Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Using or Receiving?

If you watch enough news video from the Middle East, you will eventually see an interesting custom play out. Some people, immediately after speaking a particular name (often George Bush) will emphatically spit on the ground before they continue with their sentence. The thinking behind this custom is: This person is so vile and repugnant to me I want to get the bad taste left by saying their name out of my mouth immediately. It is a most vile comment on an individual, reserved only for those for whom the individual feels the greatest hatred.

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9)

It doesn't take a lot of research to discover that, in Jesus' day, this spitting custom was widely practiced whenever anyone said the word nagas or in Greek telones - tax-collector! Only lepers were given a wider swath than the tax-collector. This was largely due to the fact that most tax-collectors were regarded as traitors, Jews who, for financial reasons (they got a commission on the money they collected), decided to cooperate with the Roman occupiers of Israel. In the first century Jewish mindset, the only thing more remarkable than Jesus asking Matthew to follow him is the fact that Matthew left his tax booth and followed!

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” - (Matthew 9:10-13 NKJV)

The Pharisees, as usual, have a valid point to make when they ask why Jesus is keeping company with people who engage in sin as part of their lifestyle, even their livelihood. The Old Testament admonition not to follow the crowd into evil (Exodus 23:2 ) and the declaration that "sinners will not stand in the congregation of the righteous" (Psalm 45:6-7 ) were, in their minds, validation for creating a social barrier between the two groups. This is the danger of legalism in Christian practice.

Righteous practices are supposed to be expressions of the love for and of God that resides within us. But all too often they can become an end in themselves, with no foundation in love or even faith, but rather just an expression of our own self importance as we strive to prove to ourselves and others that we are more religious. It was this trap the Pharisees had fallen into.

Jesus however, sought to turn this idea on its head. He fully understood that the righteousness and justice of God is not complete unless it also incorporates His love and compassion. This Son of David, who had never sinned in his life, never-the-less understood the cry of David's repentant heart when he declared "Restore to me the joy of your salvation... Then I will teach transgressors of your ways, and sinners will return to you." (Psalm 51:12-13 )

What appeals to me most about this exchange though, is the subtlety of his comment. I'm sure his declaration that the righteous would have no need of his ministry would have massaged the egos of the Pharisees. I can picture them thinking to themselves, " Oh! All right then, that makes sense. We are righteous and good in God's eyes, so it's no wonder he ignores us and talks to them. They certainly do need someone to show them the error of their ways. But it is a lost cause however, so better him than me." The irony is, of course, Jesus didn't consider them righteous at all. Jesus understood that the lowliest sinners who throws themselves upon the mercy of God is closer to the Kingdom of Heaven than the self-declared righteous will ever be.

This is the point behind his quotation of Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." The Pharisees considered their interpretation of the scriptures as being a sacrifice that all people should make to demonstrate their obedience to God. Their zero-tolerance philosophy served only to make themselves look good; it did nothing to draw those who had fallen by the wayside back into the embrace of God's love. Jesus' ministry is not about keeping people out of the Kingdom, it is about welcoming them in.

And while it doesn't seem so on the surface, Jesus words to John's disciples are part of this same exchange.

Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often,but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:14-17 NKJV)

Have you ever noticed that in this question John's disciples group themselves in with the Pharisees? "We and the Pharisees fast often.." A strange comment from the disciples of a prophet who had challenged the validity of the Pharisees repentance. (Luke 3:7-9 ) It demonstrates just how ingrained the idea of pious acts equating with righteousness was in their culture. With the metaphors of the cloth and the wineskins, Jesus tries to help them understand that if the Kingdom that is coming is going to take hold, then the old way of thinking about the Word of God must be set aside. His words must be examined with fresh spiritual eyes, better enabling them to see the truth of God for what it really is rather than for what they had been told it was for generations.

In his essay An Experiment in Criticism, C.S. Lewis makes an interesting observation about the nature of reading. He observes that there are two kinds of reading. In the first kind we read a book so that we can "use" it. We are looking to endorse or enhance our own existing world view. The second is when we read a book to "receive" the message that the author is trying to convey. As an avid cyclist I like his explanation of the difference...

"The one [receiving]... is like being taken for a bicycle ride by a man who may know the roads we have never yet explored. The other [using] is like adding one of those little motor attachments to our own bicycle and then going for one of our familiar rides."

This is what happens to all too many of us when it comes to the Word of God. It happened to the Pharisees. They "used" the Law of Moses to their own ends, interpreting it to shore the social/political structure they thought was best for them and for Israel. Jesus recognized that, in truth, it was good for neither and sought to teach people how to "receive" the Word once again by receiving Him - the Word made flesh.

I challenge you, dear readers, to examine your own hearts and ask yourself, "Do I believe what the Holy Scriptures say? or do I believe what I have been told they say?" Ask yourself, and be as honest as you can be, "When I read the Holy Scriptures, am I looking to "receive" the message God has for me, or to "use" it to support my own theology?"

Until next time... Shalom.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Treat the Disease, Not Just the Symptoms

A while back a close friend of mine was having trouble with his vision. A trip to the opthamologist revealed that he was suffering from iritis, basically an inflammation of the iris. Further investigation however, revealed that the real problem was not in his eye, it was in his back. He also had what is known as Ankylosing Spondylitis, a member of the arthritis family of conditions that causes inflammation of the vertebrae. It was complications from this condition that was causing the iritis.

All too easily in medicine, and other areas of life, we can find ourselves treating just the symptoms and not the real disease. Jesus finds himself facing the same situation in Capernaum.

So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. (Matthew 9:1-8 NKJV)

One of the hardest concepts to explain when discussing the Gospel Kingdom is the nature of sin. We are fundamentally uncomfortable with the notion that there may be a connection between how we behave and the illnesses that rack our bodies. Occasionally we can live with the idea if we can make some sort of clinical connection. Smoking is a sin, and smoking is why my lungs are full of tar and a hundred other chemical compounds that have turned my lungs coal black, and that is why I have lung cancer; therefore, sin caused me to have cancer. It's a nice tidy clinical line that fits comfortably into our theology. The idea however, that lying on my tax return might somehow be connected to the brain tumour in the back of my head doesn't fit so comfortably.

And well it shouldn't, because it isn't connected, not that way. For generations the people of Israel, like Job's companions, believed that illness was a curse brought on the individual as a direct result of sin. But in John 9:1-5 Jesus corrects this misconception of sin and disease in the minds of the scribes and pharisees. There is indeed a connection between sin and disease, but it is not one of simple cause and effect. It is more properly likened to a polluted environment.

The link between AIDS and HIV has long been understood. HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) pollutes the human body making it susceptible to all kinds of conditions including AIDS. People don't die from HIV; they often don't even die from AIDS so much as they die from something else AIDS removed their ability to resist. But HIV, the virus lurking deep in the body's systems is the real culprit.

So it is with sin. Sin is like a virus that has infected all of creation. It does not directly cause disease and illness, but it has so corrupted God's creation that they not only exist but thrive. Sin is the reason nature turns on itself and ravages the land with storms and droughts. Sin is the reason as soon as medical science cures one condition it mutates and infects the population all over again. Sin is the reason plagues of insects and other vermin ravage the landscape destroying crops and forests turning paradise into a desert.

God did not intend things to be this way; His plan was for nature to exist in total harmony, disease free, with the lion and the lamb sharing the same garden as humankind, naked and unashamed. But sin changed all that. Because of sin people act out of selfish desire instead of mutual compassion and destroy the very thing they desire most - relationships, with their family, their friends, with God. Once again, sin did not create these things but so changed creation that death and destruction could not be resisted for long.

This then is the reason for Jesus words to the scribes whose thoughts accused him of blasphemy. Not to draw a line between the man's paralysis and his sin, but to demonstrate that he can heal the body because he has the power to cleanse the world of sin itself.

"Which is it easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Arise and walk'?" On the face of it, it's an absurd question. To heal a limb is to drain the pond in my backyard, to deal with the impact of sin on a fallen world is to try and drain the Atlantic Ocean. But not for the Son of Man - there's that phrase again. For the one who stood before the Ancient of Days and received dominion over the Kingdom of God the two acts are, in fact, one and the same. Jesus does not just deal with the symptom of disease, but with the virus/sin that lies at its root.

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men... if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many." (Romans 5:12 - 15 NIV)

Until next time... Shalom.

Exploring the kingdom Gospel - episode 19

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Other Kingdom

Last time we looked at why Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee; now let's consider what happened when he did.

Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Matt 8:23-27

As always, let's start by setting some context. The Hebrew attitude towards the sea is best described as a love/hate relationship. It was viewed at one and the same time as a source of life and death. While they were grateful for the food provided by the sea and recognized that Genesis declared life was first brought forth as the Spirit of God moved upon the face of 'the Deep', they also regarded it as being the place where Sheol (Hell) was located.

All through the psalms and the prophets the 'Deep' is regarded as a place of abandonment. It is the place where the soul sinks when God has forsaken those who have forsaken him. Consider Psalm 69...

But I pray to you, O LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.

Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters.

Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. (vs 13-16)

So great was this association between the sea and the depths of Hell that many fisherman and sea-faring types never even learned how to swim. To do so would be to set their souls at even greater risk than they endured in a boat. With this in mind, let's continue on the western shore....

When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region. Matt 8:28-34

On the surface these two events seem to be separate, but spiritually they deal with the same forces.

The Sea of Galilee has a reputation for being a quick tempered bit of water, due in part to the fact it lies 600 feet below sea level. Storms come up quickly and unannounced and with great ferocity. It is also quite deep and when a ship is lost it is rarely discovered again. When you add in the reputation of the sea as being the entrance to Sheol, then the concern of the disciples is fully understandable. What is not so readily understood is what they expected of Jesus when they awaked him that night.

Consider, first that Jesus was able to sleep through all this. Such I would suggest is the sleep of the innocent, with no guilt or fear to disturb it. In Mark's account the disciples mistake this supernatural calm for uncaring. But what, one wonders, did the disciples expect Jesus to do about the storm? Their response to his actions would indicate that they were surprised he was able to end it, so what was it they expected of him?

"Lord, save us! We are perishing," is the cry. But save them from what? If they expected him to do something about the storm, then why did they marvel so when he accomplished it? Could it be they simply did not want to die alone? How often do we, when faced with inevitable consequences turn to family and friends as if we expect them to solve the problem, knowing full well there is nothing they can do, simply because we need to face the inevitable with someone? We need to be held, we need to have someone tell us everything is going to be all right even when it isn't. I suspect the disciples of Jesus were no different. Afraid of the worst, they sought comfort from their teacher.

But instead of comfort, they get rebuke! He calls them men of 'little faith' and then, once again, he does the unexpected. After rebuking his disciples for their lack of faith, he rebukes the wind and the waves, possibly for disturbing his sleep. I know, it sounds flippant, but it is how I've always imagined this scene because of the word 'rebuke'. If the winds and waves had remained calm, the disciples wouldn't have panicked and prepared to face the end, and Jesus would have slept undisturbed through the entire crossing.

But what's really important is that in the minds of the disciples on board that boat they have not only been saved from death, they have been saved from the depths of Sheol. They have avoided being confined to the underworld. It matters not whether theologically their perception is accurate, what matters is that likely that was the way they saw it.

Now, on to the Gadarene graveyard. Here Jesus meets two men (other gospels say there was only one, but that is beside the point) and we see the demons challenge Jesus asking him why he wants to hassle them before the appointed time. Many commentaries have been written on Jesus' interplay with the demons. I won't belabour that point here, but I do want to consider the imagery found in what happens to the demons after they are transferred to the herd of pigs. They run down the hill in a mad frenzy and throw themselves into the sea.

What significance would this have for the disciples gathered around him? Think about it for a moment. The sea is the gateway to the underworld, demons are the denizens of that world. In the minds of the disciples and the others gathered there that day Jesus has just sent the demons back where they came from! Jesus in the course of a night and a day clearly demonstrated that the kingdom of God will not just supplant the kingdom of men on this earth, but it will conquer the kingdom of darkness as well.

This was new! Miracle workers have come and gone before; even false prophets had managed to give sight to the blind and deal with the odd fever or two; but to exert power over hell itself. To be able to control the storm is to challenge the powers of darkness that roused the waters to begin with; to strike fear in the heart of the demons and not only cast them out of a possessed man but to send them packing back to the depths from which they came; this was unprecedented. Not even Moses was credited with this much power, and he had stood in the very presence of God.

This then is the significance behind Jesus' excursion to the eastern shore, to demonstrate clearly that the authority of the Kingdom of Heaven extends everywhere, even over the kingdom of darkness. Sheol in all it's terror cannot stand in the face of the authority God had given to Jesus. The Son of Man is the embodiment of the 23rd Psalm, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil." Rather, evil fears him.

But demons and storms are just the beginning; there are greater manifestations of evil in the world. And Jesus will deal with it as well, as we shall see in our next episode when he travels back to his home town of Capernaum.


Photo: Slopes near Kursi, likely site of the swine incident.

Exploring the Kingdom Gospel - episode 18

Saturday, October 13, 2007

To Get to the Other Side

Why did Jesus cross the Sea of Galilee? To get to the other side? Maybe, but I think He also had something else in mind.

And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side.
Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22

Some of you may think I'm being flippant with the title and opening line of this episode, but in actual fact this was the first question I asked myself when I read this section of Matthew's gospel. Why did Jesus cross the Sea of Galilee? What was there on the eastern shore that attracted him so much? The answer is found in the encounter he has with two young men.

The first to approach Jesus is a scribe, a person who is versed in the law of Moses, by some accounts - a lawyer. His declaration to Jesus upon his approach is, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." The teacher/student relationship was very different in Jesus' day than what we think of today. As I mentioned when we looked at the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, it was not unusual for a teacher to visit or even live with one of his students. In some schools the situation was reversed, the students would take up residence in their teachers home and learn from them day in and day out.

It is likely the scribe had this in mind when he approached Jesus. He might well have been expecting to gain a living situation that would allow him to spend his days in debate and discussion, living off the generosity of the sponsors who customarily supported a respected teacher. He would benefit from his teacher's contacts and earn a place in society based on the reputation gained by being the student of a renowned rabbi.

But Jesus responds with a remarkable declaration, "The Son of Man has no where to lay his head." In other words, "If you are looking for a relaxing life of scholarship, debating with the elders at the temple and impressing younger scribes with your knowledge and wisdom, you've come to the wrong place." Jesus is not that kind of teacher. He will spend very little time at his home base in Capernaum; he has a message to deliver and rather than wait for Israel to come to him, He is going to Israel.

But there is a more subtle message in his words as well. This is the first time Jesus uses the phrase "Son of Man." He will refer to himself this way 32 times in the Kingdom Gospel. If the scribe was paying attention he might of remembered the use of the phrase in Psalm 8 or even in the book of Daniel. The question is, did he pick up on the reference?

"I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13-14

Behind the scribe, another man, already counted among those regarded as disciples, has a request to make, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." To which Jesus responds, "Let the dead bury their own dead." Scholars usually comment on Jesus' statement either by declaring the young man wanted to procrastinate, or by saying that Jesus was referring to the spiritually dead. But I would like to offer another idea.

This is not a simple request to show up for the funeral. Laying one's parents to rest was a solemn responsibility, it was also considered to be an act of great piety. This was because in order to bury the deceased one had to touch the dead body, and this rendered the individual unclean for a period of seven days (Numbers 19:11). Thus a person who volunteered to bury the dead was seen as making a sacrifice, ostracizing themselves from Jewish society for seven days in order to pay honour to the departed. The high degree of importance this act of piety (good works) held among the Jewish people can be observed in the apocryphal book of Tobias.

With this in mind, Jesus' statement now takes on another connotation. The young disciple, as did many of his day, believed that acts of piety were required to enter into God's kingdom. He sought not to procrastinate, but rather to fulfill his obligations under a salvation of works mentality. But Jesus indicates that works, here represented by the act of piety, do not lead to the kingdom of God, but rather to a spiritual dead end. If he seeks the kingdom, it is accessible only through the Son of Man, though the grace of God, manifested in the man Jesus.

In his responses to these two people, Jesus makes it plain that in order to enter into the fulness of the kingdom of God there are choices to be made. We must decide if we can face a life of uncertainty, never entirely sure where God will lead us next. We must also decide what our priorities are; will we keep with the traditions, hoping to one day earn our way by acts of piety, or will we follow after the Son of Man, even if that means abandoning obligations and belief systems we once held dear.

This then is why Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee. Seeing the great multitude he had to begin the process of separating the serious seeker from the casual on-looker. So he orders the crowd to cross to the eastern shore knowing that only the serious would make the effort. He knew that like these two men there would be many who had to face the decision to follow or be held back by the traditions to which they so earnestly clung.

It is interesting to note that we are not told how the men responded to Jesus' challenge. We are not told if they followed or returned to the lives they knew. But then again, it is not important. The important decisions are not the ones made by the scribe and the disciple; the important decisions are the ones we will make as we face these self-same challenges in our struggle to attain the Kingdom of Heaven.

Until next time... Shalom

Photo credit:

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Healing of a Woman

We have seen two examples of those who recognized Jesus' authority - a leper and a centurion. Now let's look at the third in our trio - a woman.

Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served him. When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “ He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” Matt. 8:14-17

In true storyteller fashion, let's look at the setting first. We are in Peter's house in Capernaum. Since there is no mention of Peter's invitation for Jesus to come and dine with his family, it is not a stretch to believe that Jesus has been here before, and often. It was not uncommon for a teacher to frequent the homes of their students, and some have even suggested that Jesus might have lived with Peter and his extended family. We can't be sure, of course, but such a thing would not be out of step with the customs of the time.

Another clue to his familiarity with the people involved is his response to Peter's mother-in-law. In the previous two incidents Jesus is requested to deal with the afflictions of the leper and the centurion's servant. In this case however, he simply acts. He walks in, sees the need and without a word to anyone, he touches her and she is healed. No intercession is required; it is as if his ministering to her is a forgone conclusion.

Nevertheless, she is still a woman, and for an unrelated Jewish male to reach out and touch a woman (unless he is dragging her off to be stoned) is a rare thing. Like lepers and Gentiles, women existed at the fringes of Jewish society, though admittedly their circle was a little closer to the centre than the Gentile centurion, who would have been more welcome than the leper. Even within their own families there were rules as to which men with whom they could and could not interact. Outside the family ties, the restrictions were even worse. Jesus' actions demonstrate that the woman's relationship with him, with this Son of David, supersedes all other relationships. He is here to heal her and mere custom will not prevent that from happening.

Interesting too, is her response to his touch. The leper recognized Jesus' authority but was unsure of His willingness to help a leper; keeping his distance while at the same time holding onto hope. The centurion sees things more clearly. He has no doubts about Jesus' ability to command, so much so he does not require the physical connection for his faith to bear fruit. But this woman, who is healed without intersession, without preamble, responds to Jesus' authority in the deepest way possible - she serves him.

There are some who will tell you that her servitude is a trademark of her position in society, that this woman is so beaten down she has been conditioned to serve. But I think not. In Mark's account of this event the language is such that one might draw that conclusion; "she served them," a generic plurality that could easily be taken to refer to all the males present. But Matthew's language is more precise, "she arose and served him." This man is her son-in-law's teacher. She has heard his words, she has seen his character, and now she has felt the power in his touch. For those who live in close contact with the Son of David, service is the only fitting response.

And so she serves, and she opens her home to those who would find what she has found - healing. Well into the night they come; the sick, the demon-possessed, all those that society is ill-equipped to deal with. In these three incidents Jesus puts into action the fundamental truths he spoke forth on the hillside. The kingdom of God is not restricted to those who fit the pattern. The kingdom is offered to all who are in need. The leper, the Gentile, the woman -- the outcast, the stranger, the marginalized; these are the ones for whom the Kingdom of God was created.

On a tablet within the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands, familiar words are carved...

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Many nations have sought to emulate the kingdom of God here on earth, with varying degrees of success. Most have failed to do so because the Kingdom of God is not a kingdom in time and space, it is a kingdom that lives in the hearts of those who would be its citizens.

And make no mistake, while one cannot earn that citizenship, there is a price to be paid if one seeks to fulfill it. As those who approach Jesus in our next installment will learn.


Exploring the Kingdom Gospel - episode 16.