The Kingdom of God is Near . . .
. . . but it is not what we expect
Have you ever waited for something to happen – a trip, a visit from a friend, a special event – and when it finally came it didn’t turn out like you expected? This happened to many of the followers of Jesus just before the first Easter! This Holy Week, I want to come at it with fresh eyes, as if it is the first time I’ve heard the story. I want to expand my expectations to experience the full impact of Christ’s Passion.
If you haven’t read the narrative in the gospels in a while, I recommend considering Luke’s gospel, chapter 19, starting with verse 28.
From the start of his ministry, Jesus’ central message has been, The Kingdom of God is at hand! The Kingdom of God is near!
Every kingdom has a king, so here his disciples shout “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” (v38) By the way, this is different than a king that comes in the name of Rome!
They were waiting for this day to come. The Kingdom of God is near, but it is not what they expect.
They longed to be saved, they longed for a leader, and they thought that, finally, Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem to do saving and leading.
Out of the terrible violence of Holy Week, God makes an opening between heaven and earth. At the moment that Jesus breathes his last on the cross, the veil of the temple that kept people out of God’s presence rips top to bottom. God’s love is no longer contained in a stone temple, but now lives in human temples. Jesus’ redeeming work confronts those who tried to keep God locked up. Jesus’ life and teaching have shown us a new way to respond to God.
In the parallel gospel stories of Holy Week, Mark and John record the followers of Jesus also shouting “Hosanna!”
Hosanna is a term of praise. It means “save us.” The children of Israel cried this so much that they had nearly given up on a Messiah at all.
There was to be victory in Jerusalem, but it didn’t come the way they expected. It came humbly on a donkey’s colt, on a road of suffering and sacrifice, and through death and resurrection. It did not come on a great white stallion in power and arrogance!
Through the prophesies, His birth, His life on earth, His suffering, His death and His resurrection, God started bringing heaven to earth.
What about us? The Kingdom of God is Near, but it is not what we expect.
Sometimes when our expectations about following Jesus aren’t met, we are quick to stop believing. We are quick to turn back to the ways in which we used to live because things aren’t happening the way we want them to.
We must remember that God works in unexpected ways, often choosing the small and meek (not weak) things of the world (like young colts). God’s power is not always made known in great and awesome events or revelations. Sometimes it is simply a whisper prompting a transformed heart.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, this often means that the plan involves us and our small acts of obedience to see the kingdom of God at work here in our world.
Just like those gathered in Jerusalem during that first Holy Week, we too look for God to move in ways we expect. We too shout victory when we think God is moving in the ways we want, and then are confused when we realize the meek and humble ways he is choosing to work.
May we also shout “Hosanna!” May we truly experience the presence of Christ this week. God, may we truly see, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”