Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Clash of the Kingdoms

I don't normally post my academic assignments here, most of them are of no interest except to the lecturers who assign them, but this tute paper I had to write on the Clash of the Kingdoms in Luke's gospel, is of a more general nature than most. (Though it's a huge topic to try and cover in a mere 1,000 words). So, with a couple of modifications ..

Throughout Luke’s gospel we can trace the conflict between two opposing kingdoms: on the one hand the kingdoms of man, exemplified by the Roman government and the Jewish religious leaders, and, on the other hand, the Kingdom of God, taught, demonstrated, inaugurated, and, ultimately embodied in Jesus Himself. This overturning of the human status quo is foreshadowed in the promise of two humanly impossible births, declared in the song of Mary, made visible in the ministry and teaching of Jesus, reaches its climax on the cross and its triumphant denouement in the resurrection. It is a conflict that began long before Luke’s gospel, when humanity rejected the authority of God, and will reach its magnificent conclusion when the “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ” .

Jesus taught the kingdom

Jesus came as the king, the Davidic messiah, but he did not bring a political kingdom. His kingship was not designed to glorify Israel, but to glorify God. It was dynamic, not geographical. (Green, Mcknight and Marshall, 1992, p.420). He would be the King who would rule by serving, and conquer through His death.

In Luke 4:18-19 He declared the agenda of His kingdom: freedom, healing and restoration; and in 4:43 He announced that the proclamation of the Kingdom was the purpose of His ministry

In 6:17 – 49 He sets forth the principles of His kingdom: a reversal of the world’s values and privileges, an ethic of radical love, and the clear declaration that membership of the Kingdom depends on a response of personal obedience, not simply Israelite birth. It is not enough to conform to some interpretation of the letter of the law, personal transformation is required in order to conform to the spirit of the Law. Luke’s version of this “sermon” stresses the sociological aspects of the kingdom as well as its spiritual dimension.

There is a reiterated demand for repentance (e.g. 13:3, 5; 15:7), implying that membership of the Kingdom was not already theirs, and they must fundamentally change in order to be part of it.

The coming of the Kingdom is something to be prayed for (11:2), and its members are not to prioritise the concerns of this world, but trust in their Father’s provision (12:31; 13:18).

And Jesus taught the kingdom through parables. Many of Jesus’ parables were deliberately countercultural as far as expectations of the Kingdom went; they were stories with a deliberate “twist in the tail”, to get past the defences of His hearers’ presuppositions, and provoke a reaction: faith from those who were willing to hear and believe, wrath from those who were offended. The “Good Samaritan”, for example, both proclaimed the grace and mercy which are characteristic of the Kingdom, and challenged their expectations of its exclusive Jewishness. This message is repeated in the parable of the Great Banquet, which stresses that membership of the Kingdom is by response to God’s invitation in Jesus, not a birthright. The parable of the Sower indicates that it is not enough to hear the word of God, there must also be a fruitful response (and the “mysteries of the Kingdom” are revealed only to disciples). The parable of the Mustard Seed illustrates the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom: it starts out small, humble, almost invisible, but there will be no stopping its growth, in the end it will actually be far mightier than the earthly Kingdom they had envisaged. It is the “yeast” (13:20-21) which will ultimately permeate and transform the cosmos. The little flock is not to fear, it is to them that the Kingdom has been given (12:32)

The Kingdom is not outward and visible, as they had anticipated, but rather, “within you” (17:20-21). It is something both immediate and apocalyptic (Green et al, 1992, p.428), as shown for example, in the parable of the talents, where the “currency” of the Kingdom is being given out now for a future accounting.

Jesus Demonstrated the kingdom

Jesus, whose words and deeds were one, not only explained the Kingdom in His teaching, but demonstrated it by His actions. His ministry, just as he had declared in 4: 18-19, was about healing the blind, releasing the oppressed, (e.g. the woman who had been bound for 18 years, 13:10-17) and bringing the good news of the kingdom to the poor, who were often excluded under the Pharisaic system because they did not have the means to keep all the ritual law. His miracles of healing were a demonstration of the grace and compassion of God, His deliverance ministry showed His power over the Kingdom of Satan, and His raising of the dead prefigured the reversal of the very fall itself. He was willing to touch the unclean (lepers, haemorrhaging woman, dead people), and suffered no loss of holiness. His nature miracles (e.g. calming of the storm), displayed that dominion over creation which Adam had forfeited. He sent the disciples out (9:2) specifically to preach the kingdom and heal the sick. And He welcomed the “least of these” – children, women, gentiles, tax collectors, the poor and despised -- into His presence and His fellowship.

Man opposed the Kingdom

The Jewish authorities were threatened by Jesus, and the nature of the Kingdom He proclaimed. They preferred their own version, which afforded them “holiness” and privilege. They recognised the claim to Deity underlying His words and actions: e.g. He forgave sins (5:21), and accepted the hosannas of the Jerusalem crowd. He also threatened their self-justifying definitions of holiness: He mixed with “sinners” without fear they would pollute Him (5:30), he healed on the Sabbath (6:2), allowed a sinful woman to touch Him (7:36), condemned their practices (11: 39 ff). His kingdom and theirs were incompatible, and in the end they moved from skirmishing to plotting to kill Him. It was on the issue of the Kingdom that He was charged before Pilate, i.e. that He was setting up as a king in rivalry to Caesar, and the crowd chose Barabbas in His place. On the cross they nailed His “charge sheet”: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’. And on the cross the dying thief asked to be received into His Kingdom.

Conclusion

The Kingdom of God, which is the reign of Christ (Elwell, 2001, p. 657), is in direct opposition to the illusory autonomy of sinful man. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom, demonstrated the Kingdom and was the Kingdom; for that His opponents crucified Him, thus serving, by the sovereignty of God, to give Him a Kingdom which shall endure forever.

3 comments:

codepoke said...

HooAah! Amen!

Suzanne R said...

Nice work, Lynne. I'm glad you posted this, and I totally "get it."

Lynne said...

Thanks. Glad you liked it. The class did too. now I just have to wait another couple of weeks to find out what the lecturer thought. That's the one that determines my mark ..