By Collin Ross
Jesus describes what it means to enter the kingdom.
The kingdom of God is often discussed as if it were an amusement park with an impossibly high admission fee. Humanity could never pay the fee to gain entrance, so Jesus came to pay it for us. Now, thanks to Jesus, we have received the ticket to all the “attractions” of the kingdom!
The problem with this line of thinking is how it turns disciples of Jesus into mere consumers of God’s kingdom, forgetting the meaning of Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Spirit. Rather, the complete story of the gospel leaves no room for passive consumption of kingdom blessings. It demands active participation.
A better analogy would be to liken the kingdom to a breathtaking dance or choreography with impossibly difficult moves. Humanity could never twist and turn its body in such beautiful motions, so Jesus came to give us new bodies that could. Now, thanks to Jesus, we can take part in the kingdom dance of God. Do you see the difference? We are participants, not consumers.
This is surely what Jesus is teaching His disciples at the end of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). Having described at length what kingdom life looks like, He pivots to clarify how we can join in on His kingdom dance. Notice how each section revolves around movement: entering through a narrow gate and walking on a difficult road (Matthew 7:13–14), growing good fruit (vv.15–20), and doing the Father’s will (vv.21–23). But it is important that we interpret His requirements for kingdom-entry while keeping in mind the task that Jesus came to accomplish.
Take, for example, Christ’s teaching that “every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17). He’s differentiating between those who are a part of His kingdom and those who are not. Christ says the same in His parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24–30). According to Jesus, those who have entered the kingdom are the ones who are producing “good fruit,” meaning their lives are furthering the restorative mission of God in the world.
Is it safe, then, to say that following Jesus in God’s kingdom is about how we live? Well, yes, but Jesus’s explanation of His own parable complicates matters. When asked to explain the parable of the wheat and weeds, the very first thing Christ says is, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” (Matthew 13:37). It is Jesus, the Son of Man, who causes the wheat to grow and produce the good fruit of the kingdom. Our participation in the kingdom is the direct result of Christ’s work of renewal in us.
This is the way the scriptures describe how we enter God’s kingdom. It is a cooperation of both heaven and earth as they move in sync with one another. By Christ’s saving work and the Spirit’s presence, we are utterly transformed from the inside out. As a result, we are free to align ourselves with God’s redemptive mission, and as we do, we join His kingdom-dance.