The Kingdom of God is Near

14Now after John had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee and proclaimed the gospel about the kingdom of God. 15He said, “The time is now! The kingdom of God is near! Repent, and keep believing the gospel!” — Mark 1:14-15 (ISV)

Jody asked me to write a devotional today, and suggested I might say a few words about the kingdom of God.  She has been looking at it from a number of angles throughout the week.

So I look at this proclamation of the kingdom.  I like the gospel of Mark because it doesn’t waste any time getting to the point.  That’s something I don’t do well at all.  I like to ramble, just as I’m doing right now!

I think we have a problem hearing what Jesus says here in modern America because our world is so much different.  We think primarily of rights, power that derives from the people, and individual success.  The idea of a kingdom is truly incomprehensible to many of us.

But the people to whom Jesus spoke lived in a very different world.  Rome did not rule by consent of the governed.  Revolts against Rome generally had nothing to do with giving power to the people.  They were about giving power to a different monarch.

Further, there was no distinction between a religious kingdom and a secular kingdom.  This is a distinction we will think that we understand today, because we are used to such separation.  In religious matters we owe our allegiance to a church and in secular matters we owe our allegiance to the state.

But when Jesus spoke these words, that sort of separation didn’t exist.  The state claimed authority in all spheres.  When the Jews revolted against Rome, it was not merely a political act.  They were asking for sovereignty over their own religion at the same time.

When Jesus told people that his kingdom was not of this world, it was not an effort to claim that he was a “safe” person and that the Romans had nothing to fear from him.  They weren’t happy with anything less than full sovereignty.

The Jews who were listening were also not going to be happy with anything less than full sovereignty.  So when Jesus said, “Repent, and believe the good news,” they would have understood a call to commitment.  N. T. Wright has suggested a good translation would be “Give up your agendas and trust me for mine.”

Jesus did not call his disciples to a democracy either.  He called them to belong to a kingdom.  “Kingdom” would have been understood as a place where the king has all the authority and the subjects are, well, subject to him.  Jesus didn’t offer a bill of rights or a list of options.  He called for full and total sovereignty.

Is that how you understand God’s kingdom?  Is it your first allegiance in everything?  Or is it something that controls just the part of your life labeled “religious” or “spiritual”?

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