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Which Kingdom?

Jesus has now been resurrected and we have just passed the time of the Passover, the time when the Jews celebrated the slaughtering of the lamb and wiping of blood across their doorframes for the protection from the Spirit that went through Egypt to kill all of the firstborns as God led the Jews out of Egypt.

Jesus then stays with his disciples for 40 days, showing himself to convince them that he truly is resurrected from the dead and alive. They are in Jerusalem at this time and the book of Acts says that Jesus continues to teach them, just as he had done initially, about the Kingdom of God.

But the disciples, of course, continue to be confused. They ask instead about the kingdom of Israel. When will you restore Israel?

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ā€œDo not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.ā€

Then they gathered around him and asked him, ā€œLord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?ā€

Acts 1:3-6

Yeah, here we go again. How often does Jesus try to tell them about the Kingdom of God and the disciples turn around and think about the kingdom of Israel. They can’t seem to get the political kingdom out of their minds? Remember, at one point they were stuck on the idea that they would sit at Jesus’s right hand. It seems that they are salivating over this idea yet again.

In my mind, this connects directly to a conversation I have been having recently where we are. A man has been telling me that the message that we promote – that we are disciples who have all of the privileges and responsibilities found in the Bible – runs counter to Christian culture, whether it be Evangelical Christian or Catholocism. He has been asking me how it can be that, if you are in a church community, you can act in the way that Jesus taught?

Why do I see these two discussions as similar? Why would it be that the discussion about the disciples’ confusion over the kingdom of Israel vs. the Kingdom of God would be similar to the idea that we should act as disciples of Christ even within the context of a church community?

I say this because I believe that this doesn’t happen – that people are not equipped and sent to be the disciples that Christ has called us to be – because we prefer instead to build our own kingdoms. There is a dying world all around us, and instead of equipping and sending the people out to be the ambassadors that we are called to be, we instead prefer to gather the people to ourselves…and keep them to ourselves. We, as leaders, will often believe that we are the gatekeepers of truth. We are the ones that will get it right, and we will justify our actions by saying that we have a responsibility to protect right theology. How could I possibly justify sending someone else out to declare the Word of God? What if they get it wrong?

My goodness, how we build our kingdoms. We use excuses that sound right in the moment that they are being spoken, but in the end turn out to be a convenience to prevent obedience to the Word of God, to the direct commands of Christ. Instead of obeying the entire Word of God, we choose the parts that we like and do not teach the parts that we fear will cause a problem to our kingdoms.

And in that entire time, we instead mess with the growth of the Kingdom of God. We disobey God. We no longer do what Christ has told us to do. We need to repent and realize that we live and serve at the pleasure of our King, King Jesus. He is the King and he determines what is to be done. He has already told us. We should not stand in the way. We should not think of our own kingdoms and our own positions within them. We should, instead, think of God’s Kingdom and His glory.

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