“The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9b)
Clyde turned off the TV news with a sigh. Wars, knife crime, murders: what was the
world coming to? On top of the TV was a framed embroidery made by his wife. Clyde
read the cross-stitched words, “For God is the king of all the earth.” Just how his
wife could believe that was beyond him! Couldn’t she see the suffering all around
her? As far as Clyde was concerned, if there was a God ruling over everything then
this God was not doing a very good job!
The Gospel reading set for the Feast of Luke (Luke 10:1-9), reveals that Jesus’ main
message was all about God’s rule and his belief that God’s kingdom was near. What
exactly did he mean and does this message provide any answers for Clyde?
Jesus was on his way down from Galilee to Jerusalem and on this journey he would
pass through many towns and villages. He sent out his followers to proclaim a message
to each of these places before he arrived. This message was very simple: “The kingdom
of God has come near to you.”
The kingdom was an image very familiar to the Jewish people and something they awaited
with eager anticipation, believing it to be a time when God would intervene and restore
their nation, liberating them from their enemies. However, rather than proclaiming
that God would intervene to liberate and restore a physical country, Jesus’ message
was that God would intervene in individuals’ lives, liberating them from their sin
and restoring their relationship with God.
The most striking aspect of the message was that this intervention of God was not
something far away but very near. There has been much debate amongst scholars over
exactly what “the kingdom of God has come near” actually means, but I. Howard Marshall
sums it up neatly by saying that the kingdom “is near to those who hear the message
and experienced by those who respond to it”. So this kingdom is available through
Jesus and through the message about him that his followers preached.
Jesus believed that people would be desperate to hear this message of hope: the harvest
was ripe for the picking. So he impressed upon his disciples the urgency of spreading
that message, hence the rather strange directions about not taking purses and bags
etc. with them and not being fussy over the food provided by their hosts – whether
kosher or not. Nothing was to get in the way of the proclamation, not even worrying
about their possessions or food, and they were exhorted to pray for even more people
to take Jesus’ message out.
So what exactly does the kingdom mean for us and people like Clyde? Well, Clyde was
right in recognising that the world is not how God intended it to be; it is messed
up and in rebellion against its ruler. The Bible teaches that one day this will be
put completely right and all will submit to God, their king.
However, Jesus’ message is one of more immediate hope: that God’s kingdom is here
now in the lives of those who respond to the Church’s message about Christ. In Christ,
God intervenes, vanquishing the power sin has over our lives and removing the barriers
between ourselves and God so we can communicate directly with our heavenly king through
Our sins have been forgiven, no matter how bad they are, and we can make a fresh
start with hope for the future. We can know the help of God’s Spirit to overcome
our own weaknesses and struggles with sin. We can know God’s help to become the people
he intended us to be, not damaged and weighed down by the evils of the world. We
can know the peace of trusting that our lives are in the hands of the ruler of the
universe and not subject to the whims of cruel fate or random chance. And as we see
God’s rule in our own life overcoming evil, we can reach out to those who are suffering
in this rebellious world and show them something of God’s kingdom.
This is a message of hope, and no wonder Christ believed there was a harvest of people
desperate to respond to such good news. Let us pray about how we can let others know
that the kingdom is near to them and that, in this dark and often frightening world,
a taste of heaven is not far away.
Reverend Canon Stuart Ansell