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, bringing 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?

Faith Looking Forward [Daniel 8]

After a weekend off due to sickness (thank you, Pastor Jim Caler, for covering for me last weekend!), I continued our series on the book of Daniel this past weekend at Eastbrook Church by turning to chapter 8, the second of Daniel’s apocalyptic visions.

Daniel 8 continues the apocalyptic visions of the second half of the book. As with my message on Daniel 7, “Faith in God Amidst the Beasts,” this message, “Faith Looking Forward,” engages our imagination through God’s inspired symbols and images of what is really going on in the midst of human history. Daniel has this vision during the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, the last of the Babylonian kings represented in Daniel, and thus it takes place chronologically before Daniel 5 and 6. We are introduced to figures that stand against God which both reflect the antichrist spirit and the future Antichrist figure that is to come.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Faith in God Amidst the Beasts [Daniel 7]

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued our series on the book of Daniel by turning our attention to chapter 7, which begins the markedly different second half of the book. Chapters 1-6 are court narratives, while chapters 7-12 are apocalyptic visions. This first vision serves as a sort of parallel to Daniel 2 and overview of where the rest of the book is going.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Faith Speaking Truth to Power [Daniel 4]

As we continued our series on the book of Daniel this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I turned our attention to chapter 4, where Daniel interprets another of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. This is an interesting passage, and has been debated in its historicity. In the Dead Sea Scrolls the “Prayer of Nabonidus” (4Q242) echoes this chapter, both confirming the authenticity of the tone of Daniel 4, yet also raising some questions about the historical framework presented there. Nabonidus came to the throne in Babylon after overthrowing Neriglissar, who succeeded Amel-Marduk (after his execution) as king. Nabonidus ruled the empire for some time from Teima, a site in present day Saudi Arabia, while his son, Belshazzar (see Daniel 5), ruled in the city of Babylon.

Beyond the historical issues, there is a clear theme in the book of Daniel of God being the One who rules over all kingdoms and all kings. In this instance, the king learns that lesson, while in Daniel 5 the king pushes back against it to his harm. Even in the kingdoms of our own lives, we have the opportunity to either submit to God as ruler of all or push back against His rule.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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The Significance of Jesus’ Ascension

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

Today is Ascension Day, when 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 this is one of the most-neglected aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus with great significance for our lives as disciples of Jesus.

I want to encourage you to read my three posts from earlier in this week on the importance of the ascension for our faith because of Jesus’ reign as King, Jesus’ mediation eternally, and Jesus’ future return in glory.

Read them here:

The Ascension and Jesus’ Intercession (Part 2 of 3)

fullsizeoutput_93fPrayer is one of the most universal aspirations of the human heart, but what does it mean that Jesus, ascended with the Father, now eternally intercedes for us? In the second part of my three-part reflection on Ascension Day  this week, I want to reflect on the significance that after His ascension Jesus intercedes for us.

Forty days after completion of His work in the Cross and the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven to rule as King at the Father’s right hand. His sacrifice was a once-for-all event (Hebrews 9:24-28) that secured His place as the unique mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5).

The writer to the Hebrews builds upon these truths to help us understand Jesus’ role in the presence of God not only as King but as eternal intercessor: “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Some see this as Jesus forever bowed in prayer for us, but the picture is different and richer than that. Jesus stands in the presence of the Living God simultaneously as our Advocate and High Priest and Sacrificial Lamb before the Father. His eternal sacrifice is eternally effective and eternally offered before God on our behalf (Hebrews 1:3; 7:25; 8:1). Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, there is no one who and nothing that can condemn us before God (Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1).

Even more, since Jesus’ stands in the presence of God, His effective advocacy on our behalf transcends geography and time. Jesus is not limited by time and space as He was in the incarnation. Now, as He stands in the presence of God He hears and answers our prayers no matter when or where we lift them. In fact, we can always “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16).

So let us be encouraged that the death and resurrection of Jesus’ are always effective on our behalf because Jesus has ascended as Eternal King and Mediator. And let us always know that the grace of God flows abundantly through Christ to us when we reach out to Him in prayer.

[Read Part 1: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Enthronement” and Part 3: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Return”]

The Ascension and Jesus’ Enthronement (Part 1 of 3)

fullsizeoutput_93fWe celebrate Ascension Day this week, so I want to take this opportunity give attention to one of the most-neglected aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus.  Forty days after His resurrection, after appearing many times to the disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven with the Father again (Luke 24:49-51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:3-10). The ascension of Jesus is significant for many reasons, so over the next three days I would like to draw attention to three of these:

  1. after His ascension Jesus is enthroned with the Father
  2. after His ascension Jesus intercedes for us
  3. after His ascension Jesus will return

The Apostles Creed makes important reference to the ascension of Jesus with these words: “[He] ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” Jesus is enthroned as King in His ascension. When Jesus ascends from earth, the disciples witness of Jesus taken into the heavenly realm where God dwells: “he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). Stephen’s vision of the heavenly realm before his martyrdom expands this even further: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

With these two visions of Jesus’ ascension and the reality on the other side of it, we find in Jesus’ ascension the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus often referenced this passage in relation to Himself. With the ascension we see that Jesus not only enters heaven, the place where God lives and operates, but receives His appropriate enthronement at the right hand of God in an unshakable kingdom.

This is echoed in further New Testament pictures of the heavenly scenes of worship:

  • “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21).
  • “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

The ascension of Jesus reminds us not only that God’s kingdom been inaugurated with the incarnation of Jesus, but that His throne is established at the Father’s right hand until He returns at the consummation of his kingdom at the new heaven and new earth. We know even now that Jesus reigns as King, no matter what happens around us.

[Read Part 2: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Intercession” and Part 3: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Return”]