THE HIDDEN CHARACTER OF THE KINGDOM
Following this, Matthew quoted a portion from Isaiah telling us who the Lord Jesus was at that time (Matt. 12:18-21). The Lord Jesus was a person with the Spirit of God. He did not strive or cry or shout or make Himself known to people on the streets. He had no fame, and He made no name for Himself. In a sense He was very hidden. This is one of the most important aspects of the kingdom life. If we try to become great, if we try to make a name for ourselves, we will become the great tree instead of the little mustard herb (Matt. 13:31-32). When the Lord Jesus was living on earth, He never made Himself great. Rather He always kept Himself small. He did not strive; neither did anyone hear his voice on the street. We are even told that He would not break a bruised reed or quench the smoking flax. Reeds were used by Jewish children to make pipes as musical instruments. When a pipe was bruised and did not produce the proper sound, they would break it and throw it away. Many times we are like bruised reeds and cannot produce proper music. As a rule, we should be broken and cast away. However, the Lord Jesus will never do this. Also, in ancient times the Jewish people used flax with oil as a torch, especially for walking at night. When the flax torches ran out of oil, they quit shining and became only smoking flax, which people would quench and throw away. Nearly all of us are like bruised reeds and smoking flax. The Lord Jesus, however, would never cast us away because He Himself is such a little one. This was His character when He was on earth.
All these verses reveal an important principle of the kingdom: the kingdom today is not something great in appearance. In form, the kingdom life is small and lowly. No local church should display a grand appearance. Even if we have a large number, we should never flaunt it. We should not have any outward form. The smaller our appearance, the better. We must be little; even we must be nothing. We should be hidden and concealed all the time. If we put all these passages together, we will discover that the way to have rest in the kingdom life is not to be great or manifest or public. The way to enjoy Christ as our rest in the kingdom life is to remain small, concealed, and hidden. We should never become a great tree; we must be the little mustard herb.
THE SIGN OF JONAH
Another principle is also revealed in Matthew 12. The religious people came to the Lord Jesus asking for a sign, a miracle. They wanted Him to perform a miracle to prove that He was of God. He answered them in this way: "An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet" (12:39). Jonah was a prophet who spent three days and three nights buried within a great fish in the waters of death. After three days he came out. This was a type of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus indicated to the religious people that their generation would see no sign except the unique sign of the crucified and resurrected Christ.
The atmosphere among some religious people in our own time is the same. They always want to see signs, miracles, and healings. However, in the kingdom life we should not display ourselves with signs and wonders. Rather, we should reveal ourselves as being crucified and resurrected. The sign that is needed today is not a wonder or a miracle; it is the sign of a crucified and resurrected person.
We need to put all these principles together. At the end of chapter eleven, the Lord Jesus began to show us the way to enjoy Him as rest in the kingdom life. In chapter twelve He revealed that we need to break the religious regulations, but refuse to make ourselves great, public, and popular. We should not seek for popularity. We need to be hidden, small, and low. Furthermore, we should not make an ostentatious show by doing miracles and signs. On the contrary, the more people require signs of us, the more we should go to the cross, the more we should be buried in the death water. The more people expect us to do something extraordinary, the more we must go to the cross to be crucified and to the death water to be buried. Following crucifixion and burial, we will experience resurrection. The kingdom people have to be the crucified, buried, and resurrected people.
If we are today’s Jonah, experiencing death and resurrection, we will certainly be today’s Solomon, building the temple. Once again we see that Matthew does not follow the historical sequence. According to the sequence of history, Solomon came first and Jonah came later. Why then is Jonah mentioned first in Matthew? It is because Jonah typifies Christ as the crucified and resurrected One, and Solomon typifies Christ as the reigning One. After being resurrected, Christ is the King who reigns over the earth. Therefore, in history Solomon precedes Jonah, but in typology Jonah precedes Solomon. Matthew did not write according to history; he wrote according to revelation. He selected facts and incidents and put them together to show us a revelation. The Lord Jesus is the unique sign. He is first the crucified, buried, and resurrected One. Then He is the reigning Christ. This is the sign for today. The crucified, buried, and resurrected Christ is now reigning. Because He is reigning, the kingdom is here. He is the greater Jonah, and He is also the greater Solomon. For the kingdom life, this generation needs no other sign. We do not need miracles. We only need the unique sign—the crucified life, the buried life, and the resurrected life that has become the reigning life.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 23, by Witness Lee)