So I'm a radio host, and I get asked to speak in churches and Christian schools and stuff -- often just once -- and I like to ask this question: What was the "good news", according to Jesus? Jesus sent people out to share the good news. C'mon, what was it?
No one knows. Like...ever. We're talkin' Christian schools with Bible classes, Bible Churches, Bible Churches of the Bible with Biblical Bible-Studying Bible Groups, even Bible college grads. Nobody knows.
Well, truthfully, once, when I asked it on-air, one caller finally knew -- an older man, with a Haitian accent. "The Kingdom is here!" he said.
I've discussed this here, too, and I've gotten many questions about it. When Scott (listener and also Kamp reader) asked, "So, what's the Kingdom? What is that? -- I thought I'd post my response here.
Insert usual disclaimers: This is too brief. And I'm no theologian. I'm a guy who shoves his glasses up his nose.
Great question, and it can be answered a few different ways, none of which may be satisfactory.
First, the Kingdom of God is anywhere God is in control. It's where His rule and reign is expanding, where He's the King. In this way, the Kingdom expands as more hearts are turned toward Him, when we obey the greatest commandment, to love God with everything we have, and our neighbor as ourselves.
This means, as well, that the things God wants for the world -- restoration, healing, redemption, the first last and last first -- are happening. People who are Kingdom people will pray, like Jesus did, for His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. The rule and reign of God is GREAT news for the world: restored relationships, things set right, justice, mercy for the oppressed, a new way of living.
How good is this Kingdom message? It was THE "Good News" (the "Gospel") according to Jesus Himself in Mark 1! The Kingdom is HERE, now! God is setting things right, through His people! He has not abandoned us!
To the Jews of Jesus' day, the coming of the Kingdom meant specific things. They would be set free from oppression from, say, the Romans, for instance. But it's also prophesied in their scriptures: the lame would leap like deer, the deaf would hear, the mute sing for joy! In this way, Jesus not only proclaimed that "The Kingdom is here!" -- he illustrated it vividly through restoring sight, and letting the lame run. Healing was a sign of the Kingdom.
The Jews knew the coming of the Kingdom would mean great JOY, too. There would at last be enough for everyone, there would be great feasts -- a big party!
Jesus told tons of stories about the Kingdom, to try to illustrate to people what He was talking about, but it's still difficult, removed as we are from that culture, to reduce it to a quick sentence, that's for sure.
His crucifixion and resurrection were, obviously, central to this message. Instead of setting us politically free, He set us truly free -- free from just punishment of our rebellion, free from death itself.
Jesus' plan was bigger than that of His people at the time. His teaching gave us a way to be set free, here and now, from ourselves; from our sin, anger, bitterness, lust, envy, lack of contentment. (Read the Sermon on the Mount with that in mind, in Matthew 5-7.) The Kingdom was announced then, with Jesus telling people how happy ("blessed" in some translations) various on-the-outs groups would be that the Kingdom was here.
He starts preaching by immediately claiming he'd been anointed by God to proclaim the good news...to the poor. (Luke 4)
...and then there's the Kingdom that is "not yet". For now, we are allowed to choose what we want, to choose between the reign of the rightful King, or the Kingdom of Ourselves. Jesus made it clear, though, there will come a time when God brings his Kingdom in Full, and will restore everything with a new heaven and new earth. Those who choose the Kingdom will live in it forever. Those who choose the Kingdom of Self will get their choice, as well.
And just as we can see already, the Kingdom of God unites, brings people together, and builds community. The Kingdom of Self ultimately leaves us completely alone, even in the midst of others. Hell will be utter isolation, the Kingdom of Self in Full, chosen freely.
That's a quick summation. I hope it makes sense. It is THE theme of Jesus' ministry, but to be honest, I didn't learn much about it growing up.
May His Kingdom come, on earth, as it is in Heaven.