Catch up on this series about the biblical foundations of my understanding of “mission” by going here.
Last time I wrote about the Good News, or gospel. The Good News Jesus preached was simply “The kingdom of God is here.”
But what did He mean? Why is this kingdom thing so good?
Jesus was constantly speaking about the “kingdom” in story and action. Perhaps his clearest explanation of its meaning came in the form of a prayer though.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come…
What is the kingdom? What does the kingdom look like?
…your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
The kingdom is God’s reign on earth, His action to deliver the people of earth, spiritually and physically, into right and intimate relationship with Him.
Wherever God’s will is done on earth God’s rule is manifested, He is king and his kingdom comes.
And we know what God’s will is because we’ve traced it through the entire bible up to this point. God wills to deliver mankind from sin, separation from one another and Himself, from spiritual and physical poverty, from injustice and every other symptom of our rebellion against Him in the Garden and ever since. God wants to save the nations into His protection and provision forever.
The arrival of the kingdom is Good News for rich people like you and me. Most of us know that we’ve been saved from sin and death but we do not know what we’ve been saved for. We’ve been save for the kingdom – for participating in God’s plan for the nations by partnering with Him to do His will on earth. The kingdom gives our money, time, talent, education – our life – purpose! More on that later.
But also, Jesus said the kingdom was Good News for the poor.
In Luke 4 He announced to the Jews that He was the king they’d been waiting for. He read to them from Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
–Luke 4:18-19 (cf Isaiah 61:1,2; 58:6)
God’s will on earth – the arrival of His kingdom – was good for the poor because they would be set free from prison, healed of their sicknesses, no longer treated unjustly.
When God’s will is carried out on earth the poor are protected and provided for. We all are! But its the last and “the least”, repeatedly in the New Testament, who experience the goodness of the kingdom first and most.
There’s a fancy theological word for it but I don’t know it. All I know is it was common in Jewish writing to make a thesis statement followed by a bunch of information and then close in a concluding statement. The thesis and conclusion were nearly, if not completely, identical. These two statements summarized all the information in between.
For example, Matthew 4:23 is a thesis statement:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Matthew 9:35 is a nearly identical concluding statement:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
The thesis and conclusion is this: Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom by teaching and healing.
Between these two statements we have an example of his teaching ministry called The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and examples of his healing ministry after that (Matthew 8-9).
This is important! Jesus was balanced in his proclamation of the kingdom: He did not only teach, but also healed. He did not only care for the body but also the mind and spirit. Jesus was perfectly holistic in His ministry. As a result, God’s kingdom, His will, His salvation and deliverance was portrayed by Jesus (and the rest of scripture) as holistic! And God was portrayed as creator and sustainer and lover of the whole person.
This is Good News for everyone!
For The Concerned
Now, I’ve been speaking on this subject of the kingdom for enough years to know that someone right now is “concerned.” Because I haven’t talked about sin, hell, heaven, forgiveness, eternity, evangelism. And even if I assure you I’ll get to all that, you may still be concerned. Because I didn’t start with all that stuff.
I didn’t start with all that stuff because Jesus didn’t. I’m starting at the beginning of His ministry, with His message and how He proclaimed it. I promise you I’ll get to all the things we modern Americans think of when we hear the words “salvation” and “kingdom of heaven” as soon as the bible gets to it. But no sooner. Cool?