Thursday, February 12, 2015

Watching Jesus Create the Kingdom

Jesus was born to be a king. Expectations were high at the time of his birth that God was going to right the wrongs of the world and set up his kingdom that will never end. Herod was jealous and struck out to protect his power. Caesar was oblivious, but even mighty Rome would soon feel the pressure exuding from the kingdom of heaven.

            Yet Jesus did not travel to Jerusalem or Rome to claim the throne through power and conquest – though he had enough power to do so if he desired. Rather he traveled through the Judean and Galilean country sides teaching people about the will of God and the kingdom that was being created by his life and ministry.

            Jesus’ commitment to creating God’s kingdom is clearly revealed when you notice the prominence of the kingdom in his famous sermon on the mount. He begins the sermon with his phrase, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The beatitudes end with the other bookend concerning the kingdom: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor in spirit (just “poor” in Luke) are surely surprised to discover that while the world has no use for them, the kingdom of heaven is composed of people like them! How does one move from being poor in spirit to being persecuted because of righteousness? They grow in the “upside down” kingdom of God!

            It is not just the beatitudes that begin and end with reference to the kingdom, the entire sermon does as well. Jesus warns all who want to live in the kingdom of God that it is not the talkers about God’s will, but the doers of God’s will who make up the citizens of the kingdom.

            In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s Prayer. The heart of the Lord’s Prayer is this statement: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This was the goal of Jesus’ life and death, to usher in the kingdom through his obedient heart. If we are faithfully walking with Jesus then we will also be consumed with the kingdom of God. We will seek to live with reference first to God’s kingdom, not to some worldly kingdom (whether a nation or a private “kingdom”). We will recognize our solidarity with people all around the world who are also members of the kingdom of God. We will love and pray for our enemies so that they might come to know the grace and love of God, transitioning from enemies to dearly loved siblings in the kingdom of heaven. When enough people who are citizens of the kingdom beginning living like the kingdom is the most important value in life, then we will see the expansion of God’s will being done on earth (in our lives) as it is in heaven!

            I once read a rather sad statement about Christians who do not take the kingdom of God very seriously – “After Jesus taught about the coming kingdom, people got excited and anticipated its arrival, but sadly realized that while they were expecting the kingdom, all they got was the church!” While I am not nearly so pessimistic about the church, I will acknowledge that when we who comprise the church live without passion for the kingdom we prove to be a disappointment for those who are longing for the kingdom. I hope that you are in awe of King Jesus and are striving with all that is within you to let his kingdom be created in your life!

- Kenny Payne     

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