What is the Kingdom of God? Jesus himself taught about it, almost from the very beginning of his ministry. As we continue studying the events of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry on the very first Palm Sunday, we’ve been following Mark’s account in Mark 11. Mark tells us that the people in the crowd, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, shouted a curious phrase, “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David.” In the previous post, I suggested that the people were proclaiming Jesus to be the promised Messiah, the king of the Kingdom. While they were correct, they were also wrong. Jesus was the Messiah, he was the King, but he was a very different King of a different Kingdom than what they realized. Jesus was the King of the Kingdom of God. And that is why I ask, “What is the Kingdom of God?”
To answer that question, turn in a Bible to the beginning of Mark chapter 1. Mark begins his gospel, his story of the life of Jesus, by telling us in verse 1 that this story is the beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the son of God.
Mark then quotes a couple Old Testament prophets that refer to the coming of the Messiah and that there would be a person who would prepare the way for him. That person was John the Baptist, and he had a powerful ministry, calling people to repent of their sins and get baptized, so that the people might be ready for the Messiah who was coming soon. Huge crowds heeded John’s message, and then one day Jesus showed up in the crowds.
Mark tells us that John baptizes Jesus, and at that moment God the Father speaks over Jesus and the Spirit of God descends on him, launching Jesus into ministry. Soon after that, John is thrown in prison, his ministry fades, and Jesus’ picks up where John left off. What is the first thing Jesus preaches? See verse 14-15, “The Kingdom of God has come near, Repent and believe the good news.”
Through Jesus, the Kingdom of God has come near. That’s a very different kind of King. Once Jesus taught his disciples to pray, saying, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
What is the Kingdom of God? The doctrine of the Kingdom is an approach to human flourishing, rooted in the perfect love of God for all, by which all Kingdom people partake in and share God’s love with one another.
Do you remember the final vision in the book of Ezekiel, where the river flows from the temple and provides flourishing to the land around it? You can read that blog post here. The river made trees grow, blossom and produce fruit. My daughter likes to point out all the blossoming trees in the spring. You see the whites, pinks, purples. The yellow. The grass has turned from brown to green. There is flourishing in springtime. The Kingdom of God is like that, but for humans.
Where the Kingdom of God is, there people flourish. When I use that word, “flourishing,” I am not talking about financial prosperity or vertical job growth or bigger houses or any of the typical metrics of success that we find in capitalism. In the American dream, bigger is better. But not in God’s Kingdom. Remember that Jesus once said, “narrow is the way, and few will find it.”
That doesn’t mean we are satisfied with only a few finding the Kingdom, because God loves the whole world and desires that every single person would become a part of his kingdom. Therefore we strive to help people enter his kingdom so that they can experience the flourishing only Jesus can bring. That flourishing is both the hope of eternal life with him, and the experience of abundant life now. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he came so that people might have life and life abundantly. That abundant life is the flourishing life of God’s Kingdom.
The flourishing life is not stagnant. There is new growth, blossoms, change. There are always more ways that God wants us to grow. He wants us to experience the movement of his Spirit in our lives.
That is why after Easter our next blog series is going to be about the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. God wants every person to experience the fruit of the Spirit, so that flowing from our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness and self-control. Can you imagine more and more people getting rid of bitterness, manipulation, gaslighting, intimidation, complaining, shouting, hatefulness, betrayal, and divisiveness? Can you imagine more and more people being filled with the fruit of the Spirit? That is the vision of the flourishing Kingdom.
That’s what happen when the Kingdom of God expands into people’s lives. This is what happens when people make Jesus their king. His Spirit enters our lives and begins to change us. When we are connected with the Spirit, we will continue to change to become more and more like him. The apostle Paul described this when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “When anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” When Jesus is our King, we become different people. We become people who flourish from within. How does that sound to you? Do you feel this inner flourishing? If not, I’d be happy to talk with you further. Just comment below!
But God’s Kingdom is not just within people. The Kingdom of God is so much more. Check back to the next post as we learn about God’s vision for his global Kingdom.