My Kingdom is Not of this World
“My kingdom is not of this world.” – Jesus
As we continue our journey through the History Maker teaching series through the Book of Luke, we will look at several ways in which the kingdom of God is different than that of this world.
Day 1: Luke 9:37-56
We begin this week’s reading of Scripture with an account of a man crying out to Jesus for help. This man’s young son is demon-possessed. Jesus rebuked the impure spirit and it left the boy. The bystanders were amazed.
Like many similar accounts of Jesus healing the sick or casting out demons, the main focus is to make known the power dynamic that is at play: the enslavement of the world versus the good news of the kingdom of God, ushered in by Jesus, who proclaims “good news to the poor. Freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of the sight of the blind, to set the oppressed free.” (Luke 4:18). It’s obvious which power is greater – Jesus has the power to both heal and forgive sins once again prevails.
The boy is freed.
In a surprising move, while everyone’s jaws are still on the floor, Jesus tells his disciples of his forthcoming death. This announcement confused the disciples. No one expected the triumphant act of casting out a demon to be followed by an ambition-quenching news of death. Rather than seeking to find out more from Jesus, the disciples decided that the best thing left to do is to figure out who will be leading the pack once Jesus is gone.
Jesus, reading the hearts and minds of his disciples, tells them something about the kingdom of God that is different from the kingdom of the world – that whoever welcomes a little child in his name welcomes him. In doing so, Jesus reveals a different and radical kind of power structure by turning what it normally practiced upside down: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” In the kingdom of God, the powerful are not at the top but rather the lowly, the weak, the least, are at the top. In other words, the least among you shall be given attention and priority to be served.
Take a moment to think about those who are the least among where you live, where you work, where you shop, or even within the church. Pray for the least among you.
Day 2: Luke 9:57-62, 10
We are going to stay a bit longer in Chapter 9.
Towards the end of the chapter are three short conversations Jesus had with three people.
First, a man approached Jesus asking to follow him. We are familiar with Jesus’ famous line: “Follow Me”. But this one is different, it seems like it was him who approached Jesus. Perhaps again, Jesus read the man’s heart and mind, he said to the man of the reality that Jesus is living in – he is without a place of rest, not the kind of leader you would have in mind. Jesus doesn’t quite have the prestige and status that the world expects a leader to have, in case that was the type of outlook the man had in mind. This seems to me a man who is asking to follow Jesus but his eyes are looking beyond Jesus and onto something else that he wants more than Jesus.
Jesus’ words to the second man who wanted to first go and bury his father before committing sounds harsh: “Let the dead bury their own dead,” said Jesus. I have often been puzzled by these words. Whatever that statement means, one thing that is clear is that there is an urgency to proclaiming the Kingdom of God that cannot and should not be delayed.
The third man came to Jesus wanting to follow him, but only under the condition that he can go back to say goodbye to his family. Jesus calls this man to look at the work that is before him instead of looking back. Jesus is calling for a wholehearted commitment.
Friends, I don’t know how you feel about these responses from Jesus. For me, they are incredibly challenging. I’d even find it hard to accept at times. But here it is, the call to following Jesus is plain for us to see.
Take a moment to reflect:
- Which one of the three conversations do you find the most disturbing to you? What is it that troubles you about what Jesus is saying?
- Fill in the blank if this is true in your life, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me __________________.”
Take some time to pray and lift up your thoughts to Jesus.
Day 3: Luke 11
Today let’s look at two accounts in Chapter 11 of the book of Luke:
First, the crowd around Jesus demanded to see a certain sign from heaven, to which Jesus refused to provide. Instead, he said the only sign that would be given is the sign of Jonah. He is referring to the people of an ancient city repented at the preaching of Jonah. (As we have learned through our Sunday teachings, to repent is to rethink, to change our mind, to unfollow; it’s more than just behavioral.)
Second, a Pharisee (who is generally a respected religious leader at the time) invited Jesus to eat with him, yet he was surprised when “Jesus did not first wash before the meal.” Washing before meals was a customary ritual that every law-abiding Jew would follow. While this ritual might have something to do with hygiene, it has much more to do with keeping God’s law, staying clean before God, and keeping with tradition. Jewish law draws very clear boundaries between the clean and the unclean. Jesus here again called out the Pharisees and the experts in the law for only having an appearance of being clean while their inside is “full of greed and wickedness.”
Harsh words, right? You bet. One of the experts in the law flat out told Jesus he felt insulted by him.
Perhaps this verse in the middle of Luke 11 would shed some light on Jesus’ words.
Jesus said, verse 34,
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.”
Our eyes must be healthy and when they are we can see clearly what truly matters in God’s eyes: We no longer care about only being clean on the outside, but we desire a deeper transformation from the inside out.
It is a matter of seeing clearly, seeing what is real in God’s eyes. To do so, we must learn to see with eyes of faith.
- Take some time to reflect and pray:
Ask God to heal and make your eyes healthy, to help you see clearly what is real and what matters in his eyes.
- Ask the Lord to reveal to you a direction in your life where you need to rethink, to change your mind on, or even to unfollow.
Day 4: Luke 12
“Someone in the crowd said to (Jesus), “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”” (verse 13)
It’s always about money it seems…
Jesus has some astonishing words about wealth and possessions, here are a few examples:
“Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (verse 15)
“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.” (verse 24)
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (verse 27)
We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about possessions. It is not necessarily a bad thing. However, when our thoughts become overly concerned about what we don’t have or don’t have (yet), or what we may lose in the future, thoughts become concerns, and concerns become anxiety that robs us of joy.
Jesus reveals another way, the way of the kingdom of God. Those who dwell in the kingdom of God, Jesus suggests, derive power and peace not from storing treasure on earth but by storing treasure in heaven. It is a different kind of rich. He calls it “rich toward God.” According to Jesus, being rich toward God is as simple as resting in the knowledge that God takes care of you just like he does the birds. So we can stop being overwhelmed by the uncertainties of tomorrow and instead be present for today’s offerings.
Take a moment to Reflect:
- How do the wild flowers surpass Solomon in all his splendor?
- What does being rich mean to you at the current moment?
Day 5: Luke 13
Imagine the following scene from Luke 13, a woman standing there, with her head up, looking into the sky, arms wide opened, praising God ecstatically. Turns out she had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen long years. And this man called Jesus, only moments ago, had set her free from her infirmity.
In the same crowd, there was a leader of the synagogue. Verse 14 recorded his reaction to the woman being healed:
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
The “problem” according to this man, was that Jesus broke the rules when he healed the woman on a Sabbath day.
Let’s pause here. A few thoughts come to mind:
- Jesus cared more about the person’s well being than about the policy
- Jesus understood the deeper meaning behind the law (verse 15)
- On this occasion, Jesus chose to serve rather than to observe
My point here isn’t that Jesus always helped everybody. Or that he is a rebellious rule-breaker. It was Jesus who said that he didn’t come to do away with the law but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17)
His ways are surprising and unpredictable. The only thing that is discernible from his unpredictability is the life-giving impact it has on others.
With this story, could Jesus be inviting us into a life-giving way of living? Could our preoccupation with rules be holding us back from the vibrancy we so long for?