The Kingdom of God – Tom Wright

20 Oct

What would random passers by say about what Jesus had to say? Most would likely refer to “render unto Caesar…”. It would suggest the idea of keeping church and society separate, letting each other get on with each other, but not affecting the other. But Jesus meant something almost completely opposite to this when He said it. Yet the original Greek could almost be rendered “pay back Caesar what he deserves, and n his own currency”, which also then means that you need to pay God back what He deserves and in His own currency.

When Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God coming He really does mean it is the time for the Kingdom of God to come into actuality. Yet we seem to reread this with a modern dogma, affecting our understanding of it.

Another well known story from the Gospels is the Prodigal it, Jesus is plugging in to ancient Biblical themes, such as Jacob and Esau. It is also a challenge to us with the fact that it shows that the Kingdom of God is not coming, but present! Jesus’ teaching was not just to teach us about God, but to teach us about who He was and what He was doing at the time!

In the “cleansing of the Temple”, Jesus is not just cleaning out those that shouldn’t be there, He is harking back to Exodus and the Passover and all that that was symbolising, of Israel being called out of Egypt to go and worship God. It was a cry declaring a new end to exile, to send His people out into the world, to worship God there.

Jesus was not teaching a new religion, nor how people can get to Heaven when they die. Nor was he launching a new protest movement, or offering a new at to message to be taken into or our thinking. He was instead bringing us a message of a new theocracy, of God’s rule on earth via the Cross. And yet the Western world has created its own thinking about how God and the World interrelate, having the world getting on with its own thing while Heaven can get on with its own thing. It has taken the message of the Gospel and shrunk it down to just dealing with individual sin. Whilst this is important, it is not all that the Gospel is for.

The Gospels are not giving us a pleasant picture, a moral teacher, or any of the other often suggested ideas about Jesus. They are tacking us about the resurrection, and difference to the world that it makes. It calls us to die to this life, and all that the world tries to lead us in, and instead rise to new life in Christ.

The problem we often have in our reading of Scripture, and the Gospels in particular, is that we are normally only reading a small snippet of them, rather than the wider context of the speaks of money, monarchy and so on, all things that we experience in our world today. We need the larger narrative if we are to understand the Gospel.

“The Hebrew Scriptures offer us a torso, the Gospels offer us a head for that torso”. The Gospel is the culmination of the story of Israel.

The Gospels tell us about how to be fully human.

The Gospels tell us about how God fulfils his promises to His people.

The climax of the story of Israel must be the climax of the clash between God’s kingdom and the empires of the world.

The challenge for the Church is that we can focus on the Kingdom, how we relate to the world, or the Cross, how we can be forgiven. It is rare for them to combine the 2. This is because the Western world has fallen for the Enligtenment and then demythologised the stories of the Bible.

The world has failed to understand how God is in control. When they say “why doesn’t God do something?” They are expecting God to send in the tanks, yet when we see God doing something is is with the qualities that Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount.

The world sees us as needing to be meek and mild and quiet. Yet we are called to speak truth to power. And when we do we are often confronted with anger that we have done so.

Jesus seeks to find us and meet us where we are and then calls us to follow Him from there. We see that in  how He responds to Peter when He reinstates him, when He meets Mary in the garden and Thomas in his doubting.

Comments during Questions:

The parables are not just what we read. Stories like the Prodigal Son are left on “cliffhanger so” whip th no true conclusion, in order to get people thinking and engaging with the story

In our society we do not tend to think that adult Christian education is important. We need to bring in the reading of Scripture in chunks, having people read an entire book in 1 go to the congregation.

If the Church wants to bridge the gap with society it needs to be involved in its community and become self-authenticating.

In the last 200 years the Church seems to have forgotten that the is such a thing as Christian political theology.

We do Easter and Holy Week quite wrong. If Lent is to last 6 weeks then Easter should last up until the Ascension!

Psalm 72 – the people that matter the most are the people at the bottom of the pile – The Church, and bishops as its leaders and representatives to the world, is called to speak up for those to people and positions of power.

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