Focus on Christ Meditations: 57. The Humble Kingdom
Jn 15:19,20 I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: `No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
There is always a temptation, when we start talking about the kingdom and about Jesus reigning, to fall into triumphalism. We have been considering his power and authority and how he was and is in complete control and how he rules in the midst of his enemies. Now this should leave us feeling good about him and about our place ‘in him’, and that is right and proper, for indeed we are the children of God and we have got everything going for us.
Having said that, there is this thing that we are now focusing on which I can only describe as the humility of Christ in the way he came (his humble birth), the way he grew up (hidden from the eyes of the world for the first thirty years) and then, as we are about to see, the way he ministered. The temptation for the Jews when they read the Isaiah prophecies at least, would be to expect a conquering king as their Messiah, who was coming to usher in a new world order, one where the Roman overlords would be thrown out of Israel and Israel would be seen as a world-leading nation. Indeed, that is what many of them did expect. However, the reality was different and in three particular respects.
A ‘played-down’ ministry: And then Jesus came and we see some strange acts, for example, after healing the leper who he touched, “Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone.” (Mt 8:4) What, we’ve just seen a miracle of healing and you want to keep it quiet? But then we find, “Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was.” (Mt 12:15,16) Large crowds healed and he tells them to keep quiet about the many miracles that occurred???? But it gets worse. Shortly after Peter has made his famous declaration of who Jesus was, a conversation ensues and, “he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.” (Mt 16:20) They have just been given revelation and now he tells them to keep quiet about it????
But then there is the episode on the mount of Transfiguration and “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17:9) They have just seen the glory of God on Jesus and he says don’t let anyone know what you just seen – well not yet anyway. Mark also records the same thing happening when he cast out evil spirits (Mk 3:12) and also with the deaf semi-mute he healed (Mk 7:36).
So why did Jesus act like this? It appears that many if not most of these instances happened earlier in the three years of his ministry and we are left with the sense that Jesus didn’t want his following to grow so quickly that his time of ministry, revealing the Father and teaching his disciples, would be cut short. There appears a specific time frame in which he was working towards the Cross and so the will of God in that respect had to prevail. Thus he played down so much of his power and authority until near the end, when in fact he played it up to provoke the religious authorities to rise against him (the raising of Lazarus as we saw previously).
A life of persecution/opposition: Yes. the second of these two things that go against the ‘greatness and glory’ image that the Jews might have expected of their Messiah is the fact of the rejection he found among the religious leaders at least in his people – and he did nothing to ease it! That is the strange thing about Jesus’ rule. In the previous study we suggested various ways in which he was in absolute control and, from a human standpoint at least, we might have expected that power and authority to be used to convince the religious leaders that he was their Messiah – but he didn’t. In fact he seemed to do quite the opposite; he confronted them with their intransigence, self-aggrandizement, and hardness of heart. It is little wonder that this, in the face of human sin, provoked hostility as it still does today. But instead of trying to play it down, at the appropriate time he played it up to bring about his Father’s will, his death on the Cross. We have already noted in earlier studies the hostility that was there opposing him from early on, and which became the primary motivating force to bring about his death.
The Cross itself: Yes, the fact of the Cross was not foreseen, as we have previously noted, until Jesus himself started warning his disciples about it. If the prophetic pictures of the Messiah had largely been of a conquering king, the thought of death on the cursed Cross is the ultimate picture of weakness and humility, especially when we find out it was at the heart of the divine strategy to bring salvation to the world. Now wonder Paul could write, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor 1:23)
Yes, we preach the glory and wonder of the Christ, the king ruling over God’s kingdom, the one seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven, ruling in the midst of his enemies – and it is essential that we do – but we must always balance it with the grace and humility of Christ if we are to be true to the record. And that will be true of our lives as well. Yes, on the one hand, we can rejoice at the wonder of being God’s children with all His resources available to us and with Him on our side, but on the other we must remember that He looks for grace and humility in us as we seek to be Christ-like, living out the will of God for our lives. Ours is not to demand, but to ask. Ours is not to be hostile but peace-loving. Ours is not to be arrogant but gracious. This is the kingdom of earth expressed through our lives and when we approach life like that, He will always be there for us, providing for us and revealing us for what we are – His children.
Knowing that we have a tendency to over-emphasise things, we will not leave these studies about the Christ on the ‘meek and mild’ note for that would not be an accurate representation. To hold the balance we will move on in the next studies to consider the varieties of ways the Lord moves in our lives today, and then see Christ as revealed in the book of Revelation.