“The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9b)

 

Clyde turned off the TV news with a sigh. Wars, knife crime, murders: what was the world coming to? On top of the TV was a framed embroidery made by his wife. Clyde read the cross-stitched words, “For God is the king of all the earth.” Just how his wife could believe that was beyond him! Couldn’t she see the suffering all around her? As far as Clyde was concerned, if there was a God ruling over everything then this God was not doing a very good job!

 

The Gospel reading set for the Feast of Luke (Luke 10:1-9), reveals that Jesus’ main message was all about God’s rule and his belief that God’s kingdom was near. What exactly did he mean and does this message provide any answers for Clyde?

 

Jesus was on his way down from Galilee to Jerusalem and on this journey he would pass through many towns and villages. He sent out his followers to proclaim a message to each of these places before he arrived. This message was very simple: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

 

The kingdom was an image very familiar to the Jewish people and something they awaited with eager anticipation, believing it to be a time when God would intervene and restore their nation, liberating them from their enemies. However, rather than proclaiming that God would intervene to liberate and restore a physical country, Jesus’ message was that God would intervene in individuals’ lives, liberating them from their sin and restoring their relationship with God.

 

The most striking aspect of the message was that this intervention of God was not something far away but very near. There has been much debate amongst scholars over exactly what “the kingdom of God has come near” actually means, but I. Howard Marshall sums it up neatly by saying that the kingdom “is near to those who hear the message and experienced by those who respond to it”. So this kingdom is available through Jesus and through the message about him that his followers preached.

 

Jesus believed that people would be desperate to hear this message of hope: the harvest was ripe for the picking. So he impressed upon his disciples the urgency of spreading that message, hence the rather strange directions about not taking purses and bags etc. with them and not being fussy over the food provided by their hosts – whether kosher or not. Nothing was to get in the way of the proclamation, not even worrying about their possessions or food, and they were exhorted to pray for even more people to take Jesus’ message out.

 

So what exactly does the kingdom mean for us and people like Clyde? Well, Clyde was right in recognising that the world is not how God intended it to be; it is messed up and in rebellion against its ruler. The Bible teaches that one day this will be put completely right and all will submit to God, their king.

 

However, Jesus’ message is one of more immediate hope: that God’s kingdom is here now in the lives of those who respond to the Church’s message about Christ. In Christ, God intervenes, vanquishing the power sin has over our lives and removing the barriers between ourselves and God so we can communicate directly with our heavenly king through prayer.

 

Our sins have been forgiven, no matter how bad they are, and we can make a fresh start with hope for the future. We can know the help of God’s Spirit to overcome our own weaknesses and struggles with sin. We can know God’s help to become the people he intended us to be, not damaged and weighed down by the evils of the world. We can know the peace of trusting that our lives are in the hands of the ruler of the universe and not subject to the whims of cruel fate or random chance. And as we see God’s rule in our own life overcoming evil, we can reach out to those who are suffering in this rebellious world and show them something of God’s kingdom.

 

This is a message of hope, and no wonder Christ believed there was a harvest of people desperate to respond to such good news. Let us pray about how we can let others know that the kingdom is near to them and that, in this dark and often frightening world, a taste of heaven is not far away.

 

Reverend Canon Stuart Ansell

St. Luke October

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