Jesus and his Message



Jesus, the Jesus of history, the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth, the Jesus who was raised by his parents Joseph and Mary, the one who grew up as all good Jewish boys did memorizing the Torah, attending the synagogue and pilgrimaging to the temple; this Jesus began his public ministry with a simple announcement, “The Kingdom of God is near!”

For Jesus of Nazareth, from that point on forward, what began as his opening announcement remained his central message in all that he said and did.  He stayed on course with his Kingdom of God motif right through to the very end of his life.

If this was Jesus’ main message then we might ask: “What is the Kingdom of God?” and “how is it near (at hand)?” Many did ask Jesus these questions and other questions just like them.

Now, Jesus had a peculiar way of communicating his message when people would ask their questions. Many times he simply answered people’s questions with another question.. He had a way of seeing behind people’s questions to something deeper and quite revealing.

He also wasn’t nearly as literal and precise as we are today. Our modern sensibilities seem to prefer describing things in more of a straight forward and direct approach.  In contrast, Jesus chose to explain his message through simile and short stories called parables. Jesus went about saying such things like:

The Kingdom of  God is like a mustard seed..

The Kingdom of God is like yeast the a woman mixes into flour..

It is like a man who scatters seed on the ground..

It is like.. when a certain man was preparing  a great feast..

If Jesus were around today we could imagine Jesus being interviewed on the TV show Larry King Live. Larry might ask Jesus if he could explain more about his main message.  Jesus would begin explaining, “The kingdom is like this.. or the Kingdom is like that ..”  Larry King might ask Jesus in the closing 15 seconds of the show to simply break down his message into a headline or soundbite, something short, concise and clear. Jesus might say, “Well Larry, the Kingdom of God is like..”

You probably get the point already.

I have been on a journey of following this Jesus. The one who was born, lived, died and resurrected a couple millennia ago. When at first I started following Jesus, it was for a variety of different reasons and motivations (I could talk to you about those reasons some time in greater detail.) The point I want to make now is that I now find myself following Jesus for a different set of reasons. Some of the orignal reasons  remain, some have evolved, and many are brand new reasons altogether.

Paula and I are learning together what it means to follow Jesus. Recently we have been learning about and deeply exploring this central message of Jesus; the Kingdom of God. There are four accounts of the life of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When I first seriously started reading the story of Jesus I began in Matthew (because it was the first book in the New Testament). Matthew has Jesus going everywhere talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven“. At the time when I first started reading Matthew some people told me that Jesus came to teach people how to get to heaven when they die. Therefore, I used to read Jesus’ parables explaining “the Kingdom of Heaven” and think that he was describing what Heaven will be like for us one day after we die and escape this earthy physical dwelling. I assumed he was talking about a place somewhere else, not here.

Kingdom Of Heaven, Kingdom of God

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean 19th century

In contrast, Luke’s and Mark’s Gospel’s tells us Jesus was talking about the “Kingdom of God”. Even though these Gospels had “Kingdom of God” instead of “Kingdom of Heaven” I hadn’t really asked myself why the language was different in their account of things. I just assumed that all of these stories and parables were Jesus’ attempt at describing what Heaven was like and what we needed to do in order to get there some day.

Originally my motivations for following Jesus was more about getting to heaven, escaping this life. My hope was for a distant spiritual place far away from this physical place.

Recently, my motivations have been changing. I am waking up to the reality that actually Jesus wasn’t going around teaching people how to escape this world, rather he was planting creative stories in the minds and hearts of people which were explaining how God’s Kingdom was breaking into this one, the here and now, with renewing and transforming power.

I have been discovering that Jesus’ Kingdom of God Message is about the present, not simply the future. It is about what God is doing through us, not only what he does in and for us. Following Jesus and living for his Kingdom is not the least bit about escaping this world, rather, it is about shaping our world.

Our Lord teaches us to pray for the reality  of God’s-realm (heaven) to become meshed with our-space (earth).

“May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This has become our prayer. May the reality/life of heaven become reality in your life today. The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Harrowing of Hell/ 15 c. Hermitage

Harrowing of Hell 15 centurey. Hermitage

 

11 Comments

  • Julie Watts 21.04.2012 - 19:43pm

    Nick…
    I liked what you said about “Following Jesus and living for his Kingdom is not the least bit about escaping this world, rather, it is about shaping our world.” This is exactly what we are studying in our Sunday night group at Rods and trying to practice in our own lives. Kingdom living. Lance Wallnau tapes on the Seven Mountain Mandate … a prophecy that was given to Loren Cunningham & Bill Bright at the very same time spance. Pretty awesome.

    Love you Nick! Mom

  • Allen Yoder 23.04.2012 - 03:11am

    Nick,
    I’ve been enjoying the posts from you and Paula. I’m blessed by the way you “seek first the Kingdom”. I also say a hearty amen to what you’ve said in this post. Keep being a passionate follower of Jesus and keep seeking His Kingdom!
    Bless You!

    AL

    • I miss you Al. Thanks for the encouragement. I am very much looking forward to catching up this summer. CPx was more focused and quite helpful this second time!

    • Thanks Al. I am looking forward to seeing you and Anita when we get back. CPx the second time is very good and more focused than the first time. We just arrived in India and will be here 2 months and then be in the U.S. July and August. See you then!

  • Mary Vargas 24.04.2012 - 17:14pm

    Wow you put into words exactly how I believe. What a shift in our experience with knowing God and what His desire in living in and through us. When I began to see this truth it opened up my relationship with God and others. Being apart of the kingdom of God here and now. Thanks for letting the goodness of Christ live in you and sharing it.

    • Mary,
      Thanks so much for your prayers! We are very grateful. Hope you are doing well!

  • Dearest Nick and Paula, love reading your comments and sensing your heart and Paula’s. Happy travels and sharing God’s love to a world that needs it! We love you! Mom and Dad Aue

    • We love you both too! Thanks for the encouragement. We we miss you guys and are looking forward to spending time with you this summer!

  • Nick & Paula –

    I really enjoyed reading your blog & the great pics throughout. Judy and I had a wonderful time visiting with you at the baby shower. You have a really good perspective on the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessings

    • I have been reading and meditating upon Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven/God message for the last 5 years quite intently. It has been a great journey in difference of understanding from my unexamined assumptions to now a fresh and vibrant application of His main message.

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