvited? Or do your words and actions make people feel welcome and safe? Remember, apart from God’s grace… we would all be outsiders!