A Curious Kingdom

When Jesus started his preaching ministry, his primary message was ‘The Kingdom of God has come close to you’. What on earth did he mean by that? What would it mean to you if someone spoke those very words to you? Jesus conducted a ministry of compassion, healing and deliverance from evil, and when you were on the receiving end of his ministry, strange though his message was, you were beginning to get a handle on what he meant with his odd turn of phrase, ‘The Kingdom of God has come close to you’. We might imagine the excitement of those first followers of Jesus as they said to themselves, ‘If this is the Kingdom of God, then count me in!’ For those who were responding in this way, Jesus went on to ask them to ‘repent and to believe’, that is to turn from a way of life that was not helping them and to put their full trust in God. Many did just that, and Jesus sent out groups of them to copy his ministry. First he sent out the original group of 12 and then a larger group of 72. To the first group he told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who had leprosy, and to drive out evil. ‘Freely you have received’, he told them, ‘Freely give’. They were to preach the same simple message, ‘The Kingdom of God has come close to you’! What, you may be asking, were the results of this? In Luke 10 we have a report of the 72 coming back in high excitement at the results, and of Jesus breaking into spontaneous praise with these words: ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure’. The experience of the Kingdom of God is at the heart of Christianity. That makes the response of faith something that is heart-warming and relevant. Looking at it another way, the Kingdom of God is very much about the Holy Spirit. When Jesus started his ministry he was filled with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Before Jesus sent out the 12 and the 72 he sent them off with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. That’s how they were able to perform the miracles they did, and when people responded to this Kingdom activity with faith, this is what happened. They experienced a spiritual birth into the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom grew. The Kingdom of God came when the Holy Spirit came and people responded to his coming and are still responding in the same way today.