His Unparalleled Kingdom

When Jesus first appeared in Galilee, he proclaimed the “Kingdom of God” – “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” In his ministry, God’s reign had begun to invade the Earth. But his realm was and remains of an entirely different nature than the political systems of the present fallen age. Moreover, on more than one occasion, Jesus refused THAT kind of political power, especially when it was offered by Satan who tempted him with sovereignty over “all the kingdoms of the world.”

According to the Gospel of Matthew, for him to attain absolute power over nations and peoples, all the Nazarene had to do was to “render homage” to the Devil and acknowledge his overlordship – (Matthew 4:1-10).

Cross Mountain - Photo by Anna Scarfiello on Unsplash
[Photo by Anna Scarfiello on Unsplash]

Most remarkably, Jesus did 
NOT dispute Satan’s “right” to dispense political power, though he refused it all the same. Instead, he submitted to the path of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. His ministry would culminate in his sacrificial death at the hands of the representative of the World Empire, namely, Rome - (Matthew 4:8-11, Luke 4:5-7).

In the present world order, the price of power over others is submission to Satan’s authority and agenda. According to him, the kingdoms of this age “have been delivered to me and I give them to whomever I will.”

Although he was the Messiah appointed by God Himself to “shepherd the nations of the Earth,” Jesus refused the Devil’s offer. Scripture confirmed his calling to reign over the nations, nevertheless, he rejected the kind of power valued so highly by the rulers of this world.

However, how could God’s designated king reign over rebellious nations and peoples without the military and economic might of the Almighty State? The Davidic King had no hope of unseating Caesar without the backing of Rome’s legions - (Psalm 2:6-8, Revelation 12:5).

In the four gospel accounts, rather than resort to the political means of this age or violent revolution, Jesus embraced the way of the Cross. In the “Kingdom of God,” true victory is achieved through self-denial and sacrificial service for others, even one’s “enemies.”

In his domain, “greatness” would be measured by self-sacrificial service and acts of mercy for others. Rather than threatening or dominating other men, Jesus “gave his life as a ransom for many.” Moreover, his real-world example provided his disciples with the pattern for implementing God’s Kingdom on Earth.

However, the temptation in the “wilderness” was not the end of Satan’s political intrigues. Following his rebuff, “the Devil departed from him until an opportune time.”

MORE TEMPTATION


After miraculously feeding a multitude in Galilee, certain members of the crowd planned “to come and seize him to make him king.” But Jesus walked away at the very moment the mob was determined to crown him, turning many minds against him.

The Son of Man would not become the militaristic messiah bent on destroying Rome that so many of his contemporaries craved. The closer he came to his death, the more the fickle crowds rejected him as the Messiah of Israel. A “Suffering Servant” did not fit their concept of royalty and kingship, or their desire to see the Roman Empire destroyed - (Luke 4:13, John 6:15).

Before his execution, Pontius Pilate inquired whether Jesus was “the king of the Jews.” Before Caesar’s representative, he did not deny his kingly destiny, and he responded, “You say that I am a king, and for this, I was born.” But he qualified his kingship by stating, “My Kingdom is not FROM (ek) this world - (John 18:33-36).

This did not mean that his Kingdom was strictly “spiritual” or otherworldly, or that his messianic program was nonpolitical. But the source of his sovereignty was other than the political power that has characterized this world since at least the Tower of Babel incident – (Genesis 11:1-9).

The “Suffering Servant” and his sacrifice brought light and redemption to humanity, not the awesome military might of Rome, and the Kingdom of God was and continues to be ruled by the “slain Lamb,” not Caesar.

Pilate found no fault in him. But at the instigation of the Temple authorities, the crowd demanded that the Roman governor release Barabbas instead, a man described in the gospels as a léstés (Greek) or “brigand.” The priestly leaders of Israel preferred a violent political revolutionary to the Servant of Yahweh.

Mountain Dusk - Photo by Daniel Gregoire on Unsplash
[Photo by Daniel Gregoire on Unsplash]

THE CROSS


Contrary to the expectations of his contemporaries, Jesus “took on the form of a slave” and became “obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Because of his choice, God bestowed on him “the name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

Moreover, his disciples are summoned to live by the very same mindset displayed by Jesus when he gave his life as a “ransom for many.” As Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” - (Philippians 2:1-11).

The choice before us is between the cruciform pathway trod by Jesus or the expedient and smooth highway peddled by the Devil. Jesus declared that when he was “lifted up,” namely, nailed on the cross, he would “draw all men to me,” not by seating himself on Caesar’s bloody throne.

Jesus is calling all men and women to “deny themselves, take up the cross,” and follow him “wherever he goes.” The way of the Cross is the only pathway that leads to the Kingdom of God. All men who refuse to emulate his example are “unworthy” of him and unfit for citizenship in his unique Kingdom.



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