Saturday, July 29, 2017

Signs of the Kingdom

Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God was already here but not yet present.  The Kingdom is a reality that is breaking through but has not yet come.  Each day we should be alert to signs of the Kingdom of God breaking into our ordinary existence.  Such signs give us hope, encouragement, and direction. 

I was reminded of this recently when I read this text from Matthew 19:14: 

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (NIV)

With grandchildren in our home on a regular basis, I have had the opportunity to think about this verse in a real-life context.  We love our children and grandchildren, but we also recognize that their conduct is not always exemplary.  They argue, they are selfish, they fail to get along with their siblings, but they do show genuine expressions of love and concern when we least expect it.

In this verse, I believe the intention is not that we should attempt to replicate the typical behavior of children in order to be closer to the Kingdom.  There is something else here.  In context, Jesus’ statement is preceded by this verse:

“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.”

What was the purpose of those who brought the children for Jesus’ blessing?  The place of children (especially female children) was not significant in the New Testament world, but perhaps in bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus, these parents and friends were expressing a desire for something more for these youngsters.  Perhaps they saw in Jesus a new way of valuing people and wanted to have that passed on to a new generation. 

I suggest that one sign of the Kingdom may be the hope that things will be better for those who follow us.  We hope that the Kingdom will become more real in their lives than it has been in ours until that generation in which the Kingdom of God is complete.  Therefore, we invest in nurturing Kingdom vision in those under our influence.

Another teaching here for us comes from the reaction of the disciples.  Did they think that blessing children was not worth their Master’s time?  Were they so concerned about their own position in the peaking order of the Kingdom that they were jealous of the time that others might spend with Jesus?   A sign of the Kingdom may be our willingness to share citizenship with others.

Finally, unlike many who followed Jesus, the children came expecting nothing except time in the presence of Jesus.  This may be challenge to us:  by spending more time with Jesus we will be better equipped to perceive the Kingdom at work.  Our perception of the Kingdom grows as we practice the presence of God in our lives.  If our spiritual senses are not properly tuned, our reception will be inadequate.  We won’t see the signs if we are not prepared to see them.

We may be citizens of the Kingdom, but we are still discovering its geography.

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