The End is Near: Seeing the Kingdom that is near, here, within, and coming.

The Kingdom of Heaven is more than meets the eye: The Kingdom of Heaven has come near you, it is here, it is within you, and the Kingdom of Heaven is coming.

I was struck by an idea presented in a recent church service: The Kingdom of Heaven is more than meets the eye: The Kingdom of Heaven has come near you, it is here, it is within you, and the Kingdom of Heaven is coming. We tend to think the Kingdom of Heaven as something in the future that we’re all waiting for, and that’s partly true, but it also carries other profound dimensions.

The phrases Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God refer to the same thing. Jesus used both phrases one right after the other in Matthew 19:23-24, explaining to His disciples how difficult it was for people to enter the Kingdom of God/Heaven.

The End is Near

When Jesus sent out the disciples ahead of Him to the places He would soon visit, he told them, “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:8-9)

Jesus had been teaching His disciples about the kingdom of Heaven and now the disciples were preparing the people to hear about it, as well.

You and I are those people and God has sent out his disciples to reach us. Will we welcome his servants? Or, will we reject them and have it said against us,

Say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.Luke 10:10-11

Continue reading “The End is Near: Seeing the Kingdom that is near, here, within, and coming.”

Those who mourn are blessed: Reading scripture backwards.

A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12, and he highlighted something I hadn’t really considered: The verses from 3 to 12 are not simply separate sayings, like little nuggets of wisdom. Instead, they form a whole and each verse builds on the one before. They reveal a pattern for the life of a Christ-follower.

A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12, and he highlighted something I hadn’t really considered: The verses from 3 to 12 are not simply separate sayings, like little nuggets of wisdom. They’re not like some parts you might find in Proverbs, superficially a list of individual, wise sayings. Instead, they form a whole and each verse builds on the one before. Have a quick read through with that in mind and we’ll pick up after,

Jesus began to teach them,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

The first thing that struck me was that these people were “blessed.” Blessed?! Blessed… Maybe they were blessed because each ‘bad thing’ was followed up by a comforting thing, like “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” but that’s a little morbid, isn’t?

Continue reading “Those who mourn are blessed: Reading scripture backwards.”

Sarcastic Jesus

I came across Luke 13:31-34 today, an account of Jesus’ remarks about Jerusalem when he was told to leave because Herod was looking to kill him,

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! Luke 13:31-33

I was mildly amused at Jesus calling Herod a ‘fox’, you don’t hear that kind of language very often from Him, but I was really surprised at Jesus’ painfully sarcastic comment, “for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” Jesus was heading to Jerusalem in the full knowledge that He would die there.

Isn’t it amazing thar our Lord and Saviour, Who died by crucifixion for our sins, was able to maintain a sense of humour about it all. Then again, perhaps, that old saying, ‘if we didn’t know how to laugh, we wouldn’t know how to respond to some things’ may apply here.

Note, also, that His use of sarcasm was directed at Himself. It is our modern use of sarcasm against others that can hurt so very deeply.

Lest we overemphasize Jesus’ sometimes flippancy, His very next words leave no room for trivializing his remarks or deeds,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Luke 13:34

To me, reading the gospels again and again has shown me something new each time. I’m always hit — hard —  by some sections and I always seem to come out with something new. It’s a gold mine in there. In this case, I see again just how completely human Jesus was alongside his wholly divine nature.

G.K. Chesterton, of course, might suggest that what we think of as completely human may be more like God than we suppose…

There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth. (Orthodoxy, 1908)

Selah.