Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday in Lent 4: The kingdom and the cross

Opening Sentence
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." Luke 15:18, 19

Commemoration: James de Koven
Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, who inspired your servant James de Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of your mysteries may impart to your faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of your grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 69

Lessons: Exodus 1:6-22, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Mark 8:27-9:1

Millennial views are like bad days. Everybody has one. No one particular view, however, is truly adequate to explain the multi-dimensional nature of the coming eschatological kingdom of God. Jesus declared to his disciples, "there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power." This statement becomes very problematic for those who are wound up in arguments over millennial views. If "the kingdom of God" is synonymous with "the Son of Man" coming "in the glory of his Father with the holy angels," why have believers been waiting some 2,000 years to see something Jesus promised would be seen by his earliest followers?

The answer lies in understanding "the kingdom of God" as a much larger project than just its final consummation. It is connected not only with Jesus' glory, but also with his suffering. Likewise, it is seen not only in the final triumph of righteousness, but also in the ordeal of righteous suffering at the hands of the fallen world. Jesus connects his glory with his suffering and commands "anyone" who "would come after" him to "deny himself and take up his cross and follow" him. The glory of the Son of Man is inextricably connected with the suffering of the Son of Man. The kingdom of God is inextricably linked with the cross of Jesus Christ.

Jesus' first disciples would "see the kingdom of God" in their lifetime by seeing Jesus "suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." Jesus' resurrection was the inaugural event of the kingdom of God. Jesus, after his ordeal of suffering and death, was raised up in glory, vindicated as the true Christ of God, the victorious Son of Man "in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."

The resurrection, however, was only the beginning. Jesus called his disciples to deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow him. They were to continue the work he began. They were to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom of God to all the nations, never being ashamed even to give their lives for their Lord. In Jesus, crucified and risen, they could "see the kingdom of God." Their mission was, and our mission is, to make others see that kingdom in lives that become an authentic imitation of the crucified and risen Savior.


Lift High the Cross