February 15, 2015
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” This is what Dorothy says to her little dog when she finds herself in a completely different land. It’s the land of Oz. Wouldn’t it be something if through some event you just found yourself in a completely different world or land?
All of us are very accustomed to life in this world. It’s the only reality we know by experience. Sometimes by reading a book or watching a movie we can be transported into a different reality, but it’s not our reality. And it’s not real.
When we think about the reality we know, it is a very mixed bag. There are many beautiful things and people and experiences that we have. But there is also a great deal of heartache, trouble and sadness. We are daily confronted with evil and deceit. Were we not all shocked to hear about NBC news anchor Brian Williams? There is so much corruption in government and in the workplace. It’s not a pretty picture.
And here comes Jesus. He represents and talks about a completely different reality. It’s the reality of the Kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God everything is good. The kingdom of God is ruled by God and his goodness and love. And Jesus invites everyone to enter into the reality of life in the kingdom of God. But of course when we enter into this reality we embrace a new king and a new way of living. Jesus Christ is the King in the Kingdom of God.
I. JESUS IS GOD THE KING IN THE FLESH.
Last week we pointed out how God’s intention is to see his kingdom established among mankind. He created mankind to have a share in his kingdom rule. When Adam and Eve sinned they rejected God’s kingdom and sin entered into the world and the heart of mankind. God then raised up a people for himself through which to reestablish his kingdom among mankind. But his people, Israel, also rejected God’s kingdom rule in favor of having human, earthly kings who, of course, were all flawed. Of all the kings of Israel, David was the greatest, and even David was deeply flawed.
That God intends to establish his kingdom among mankind is clear because when we go to the end of the Bible, to the book of Revelation, we read that, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
You ask, “Why is it so important to talk about God’s kingdom.” Well, it is important because there is a tendency for us to equate the kingdom of God with going to heaven when we die. Many of us were raised under Gospel preaching that focused on having our sins forgiven so that we could have eternal life in heaven. And that is very important, but it is only one aspect of the Gospel. When Jesus walked this earth, he primarily spoke about the arrival of the Kingdom of God and invited people to enter into it by following him. Acknowledging the central place of the kingdom of God in the Gospel helps us to better understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Way back in Numbers 22-24, we read about an incident that occurred while Israel was making its way to the Promised Land. Balak, the king of Moab, hired a prophet named Balaam to come and pronounce a curse against the people of Israel. I was surprised to learn in my study that Balaam lived some 400 miles northeast of Moab. When Balaam tried to curse Israel, God would not allow it and instead of cursing, blessings came out of his mouth. And in Num.24:17, Balaam says, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”
When Jesus was born and the wise men came from the east, they stopped by Herod’s Palace in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Last week we looked at Dan.7:13-14, which says, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” We believe this refers to Jesus and that Jesus is God’s appointed king over his kingdom.
When we come to the New Testament, we see that Jesus is a very unique person. For example, In Jn.1:1-2 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Well this is very interesting language. This person called the Word, is both with God and is God at one in the same time. He is distinct from God and yet is God at one in the same time. How can this be? And then in Jn.1:14 we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” As we continue to read in John’s gospel we learn that this one who became flesh is none other than Jesus. In fact, throughout John’s gospel there are numerous places in which Jesus claims that he is God in the flesh. That Jesus made these claims is clear because there were a number of times when the Jewish religious leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy because they realized he was making himself equal with God. God in the flesh!
It’s not a bad idea. I mean, if God wants to establish his rule among mankind, what better way than to come to the earth himself in the form of a man? “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate deity.”
When Jesus walked the earth his words and actions revealed that he had the power of God within him. Not only that but he acted as one would expect a good king to act. He cared for people. While the Jewish teachers taught by quoting other teachers, Jesus taught as one having authority within himself and people enjoyed listening to his teaching about God. Jesus had a reputation for being able to heal people of all sorts of illnesses. He restored sight to the blind. He healed people of being deaf and mute. He healed the lame. In fact he raised people from the dead. At one point, in a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus stopped the winds and calmed the sea by merely speaking to it. “Be still,” he said. On two occasions Jesus fed thousands of people by multiplying a few loaves of bread and some fish. In Jn.6:14-15, after Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes it says, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
People recognized that Jesus was different. And people referred to Jesus using titles found in the Old Testament that refer to the Messiah. When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter responded by saying, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” In Lk.4:4 we read, “And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.” In Jn.1:49 when Nathanael met Jesus, we read, “Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” When Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the people shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” God is spirit. No one has ever seen God, but because Jesus is fully God and fully man, he has revealed God to the world.
Now let’s go back to Dan.7. This is important because Jesus rarely called himself “King” or “Son of God.” He rarely came out and said that he is the Messiah. Rather Jesus’ favorite way to refer to himself was to use the phrase, “son of man.” The phrase, “son of man,” basically means to be a human. Jesus is a human being like us. But astute observers who knew the Old Testament would see that by calling himself, “son of man” he was claiming to be the king referred to in Dan.7. He is “The Son of Man.”
It is interesting that in the Bible, both God and Jesus are referred to as king. They both reign over the kingdom of God. I have often wondered about this. How can both be king? The way I have come to think of it is that Jesus is God the King in the flesh. It is a wonderful thing. Here God presents himself in a way that we can actually wrap our minds around. God is with us in Jesus.
II. JESUS IS WORTHY OF OUR WHOLEHEARTED WORSHIP. Jn.18:33-37
We live in a day in which scientific naturalism seems to hold sway over the minds of many people. Scientists and science professors make pronouncements about the existence of God, asserting far more than science can ever ascertain. And while the New Atheists are not as prominent at the moment, atheism is growing in its appeal. Many seem to be abandoning church. Liberal theologians and Bible scholars freely claim that the miracles and many of the statements attributed to Jesus in the New Testament were made up by the early church. There was no actual resurrection from the dead, the church invented this to keep the basic teachings of Jesus alive. People who thoughtfully or thoughtlessly dismiss Jesus, claiming science as their authority are often resolute in their view and it is not easy to discuss the claims of Christ with them. They have no inclination to believe in or worship Jesus. And, of course, there are many who embrace Islam or some other world religion. And they do not worship Jesus because they worship something else.
And then there are many who do profess a belief in Jesus, but their approach to Jesus is much like we view the IRS. I believe in the IRS. I believe enough in the IRS that I do my best to steer clear of the IRS. We make sure our taxes are done by someone who can figure it all out. We make sure that we have paid enough to cover our income tax and social security. In other words we jump through all the necessary hoops to be on the good side of the IRS.
This is how many people view God and Jesus. They believe in God and Jesus enough to want to be on their good side. So they try to jump through the appropriate hoops. They are baptized. They take Holy Communion. They attend church every so often. And they think that Jesus was a really nice person who loved everyone. They try to be decent people and hope that they are doing well enough to stay in God’s good graces.
But this is not how the scripture presents Jesus. In Jn.9 we read about a man who was blind from birth and was a beggar. The disciples asked Jesus if this man was blind because he sinned or because his parents sinned. Jesus said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” And then Jesus restored the man’s sight. Well, this got the man in big trouble with the Jewish religious leaders. They greatly disliked Jesus and they actually excommunicated the blind man from synagogue worship. When Jesus heard that they excommunicated the man, he found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” This man had a life changing encounter with Jesus and the result is that the man worshiped Jesus.
In Lk.8 Jesus heals a man who had many demons dwelling in him. The man lived in the tombs, running around naked. He would cut himself and when the people tried to chain him up he would break the chains. He was in a pitiful condition. Jesus came and cast the demons out. In Lk.8:35-36 we read, “Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed.” In v.38-39 it says, “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” Again this man had a life changing encounter with Jesus and he wanted to be with Jesus, to follow Jesus. When Jesus told the man that he should stay in his town and tell what Jesus had done him, no doubt the man was disappointed, but he was obedient. It was his pleasure to do what Jesus told him told him to do.
Men and women, never in the New Testament are we told that we must somehow appease Jesus and God in order to stay in their good graces. What we are told is that we should repent of our sinful, self-centered lives and enter into the kingdom of God by believing the good news about Jesus. What is the good news? The good news is that God welcomes into his kingdom those who come to Jesus and put their trust, their confidence in Jesus to save and transform their lives. Through faith our sins are forgiven and we begin to live a new life with Christ who comes to live in us. This new life is lived out as we worship and obey Jesus, our new king. He becomes our king when we surrender our life to him, trusting in him to save us from our sinful, selfish selves.
Now let me ask you a question. Has Jesus done anything in your life that would compel you to make him the king of your life? There’s no question that Jesus is the king in the Kingdom of God. There is no question that Jesus alone can forgive your sins and give you life in his wonderful kingdom, but has Jesus done this for you? Have you embraced him by faith as your Savior, Lord and King. The blind man’s life was transformed by Jesus and he worshiped Jesus. The man with many demons had his life transformed by Jesus and he obeyed Jesus. What has Jesus done for you? Is it significant enough for you to worship and obey him every day of your life? Is Jesus the King of your life? Amen.