The central message of Jesus was the kingdom of God. Following Jesus’ temptation, what happened? Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.'”
Mark 1:14-15 adds, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”
In Luke 4:43, Jesus says, ““I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.””
But what is the kingdom? Where is it? How do we enter it? Respond to it? Live in light of its reality?
Is the kingdom big? How big?
Is it small? How small?
We can seek the kingdom. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
How do we enter it? Regeneration is the theological term. We’re born into it. Jesus says in John 3:3, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” The Holy Spirit is involved here.
The kingdom of God can be present but missed. In Luke 17:20-21, “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’” Other translations render this “the kingdom of God is within you.”
When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples, he taught them about the kingdom. Acts 1:3 says, “After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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.”
Whatever the kingdom of God is, it is distinct from the kingdoms of this world. In John 18:36 Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” The kingdom of Jesus has its origin in God’s realm, the heavens.
The kingdom of God is not only a matter of outward observances, but an inward quality. In Romans 14:17-18, Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
In Matthew 6:10, Jesus tells us to pray for the kingdom to come.
In Luke 12:32, Jesus says, ““Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” That’s a tremendous claim.
Jesus compared the kingdom to a treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of great price, leaven, a mustard seed, a sprouting seed, a net, a king offering a feast on a wedding day, a king settling accounts, a man going on a journey who entrusts talents to his servants, a group of young virgins, and a generous landowner.
Some big things. Some small things.
Things plainly visible. Things hidden.
It’s a broad metaphor.
But it tells us a lot. It invites us to pay attention. To seek. But also to stand confident. The kingdom is a gift. Something that is received. Something the Father gives and the Spirit initiates us into by the new birth. It pleases God to give us the kingdom.