17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17
There are a few places in this world that are just mine. I get to control what happens there – how they are decorated and how they are treated. I have a bench in my bedroom. I have my office at work. And, I have my car. That’s it. In those places, essentially what I say, goes. You could call those places “my kingdom.” The idea of a kingdom is hard for us to comprehend since we live in a republic, not a monarchy. However, for people in Jesus’ day, it was terminology they would have been very familiar with. Jesus claimed there is a way to live under God’s rule and reign, where what he wants done, is done.
Jesus’ kingdom terminology is confusing to us because we see other kingdoms at work in our world – kingdoms of darkness, evil, hate, and oppression. However, this was what Jesus’ original followers saw too. When Jesus claimed that his kingdom was “at hand,” he didn’t mean all other kingdoms were ceasing. No! He meant his kingdom was now available to anyone who would repent and enter it – and it was in conflict with the empires of earth. There was a divine invasion taking place and an invitation for people to join the movement!
Jesus followed his declaration of the kingdom with an invitation to become his disciple. Becoming a disciple of Jesus meant and means his followers live in his kingdom. We shape our lives around his presence, his ideals, and his way of living. We repent (change our minds) of thinking about life in the way of the kingdoms of the earth and we embrace the Jesus way. We love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, go the second mile, and hold out good news to all. Those are the places in which Jesus rules. The scriptures talk about life in this kingdom as “new birth,” (John 3:3) or as “being transferred from kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:13) The life of discipleship is life in an alternate kingdom, worshipping a crucified risen king, and praying a subversive prayer – “thy kingdom come, and thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” What kingdom are you living in? What king are you following?
On Sunday, I explained the gospel using circles. Take some time today and draw out those diagrams for yourself and then share it with someone.
By Ryan Paulson