Friday, March 4, 2011

Mark 8: Jesus' Kingdom is Spiritual and Secular

Mark 8:28-30 And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
It's interesting whom the ordinary people compared Jesus with: viz., fiery preachers like John the Baptist and Elijah the prophet. Obviously, he had the same outward characteristics - not the gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild portrait we sometime see hanging in Christian homes. When Jesus turned to his disciples to ask, "But who do you say that I am?" it was Peter who responded: "You are the Christ (Messiah)." Now the Messiah to the Jew is in the same league as King David--in fact, he was the promised "son of David" who would sit on David's throne as King over an eternal Kingdom that would never end. So, in one word, Peter was saying that Christ is more than a prophet but the coming King over God's eternal Kingdom! It is more than a political kingdom of this world, but one that is spiritual, that crosses political, ethnic, linguistic boundaries around the world. It's not ruled through the satellite TV and the Internet but through the Holy Spirit.

Some theologians tend to contrast "spiritual" with "political", or "eternal" with "temporal", "future" with "present"--thinking in "either-or" category, typical of Western thought. Asian scholars tend to be more holistic (ying-yang), combining spiritual and political , eternal and temporal, future with present. Thank God that Jesus was Jewish, not Western! When Jesus rebuked Peter for opposing his going to the cross to die, he was not saying that he is bringing in a spiritual kingdom, not a political one. Instead, he was challenging Peter's understanding of how the kingdom is coming into place, not the what--namely, that Jesus' kingdom has political, temporal and present implications. It's not a "pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die" vision! The Kingdom vision has practical implications - in redefining our life-purpose, life-priorities and life-styles. The Kingdom of God came on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended (Acts 2:4) and its presence has remained on earth ever since until Jesus Christ returns to sum up everything - including the re-creation of the natural order of the Universe - a new heaven and a new earth. In the meantime, his rule has begun in and through the lives of His disciples. He is daily in communication and in charge of operations through His Spirit and His Word. When we read the Scripture daily, we open our hearts and minds to receive daily "orders" from the Commander-in-Chief of the Universe!

So, it is happening now because "all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Mt 28:18). It's not "going to be given" but "has been given to Me." So, Jesus is not going to be King; He is already King and exercises His invisible reign through His people holding various positions in the society. One day, his reign will become visible, but nevertheless the present invisible reign is as real as the visible one to come later--so long as Christians take orders from Him, not from the world. But Jesus needed to lay down His life first in order to defeat the forces of the Dark Side and nullify their principalities and powers so that we can go out on a rescue mission to save those in darkness and invite them to transfer their membership from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light, of whom Jesus Christ is King and CEO.

Father, thank You that Jesus is our King, not just our Saviour. May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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