July 1, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 4:42-44 (NRSV)
At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Jesus said that his purpose was to proclaim the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not a place, an inner state of spiritual awareness, or life after death. Rather, the kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus is God’s reign, God’s rule, God’s sovereignty. When we allow God to reign over every part of our lives, over every action and every word, we begin in this age to experience the reign of God. We celebrate the good news that “Our God reigns!”
In the past two days we have been reflecting on Luke 4:42-44. On Monday, we saw that Jesus chose purpose over popularity. Yesterday, we noted that part of what enabled Jesus to live intentionally in light of his purpose was his practice of regular prayer. Today, I’d like to consider with you the way Jesus described his purpose and how this matters to us.
Jesus turned down the invitation to remain in the region where he was popular because, as he said, “I must proclaim good news of the kingdom of God to other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). For the first time in Luke’s Gospel we encounter the phrase “kingdom of God.” It will show up another 31 times as a central theme in the preaching of Jesus.
What exactly is the kingdom of God? We’ll work on this question many times as we make our way through Luke. Today, I want to give a brief introduction to the kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus.
First of all, it may be good to note what the kingdom of God is not. It’s not a particular place, like, for example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – though, I should add, the kingdom of God is experienced in time and space. It’s not some inner state or spiritual awareness. Moreover, the kingdom of God is not the same thing as Heaven, the place of life beyond this life. The kingdom of God is closely related to the life in the age to come. But when Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, he wasn’t just showing people how to get to Heaven after they died.
If the kingdom of God isn’t a place, or deep spiritual awareness, or Heaven, what is it? To put it simply, the kingdom of God is God’s reign. It’s God’s sovereignty, God’s rule, God’s authority. The Greek word translated as “kingdom” (basileia) in the phrase “kingdom of God” could refer to a physical kingdom, but it was also used for kingly authority. This was true of the Aramaic word malkut, which Jesus used in his preaching. We see this clearly in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When God’s reign comes, God’s will is done on earth, just like in heaven.
Thus, what Jesus was sent to proclaim was the good news that God was coming to reign. Indeed, he preached that God’s reign had drawn near. Thus, the prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled in Jesus’s own ministry: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7). Jesus was this messenger. Of course he was more than just the messenger. He was also central to the message. But we’ll get to this later.
For us, the reign of God is something we can experience each day. When we acknowledge God as the sovereign over our lives, when we allow God to reign over everything we do and say, we experience what Jesus proclaimed. Each time we choose God’s justice over injustice, each time we offer God’s love rather than hate, each time we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, we savor the reality promised by Isaiah and fulfilled through Jesus: Our God reigns!
When you read the phrase “kingdom of God” in the New Testament, what do you envision?
In what ways have you experienced God’s reign in your life?
What helps you to live under the sovereignty of God each day?
At the beginning of the day, acknowledge God as your king. Ask God to reign over your life, in all you do and say. Throughout the day, remember that God is your king as you seek to honor him.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Your kingdom come in my life today, in my work and rest, in my words and my deeds, in my thoughts and feelings, in all that I am and all that I do.
Your kingdom come in our world today. May your will be done in cities and companies, in schools and stores, in studios and shops, in fields and factories.
Your kingdom come, Lord. Establish and uphold your kingdom “with justice and with righteousness, from this time onward and forevermore.”* Amen.
*Quotation from Isaiah 9:7
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread (Matthew 6:11)