Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Kingdom of God: An introduction    (1/18/2015 )

At the beginning of the three years Jesus spent teaching and preaching, he made frequent reference to ‘the Kingdom’. “Repent,” he said, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

Sometimes, as well as the Kingdom of Heaven, he talked about the Kingdom of God. He told people that the Kingdom of God was like different things; it was like a pearl of great price, but it was also like a humble mustard seed. It was like a king, but it was also like 10 virgins.

Jesus talked about who’d find it easy to get into the Kingdom (those who were like children) and who wouldn’t find it easy (the rich). This was disturbing at a time when, as much as children were seen as a blessing, it was the wise elders who had studied scripture who seemed closest to God. And people believed that the rich were only wealthy because God had blessed and rewarded them. But Jesus said to his disciples, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.”

Needless to say, the disciples found all of this quite perplexing. Jesus told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you!” But the more he explained, the more confused they became. What was this kingdom? Was it a place, or a time? Was it heaven itself… or was it the here and now? And why did the kingdom seem to be near just because Jesus was near? This mysterious kingdom seemed so tantalisingly close, especially when Jesus said, “Some who are standing here will not die before they see the Kingdom of God”.

We must remember that this was a time when the Holy Land was under Roman occupation, and the people hated being under Roman control. So it’s easy to see why, when Jesus started talking about the Kingdom (one which would apparently come SOON),  the people might have got very excited. When Jesus taught people the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, he taught them to pray for the kingdom to come—in other words, to be hastened.

So was Jesus here to drive the Romans out, and to set up a Kingdom over which he would rule? Would they be free of Roman oppression? The disciples were already seeing Jesus as some kind of military deliverer, so this kind of talk played right into their fantasies.

While the mother of two disciples asked for her sons to sit at Jesus’ right and left in his kingdom, he told her she didn’t know what she was asking. At one point, the disciples even argued among themselves as to which of them was the ‘greatest’—perhaps vying for the best jobs in this new kingdom. But, as always, the way Jesus saw the world was at odds with what the people believed to be true, or what they held dear—like power, position and money.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be unpicking some of the things Jesus said about the kingdom, and what it means for us today. Come with us on the journey!

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