The Kingdom of God in Focus

Between Easter and Pentecost, I am reminded of how the resurrected (yet to be ascended) Lord Jesus spent his valuable time. When you know time is short you concentrate upon what is most important to you. “After his suffering, he presented himself to them [the disciples] 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.” (Acts 1:3) 
Jesus has forty days grace on his hands; forty days suddenly freed up in his schedule. The last time Jesus had “forty days” (and “forty nights”) he spent it in the wilderness (led there by the Holy Spirit) and faced fasting, hunger, the danger of wild animals and the devil’s temptation (Mt 4:2, Mk 1:13, Lk 4:2). Jesus willingly gave those forty days and now he is granted a further forty days. A bonus! And he uses it to speak about the Kingdom of God. Perhaps Jesus further fleshed out his previous teaching - misunderstandings corrected, concepts clarified, perplexing parables unravelled. Over these post-Easter, pre-Pentecost days, maybe you would find it beneficial to look at what the Word of God says about the Kingdom of God.   
As part of his mission, Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God: “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God … because that is why I was sent.” (Lk 4:43). “He travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Lk 8:1, 9:11). He also sent his disciples out to “Go and proclaim the Kingdom of God” as their priority (Lk 9:2,60). This is still our mission priority!  
Jesus points to evidence of the present Kingdom - power, healing and the driving out of demons “by the Spirit (or Finger) of God” (Mt 12:28, Lk 11:20) Those who were wise were “not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mk 12:34). It, or rather He (for Jesus personified and embodied the Kingdom) was in their midst, though not observed by all (Lk 17:20-21). In Jesus, the kingdom of God has come and is near (Mk 1:15, Lk 10:9,11, 21:31). It was also an anticipated Kingdom both in the near (Mk 9:1, Lk 9:27) and far-future – a ‘feast’ with places reserved (Lk 13:29, 14:15). In Jesus’ day, there were those who were waiting for the Kingdom of God (Mk 15:43, Lk 23:51). He had now arrived! But seemingly in secret. Ashamedly, Jesus continues to be the church’s best kept secret. 
Jesus shared his secrets with his disciples: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others (those on the outside) I speak (everything) in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’ (Lk 8:10, Mk 4:11) He pondered the best way to explain the Kingdom, for those who really want it, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? (Mk 4:30,26) “What shall I compare it to?” (Lk 13:18,20)  
Jesus taught about the Kingdom’s entry requirements. He had good news for the poor and child-like, those spiritually born anew of God. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Lk 6:20) “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk 10:14, Lk 18:16, 7:28) “… anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mk 10:15, Lk 18:17) No one can see (or enter) the kingdom of God “unless they are born again.” (Jn 3:3) However, Jesus had disappointing news for the rich: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mt 19:24, Mk 10:23-25, Lk 18:24-25). 
The good news of the kingdom was preached and people were “forcing their way into it” (Lk 16:16) through repentance and belief (Mk 1:15). In fact, “the tax collectors and the prostitutes” were “entering the kingdom of God” ahead of the religious leaders of the day (Mt 21:31). Shockingly, he told them, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Mt 21:43) “There will be weeping … and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” (Lk 13:28) You have been warned! 
There was a Kingdom cost - initial and ongoing; with the potential loss of “home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:29) or even a metaphorical body part (Mk 9:43-47) “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). So, are you fit for the Kingdom of God? “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:62). Which way are you facing?  Where is your focus?

Revd Michael Hogg