From the Bible: Jesus and the Kingdom of God

By: deacon Orlando Fernández Guerra

Jesus’ public ministry aroused certain hopes among his disciples and the poorest in Israel, for he appeared as the heir to traditions over the Kingdom of God. His proceeding materialized the mesianic figure announced by the prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion: Your God reigns!” (Is 52.7). At first the deepest longings of the people seemed to be filled, especially among simple people, because they saw him say and do something unspeakable.

Although Jesus added to this the novelty of his person, however, he was baffled, so he received disapproval: “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Lk 4:22), and joyful approval: “He of whom Moses wrote in the Law, and also the prophets, we have found him, is Jesus, the son of Joseph, the son of Nazareth” (Jn 1:45).

The people knew the patriarchal stories and the epic exit from slavery of Egypt led by Moses. Also, that the Messiah would be born of David’s lineage, as announced by the prophets. He also knew the story of the return of exile under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as the heroic struggle of the Maccabees against the Greek invader. Now, in the fulness of times, God sends you to your own Son who presents himself as the “Son of Man”, known by the prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel (Dn 7.13; Ez 3.1,4,10,17; 4.1; Mc 2.28; 10.45; 14.62, etc.). St. Matthew quotes him thirty times; Mark in thirteen, Luke in twenty-eight and John in twelve. In total eighty-three times in the four gospels. Amen that the book of Acts refers to it on one occasion (Acts 7.56) and Revelation in Two (Ap 1:13; 14.14).

This is why his preaching arouses interest among the people; because it touched the most intimate fibers of Jewish hope. When He spoke of the Kingdom of God, in his parables He revitalized what was discussed in synagogues every Saturday. But this Son of Man will undo stereotypes when he visits his people’s Synagogue. There he will make it clear that his mission will not consist of a more rigid observance of the Mosaic Law, nor the multiplication of the sacrifices of the Temple (Lk 4:16-21), for he brings with him an proclamation of peace, mercy and forgiveness, even to the enemies (Mt 9:13).

So when he announced the imminence of the Kingdom and called for conversion (Mk 1.15) he was opening a different path than expected. His behavior with the poor, the sick, and whatever suffering crossed his path revealed the mission the Father had entrusted to him. And to accomplish this he disobeyed the religious conventionalisms of his time: he ate with publicans (Lk 9.15) and sinners (Mk 2:16), healed lepers (Mt 11:5; Lk 17.12), exorcized devils (Mt 8.16; 28; 33; Mc 1.32), blessed the children (Mt 19.13-14), resurrected a dead girl (Mk 5.35-42) and let he himself be touched by unclean women (Mt 9.20; Lk 7.37). And some of these miracles were performed on a Sabbath, for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2:28; Lk 6.5).

For the Pharisees and other religious groups, it was scandalous and intolerable that this Man was chosen by God to inaugurate his eternal reign. St Paul makes clear the mystery of his incarnation when he tells us that God has chosen one “born of woman” (Gal 4.4) and “like in all men” (Phil 2:7). His actions showed nothing but political weakness in the face of the Roman invader and the people expected a political and liberating Messiah. The hope of the people is clear in the phrase addressed by the disciples of Emmaus to the pilgrim who accompanies them: “We hoped that he would deliver Israel from the Roman invader” (Lk 24:21). This theology did not take into account that wisdom, strength, and grace are experienced through weakness (1 Cor 1.25; 12.9).

Therein lay the mystery of the incarnation of the verb that they could not appreciate or enjoy (Jn 1:14-18). Therefore, his invitation to conversion and faith (Mk 1:15) are the only two conditions for participating in the closeness of the Kingdom. When they try to discredit him by accusing him of being an instrument of Satan, he tells them, “If I cast out the demons with the Spirit of God, it is a sign that the kingdom of God has come to you” (Mt 12:28). At the end of his life he will say to Pilate, “You say it: I am king, for this I am born, and for this I have come into the world” (Jn 18:37). And the good thief shall cry from the Cross, “Remember me, when ye come unto thy kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Ω

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