Jesus the King of Another Kingdom

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After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.  When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20)

As we look at this text, we see Jesus coming as the king who brings the kingdom of God. But as Jesus brings that kingdom it comes into direct conflict with rival kingdoms.

What is a kingdom? Let me give a definition that is simple and clear. A kingdom is any area or sphere in which someone or something holds a preeminent position.

We may not think of kingdoms much in our lives today, but we still have them. We just use different terms. We say things like the president governs the nation, the principal runs the school, or the parents maintain the household. We say things like Jeremiah or Leticia has their click of friends. We certainly encounter all sorts of kingdoms today, even though we may not use that specific word.

Rival earthly kingdoms (1:14)

When we return to Mark 1, we sense the urgency of Mark’s writing. Mark does not take time to explain what happened to John the Baptist, only that he “was put in prison.”

For the back story, we must turn to Mark 6, where we read that it was Herod Antipas, the ruler over Galilee and Perea, who imprisoned John the Baptist. Herod Antipas imprisoned John because John the Baptist was critical of Herod’s marriage to his brothers ex-wife. Later on, this criticism leads to John the Baptist’s death. Herod represents all the power and authority of human kingdoms who do what they want and manipulate others for their own gain.

Herod’s life and rule certainly fits our definition of a kingdom: “any area or sphere in which someone or something holds a preeminent position.”

In his life, Herod lived like he knew he held preeminent position in the area of Galilee, if not beyond. That’s why he arrests John the Baptist when he criticizes something Herod did. Despots don’t like criticism.

But Herod’s rival earthly kingdom is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The lurching forward of Herod’s hand to imprison John becomes the momentum that leads Jesus into His ministry around Galilee. And it is in light of this rival earthly kingdom that Jesus pronounces God’s kingdom is near.

Jesus is saying that in the midst of the power struggles around Galilee and all Judea, He is presenting a different sort of way. It is a kingdom that is under the preeminent rule of God, and this is something the people were longing for. It was promised all throughout the Scriptures that God would one day reign over Israel Himself. In fact, in and around Jesus’ time there were a wide variety of rebellions that were directly linked to expectations of God’s kingdom coming.

But Jesus is presenting a different sort of way. It is the kingdom of God that comes hidden, humble, and yet full of power.

Rival personal kingdoms (1:18, 20)

There are other sorts of kingdoms, however. As Jesus turns from the setting of Herod’s power struggle with John and proclaims His message, He immediately comes into contact with four men. See here in verses 16-20 that Jesus walks beside the Sea of Galilee and calls Simon (who we know as Peter), Andrew, James and John to come after Him.

We will return to Jesus’ calling and message to them, but let’s talk for a bit about where these men stood. They were under no impression that they had authority like Herod Antipas. They were not trying to become the next president of the United States. But they still lived in their own little kingdom.

But just as Jesus’ message began to strike against Herod’s kingdom, so Jesus’ message begins to strike against these other men’s personal kingdoms. You see, a kingdom is any area or sphere in which someone or something holds a preeminent position, and these men were kings over their own kingdoms: kingdoms of fishing and business, kingdoms of ruling hired men and working with their families.

Now, there is nothing wrong with these sort of kingdoms in and of themselves, but we have to recognize them for what they are. They are areas or spheres in which someone or something holds a preeminent position, and Jesus is declaring that the kingdom of God holds sway over all rival kingdoms. God is the king and He holds no rivals.

Even in our personal kingdoms, God is calling us to recognize His rule and authority.

Rival powers and authorities (Colossians 2:15)

Later on in Scripture, the Apostle Paul describes the work of Jesus Christ in this way: He “disarmed the powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross” (Colossians 2:15).

You see, as Jesus breaks into the world, He is calling the world toward a new way of living. He is calling us to bring our kingdom and rule, whether large or small, under His kingdom and rule. All of the places where we have authority; all of the places where we have power; all of the places where we have a role over something…we must bring it to the feet of the King.

Jesus is the King – over all kingdoms and over all our lives. So let me ask us all to consider a question today: What rival kingdoms is Jesus confronting in our world?

Dying to Live (discussion questions)

Jesus at the Center Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Dying to Live,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the fifth part of our series, “Jesus at the Center,” from the book of Colossians. This week we looked at Colossians 2:16-23.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have you felt judged by someone else? What happened and how did you respond?
  2. We continue our series, “Jesus at the Center,” from Colossians by studying Colossians 2:16-23. Whether you are on your own or with a small group, begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak to you through His word, and then read that portion aloud.
  3. Background: This section of the letter builds on 2:6-15, which seems to highlight a type of wrong belief or false teaching present in the Colossian church. While there is some debate about exactly what the nature of that false teaching was, it seems that there were elements of Jewish asceticism and mysticism present. Paul’s desire is to keep the believers focused on the fully sufficient work of Jesus Christ.
  4. In verses 16-17 what is Paul addressing that some people may use as a basis for religious judgment?
  5. What do you think he means by saying these things are “a shadow of the things that were to come”?
  6. What is the false belief he is addressing in verse 18? According to verse 19, what is the outcome of such false beliefs?
  7. What would you say are tendencies toward false belief today that could lead us away from Jesus the center?
  8. Paul highlights the basis of our changed life and reality in verse 20. What is it? Why would this change the way we relate to religious rules and regulations?
  9. How might we move beyond the superficial rules that “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (v 23) or superficial regulations that “are a shadow of realities to come” (v 17) in our life together as a church?
  10. What is one significant thing that God is speaking to you through this study? If you are on your own, you may want to write it down, pray about it, and then share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, share these things with one another and then pray for one another about these things.

Memorize: This week we continue our memorization of Colossians 1:15-20 by focusing on Colossians 1:18. Read the verse through multiple times a day this week. Consider some of our other recommended helps for Bible memorization here: www.eastbrook.org/memorize.

[Next week we will continue our series, “Jesus at the Center,” by looking at Colossians 3:1-17.]

Dying to Live

Jesus at the Center Series Gfx_App Wide
We continued our series, “Jesus at the Center,” this past weekend at Eastbrook by looking at a somewhat obscure passage found in Colossians 2:16-23. Here, Paul and Timothy push back against some wrong ideas that will lead the early believers in Colossae astray from the truth found in Christ. We face similar struggles today, so I spent some time with a whiteboard talking about living withing God’s circle of truth.

You can watch the message here, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Jesus: God’s Secret Revealed (discussion questions)

Jesus at the Center Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Jesus: God’s Secret Revealed,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the first part of our series, “Jesus at the Center,” from the book of Colossians. This week we looked at Colossians 1:24-2:25.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Answer one of these:
    • What has been one the biggest surprises you have ever experienced in your life? What happened and how did you respond?
    • Have you ever carried a secret with you that you were finally able to share with someone? What did it feel like to share the secret?
  2. As we carry forward with our series from Colossians, “Jesus at the Center,” we are looking at Colossians 1:24-2:5. Whether you are on your own or with a small group, begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak to you through His word, and then read that portion aloud.
  3. In verses 24-25, Paul begins this section by highlighting his own work for the church, including his suffering for the sake of Christ and the church. Why do you think Paul emphasizes his own role here? What does this communicate to the believers in Colossae? (You may want to read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 for a sense of some of Paul’s sufferings.)
  4. Paul takes it a step further, saying: “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.” It’s likely that the second half of verse 25 helps us understand how Paul’s ministry fills in the as of yet incomplete reach of God’s message around the nations that is tied in with the sufferings before the end of the age. What do you think this phrase means?
  5. The word ‘mystery’ appears three times in this passage (1:26, 27; 2:2). What is this mystery, according to these three references?
  6. Why do you think it is a big deal that the ‘Gentiles’ (literally ‘nations’; that is, non-Jews) are involved in God’s work in Christ?
  7. What does it mean to you that the hope of glory is a part of your life because of Jesus? How does this change the way you think about your daily life and your eternal destiny?
  8. According to verses 28-29, what is Paul’s goal in his teaching of the believers? Why is this important?
  9. It’s likely that 2:1-5 connects with the difficulties in the midst of the Colossian church, which is talked about later in chapter 2:16-23. Because of Paul’s emphasis on Jesus as the full revelation of God’s treasures of wisdom (vs 3), what do you think he might be combatting in the minds and hearts of the believers?
  10. What is one significant thing that God is speaking to you through this study? If you are on your own, you may want to write it down, pray about it, and then share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, share these things with one another and then pray for one another about these things.

Memorize: This week we continue our memorization of Colossians 1:15-20 by focusing on Colossians 1:16. Read the verse through multiple times a day this week. Consider some of our other recommended helps for Bible memorization here: www.eastbrook.org/memorize.

Jesus: God’s Secret Revealed

Jesus at the Center Series Gfx_App Wide
This past weekend at Eastbrook I continued our series, “Jesus at the Center,” by looking at Colossians 1:24-2:5. A key concept in this passage is the ‘mystery’ of God found in Christ. It may not be what you expected. So, we have to ask ourselves: are we ready for this secret?

You can watch the message here, and follow along with the outline below (although I sort of left it behind this weekend). You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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