As the Church of Jesus Christ, we are commissioned with the responsibility of proclaiming and bringing the Kingdom of God to our world. If we are going to be faithful to that calling, we must first understand exactly what God’s Kingdom is!
If we were to try to categorize the preaching of the Prophet from Nazareth call Jesus, we would conclude that one of His favorite sermon topics was “the kingdom of God.” He did preach on other things—God’s love, His own imminent death and resurrection, even the need for repentance. But, the bulk of His messages seem to deal with the coming of God’s kingdom.
To His Jewish hearers, it was a welcome topic. Over the ages, the Hebrews had fallen under the tyrannical rule of one godless nation after another—Egypt, Babylon and Rome.
The Jews of the first century were ready for a change. For generations, their ancestors had prayed for the Messiah—Yahweh’s Deliverer—to come and save them from the godless pagan rule. They even had a mental picture of how their Messiah would come. He would be a great warrior King who would charge into history and rescue God’s people in a bloody coup. When John the Baptist appeared declaring, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, Israelites couldn’t wait! They anticipated a fierce battle between their Messiah and the Roman legion.
The Heaven Jesus Talked About
Unfortunately, the Carpenter/Prophet from Nazareth did not fit their preconceived notion of a Messiah at all! Nor did His “kingdom of heaven” mesh with their idea of what the Kingdom of Yahweh would be. The Israelites had in mind a very earthly, fleshly reign with a human king. The kingdom of God that Jesus preached and taught was far different. Indeed, while the Hebrews anticipated a very human king sitting on a very physical throne in Jerusalem, Jesus declared, the Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “there is its,” because the Kingdom of God is within you.
The concept of the Kingdom of God that Jesus was proclaiming was so unlike the prevailing concept of a kingdom that even the well-educated Pontius Pilate, didn’t understand what Jesus meant as He tried to explain, My kingship is not of this world. If my kingship were of the world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.
Today, we have as hard a time understanding the “kingdom of God” as the Hebrews did—but for different reasons. Unlike them, we have no preconceived notions of what God’s kingdom should be. In fact, most of us have no mental framework from which to construct a kingdom concept!
Paul writes to the Corinthians, The Kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power. Talk is cheap. There is no time that is more evident than during an election year! The Kingdom of God is more than a bag of hot air or a bunch of empty promises.
God’s Kingdom is seen in the power of the healings that happened whenever Jesus showed up!
It is seen in the power that caused a Man brutally slain by the cruelest method of execution ever devised by humanity to rise from the dead and be seen by over five hundred witnesses at one time!
It is the power that caused the words of a handful of illiterate fishermen to electrify a pagan society and cause a fledgling religious movement to grow by leaps and bounds in spite of persecution, prosecution and execution.
To the Romans, Paul declared the Kingdom of God is not food and drink—but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The early Church existed in a very SENSE-oriented society. Sensual pleasures were the most important. Gluttony and drunkenness were almost nation pastimes for the Greek and the Romans! Into that very physically-oriented world came the followers of Jesus. They dared to declare that right living and inner peace were far more important than food and drink. They declared that motives and intention were of higher value than the satisfaction of physical cravings.
The Kingdom of God is like…
In the Gospel of Matthew, there are recorded a number of the Master’s parables about the Kingdom of God. In one, Jesus likened the Kingdom to a mustard seed—a very small, inconsequential thing. Yet, it that minuscule seed is planted in the proper soil and nourished, it can grow into a mighty shrub that provides shelter for man and beast alike. The Kingdom of God starts small too, with just one or two committed to making it a reality in their world. With care and nourishment, that mustard-seed of right living and peaceful presence takes root and touches other lives nearby.
Jesus also compared the Kingdom to leaven—or yeast. Leaven was usually buried in flour until the entire portion was ”infected” with bacteria that caused the bread to rise.
We Are the Church
We are charged with bringing the Kingdom of God into our world. To do this, we may go on an intensive preaching mission. Maybe we lay hands on the sick and cast out demons. Or we may simply be an almost silent witness, letting our actions speak louder than our words.
We can be a friend to reach out in acceptance to one who is rejected by everyone as being “odd”.
You could be the one person who chooses to remain calm in a tension-packed situation insisting on talking instead of acting out anger and hostility. We may be the individual who refuses to pass on a juicy bit of gossip, elects to squelch an unproven rumor. Maybe you decide to get ALL the facts before deciding that a person or stance is right or wrong.
We ARE the Church—individually and together. It is our responsibility to be bringing the Kingdom of God to this world in which we live, bring sanity into confusion, peace in chaos, love into a maelstrom of hate and unrest. We are to be the calm center in the midst of the raging storm—to provide a place for the drifting and displaced to get their feet back under them and to clear their minds.
Those of us who have found in Jesus the answers WE need for living in this uptight, chaotic, confused and frustrated world are expected to point the way to others who are looking for a way out.
We ARE the Church. A covenant community called to make God visible as we live on the cutting edge of our faith, bringing the kingdom of God to earth.