Matthew 11:12 is one of the most puzzling verses in the New Testament. Jesus declares, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been seizing it.” At first glance, this statement seems to contradict the prevailing image of the kingdom of heaven as a place of peace and tranquility. However, a closer examination of the context reveals that Jesus is not condoning violence but rather describing the intensity and urgency with which people should pursue the kingdom.
The Context of Matthew 11:12
Matthew 11:12 occurs in the midst of a series of pronouncements by Jesus about John the Baptist. Jesus had just sent messengers to John, who was in prison, asking him if he was the Messiah. John responded by asking if Jesus was the one who was to come, or should they look for someone else. This exchange sets the stage for Jesus’ declaration about the kingdom of heaven.
Two Possible Interpretations of Matthew 11:12
There are two main interpretations of Matthew 11:12. The first interpretation is that Jesus is using the word “violence” in a literal sense. This means that he is saying that the kingdom of heaven is being advanced by violent people who are using force to impose their will on others. However, this interpretation is problematic because it contradicts the rest of Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus consistently taught that the kingdom is not established by force but by love and humility.
The second interpretation is that Jesus is using the word “violence” in a figurative sense. This means that he is saying that the kingdom of heaven requires a certain level of intensity and urgency. People must be willing to exert themselves and make sacrifices in order to enter the kingdom. This interpretation is more consistent with the rest of Jesus’ teachings.
The Kingdom of Heaven Requires Intensity and Urgency
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 11:12 is a call to action. He is urging people to not be complacent about the kingdom of heaven. They must be willing to seek it with their whole hearts. This means that they must be willing to turn away from sin, to follow Jesus, and to live according to his teachings.
Matthew 11:12 is a challenging verse, but it is also a very important verse. It reminds us that the kingdom of heaven is not a passive state of being. It is a dynamic reality that requires our active participation. We must be willing to strive for the kingdom with all our might.