I’d never realized before how Jesus was wrong, a friend shared with us during a home group meeting the other day. We were watching a historian and author talk about how Jesus’ big message was announcing the inauguration of a new kingdom … yet where exactly is this realm of goodness? While I 100% agree the Christ didn’t found a new “nation” in the usual land-based, people group oriented sense of the word, meaning he was “wrong” in that regard, I’ve experienced, live in, and trust he did start a heavenly realm of awesomeness right in the midst of our petty human kingdoms. The trick is training our selves to see and receive this deep joy and peace.
I love history, have a couple of degrees on the topic, and find knowing the context SUPER helpful in figuring out what’s going on. So, let’s begin with a bit of history.
Jesus was a Jew, and the Jews’ homeland was Israel. Compared to powerful ancient empires/kingdoms like Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, or even lesser lands, Israel was a really small nation. What is more, the land itself was perfectly located for armies to travel to/from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. To make a long story short, in their 1,000+ years before Jesus, the Jewish people in Israel were nearly constantly threatened, conquered, and/or enslaved by the super powers of the day.
This is why probably the most important and formative story for the Jews was the Exodus story. The one that tells how they were enslaved in Egypt until God worked through Moses to part the Red Sea and set the people free. In many ways, for the Jews the Exodus story was like a song stuck on repeat, in that country after country conquered/enslaved them, before God freed them. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
When Jesus arrived on the scene, Israel had been living under Roman dominion for a good while, and the people were eagerly anticipating the Divine freeing them from their oppressors, so they could again live in a fruitful and harmonious land. I’m going to repeat that last part again because it’s key for how the Christ took this old storyline and made it WAY bigger, better, and more beautiful: The people were eagerly anticipating the Divine freeing them from their oppressors, so they could again live in a fruitful and harmonious land.
In what I find to be a glorious twist, Jesus flipped this plotline on its head. Yes, you’re enslaved the Christ acknowledged, but more by competition, violence, greed, division, power, and envy (the real villains) than you ever were by people and their kingdoms. Surely I came to bring you a fruitful and harmonious “land”, but while physical spaces can be taken or ruined, there’s an immortal space within you full of Divine joy and peace I came to awaken!
Just before Jesus was crucified, he went on trial before the local Roman governor. Worried he wanted to start a revolution and become a “king” in the usual sense of the word, Pontius Pilate questioned Jesus about his “kingdom”. During this conversation the Christ famously said, “My kingdom is notof this world.”
As my friend wisely noted, Jesus certainly didn’t start an earthly place and space, but even though that’s what we expect, I don’t think it’s ever what God intended. Instead, the Christ planted a heavenly seed within each and every one of us; an imperishable and unquenchable space of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our souls. This Divine gift can never be taken or shaken; we simply must awaken and open to it!
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty glad Jesus didn’t start another human kingdom, with all our divisions, quarrels, lands, possessions, walls, wars, embargos, etc. Jesus began a Divine reign of Love with no borders, boundaries, exclusions, divisions, or violence, but full of unity, harmony, kindness, care, and compassion. It names ALL people sisters and brothers united, connected, and lit up from the inside out by the Spirit… we have but to open our mind’s eye to this deep joy and peace that by the grace of God is already in us and around us!
(Me doing yoga at an ancient monastery in Ireland)
Grace and peace,