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)

This coming Sunday is Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday in the church year and also a celebration of the power and glory of King Jesus. As we look at text above, we see Jesus as the One who brings the kingdom of God. When Jesus brings God’s kingdom there is a direct conflict with rival kingdoms of this earth. What is a kingdom? Let me offer a definition that is simple and clear. A kingdom is any area or sphere in which someone or something holds a position of power to implement their will or way.

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 clique of friends. We may not think of our own lives this way, but it is also true that we are, in a sense, the ruler of the kingdom of our lives. We hold power in our lives to implement our own will or way, or to yield that will to another. We certainly encounter all sorts of kingdoms today, even though we may not use that specific word.

Rival earthly kingdoms (1:14)

Returning to Mark 1, we sense the urgency of the author’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 Herod Antipas, the ruler over Galilee and Perea, imprisoned John the Baptist. Herod Antipas imprisoned John because John was critical of Herod’s marriage to his brother’s ex-wife. Later on, this criticism indirectly leads to John’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 fit 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 also brings about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The lurching forward of Herod’s hand to imprison John becomes the momentum that leads Jesus to step forward in ministry around Galilee. And it is in light of this rival earthly kingdom that Jesus pronounces God’s kingdom is near.

Jesus declares that, in the midst of the power struggles around Galilee and all Judea, He presents a different sort of way. It is a kingdom that is under the preeminent rule of God, and this is something people longed for. This inbreaking rule of God was promised throughout Scriptures: that God would one day reign over Israel Himself. In fact, in and around Jesus’ time a wide variety of rebellions 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 context of Herod’s power struggle with John and proclaims His message, He immediately comes into contact with four men. In Mark 1:16-20 Jesus walks beside the Sea of Galilee and calls Simon (who we know as Peter), Andrew, James and John to follow 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 personal kingdom.

Yet just as Jesus’ message began to strike against Herod’s kingdom, so Jesus’ message strikes against the personal kingdoms of these men’s lives. You see, a kingdom is any area or sphere in which someone or something holds a position of power, and these men were kings over the kingdom of their own lives: kingdoms of fishing and business, kingdoms of overseeing hired men and working with their families, kingdoms of their daily words and actions, and the kingdoms of their interior lives.

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 position of power, and Jesus has arrived 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). As Jesus enter 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 a series of question today: What rival kingdoms is Jesus confronting in our world and our own lives today? What does it look like to live yielded to the kingship of Christ in our personal kingdoms? How might we enter into the reality that Jesus is King in a very personal and practical way today?

The Significance of Jesus’ Ascension

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Edward Bolwell, ascension day, Acrylic Paint on MDF Board; 2017

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,”they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Today is Ascension Day, when we celebrate the ascension of Jesus to the Father in heaven after His resurrection from death (Luke 24:49-51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:3-10). I believe the ascension is one of the most-neglected aspects of the life of Jesus with greater significance for our life with God as disciples of Jesus than we usually realize. Here is a traditional collect from the Book of Common Prayer for Ascension Day:

Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven: May our hearts and minds also there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I wrote three posts in 2018 about the importance of the ascension for our faith because of Jesus’ reign as King, Jesus’ mediation eternally, and Jesus’ future return in glory, and would encourage you to join me in considering the significance of Jesus’ ascension.

Read them here:

Eastbrook at Home – October 18, 2020

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM as we continue our annual MissionsFest, which is themed “We’re Family.” This weekend we have the opportunity to hear from some of our partners and workers around the world. Follow along with the entire MissionsFest here and join in with some of the other activities listed here. Access the downloadable bulletin, sermon notes, and sermon discussion guide here.

You can also join in with a daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time this week and in coming weeks. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access or download the service directly via Vimeo or the Eastbrook app.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in a donation to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

Eastbrook at Home – October 11, 2020

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM as we begin our annual MissionsFest, which spans the next two weekends and is themed “We’re Family.” This weekend we have the opportunity to hear from many of our partners and workers around the world. Follow along with the entire MissionsFest here and join in with some of the other activities listed here. Access the downloadable bulletin, sermon notes, and sermon discussion guide here.

You can also join in with a daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time this week and in coming weeks. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access or download the service directly via Vimeo or the Eastbrook app.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in a donation to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

Eastbrook at Home – October 4, 2020

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM as we conclude our five-week series “The Kingdom of God.” This weekend I explore how our faith and discipleship relate to our engagement with the public sphere, including politics. Follow along with the entire series here. Access the downloadable bulletin, sermon notes, and sermon discussion guide here.

You can also join in with a daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at both 9:30 and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time this week and in coming weeks. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access or download the service directly via Vimeo or the Eastbrook app.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in a donation to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.