A CLASH OF TWO KINGDOMS

A CLASH OF TWO KINGDOMS

I remember a fight my kids had. I could see the anger and hatred in their eyes. As a father, It hurts me to see my kids fighting. Imagine what father God feels when he sees his kids divided and hurting each other. You just have to scroll on social media, watch or read the news and we see that we are living in a time of division.  A kingdom divided will not stand (Matthew 12:25)

I chose to tackle this sensitive topic because the Bible addresses division, politics, finances, sin and life in general.  Since, Jesus is our ultimate example. Let’s study how he handled this:

Leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand. ~ Ron Heiifertz

Jesus disappointed many when he came. The Jews were expecting a warrior king, a political leader. What they wanted was someone who would crush Rome and set them free from oppression. That was their prayer. They were hungry for justice.  In the book of John we see a glimpse of this:

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” John 6:14

Jesus’s read their intentions and withdrew:

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”     John 6:15″

“By force” We keep trying to make it right by force. We keep taking matters into our hands by creating systems parallel to what it was meant to be supreme.

Remember the triumphal entry?  It was like a big parade.  They used palm branches.  Palm branches became the symbol of Jewish nationalism, their political symbol. Israelite rebels illegally minted coins and put palms on them.  The triumphal entry could have been interpreted as a declaration of war/ a military statement
This is the bible text they quoted:

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  From the house of the Lord we bless you.
Psalms 118:26

But here is what they said:

 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Mark 11:9-10

Their understanding was that their kingdom was going to be reinstated and the messiah was supposed to deliver them and make their kingdom mighty again. They understood it in an earthly way:

“The multitude were convinced that the hour of their emancipation was at hand. In imagination they saw the Roman armies driven from Jerusalem, and Israel once more an independent nation.” Desire of Ages 570.1

Since Jesus came to this earth, earthly kings felt threatened by Jesus. When the king heard that a baby was supposed to be

born and grow up to be the king of the Jews. He sent to eliminate all the babies.  Think about it.  The ultimate charge against Jesus was treason.  There are things that are not of Caesar.   The tablet on the cross read:  Jesus “king of the Jews”.  He was mocked as a king by the soldiers and even a thorn crown was placed on his head. 

In the Roman Kingdom “Caesar is Lord” was the norm.  The Roman coin bore an image of Caesar and the inscription: DIVI FILIUS (Son of God).

A devout Israeli would not even carry a Roman coin because it was considered idolatry.

The biggest question in the Jewish mind during the time of Jesus was: Where is the Kingdom of God? When is it coming?

This question is at the core of all us. It is still in our hearts. We want justice.  We want this world to be better at whatever cost.  So much is going all over the world. Things we barely hear about and things we hear a lot about! God is seeing all of this. His heart is broken.

But we keep fighting with one another and that keeps us from sharing the abundance that God has entrusted to this amazing country with and we are not able to be a blessing to the world as much as we could.   America was prophesied to come about with a purpose to fulfill.  The Bible says that a country was going to come about to help the persecuted church in Europe:

“Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon.  And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.”
Revelation 12:15-17  

Justice is at the heart of the question.  Moreover, there were three responses to this cry of justice during the time of jesus.  All three responses want to “force” God’s kingdom into existence  You can see yourself in one of them because they are still with us now:

Violence:
The Zealots revolted. The y were the militia men. The rebels. They were set on recruiting Jews to fight the Romans

Winthdraw:
The Essenes withdrew into the wilderness. The world was to wicked to be in it. They became religious monks away from society

Compromise:
The Sadducees assimilated. They were the branch that did not believe in angels or the resurrection.

Jesus countered all three. He came to establish a new kingdom with a new set of rules that opposed and challenged their understanding and this message keeps confronting our own worldview.  A kingdom which currency was meant to be LOVE!

The gospels share a story of a Centurion who came looking for help from Jesus and Jesus complements his faith (Matthew 8:5-13)

I imagine that when the Zealots saw this scene, they were boiling. How can Jesus be interacting with this killer. This oppressor! By doing this, Jesus says I love even the Romans.

Jesus had already countered this view from his sermon on the mount:

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Matthew 5:41

A reference to the hated law that allowed Roman soldiers to force civilians to carry their packs for one mile

The zealots were wrong – God’s kingdom will not be accomplished through violence!

Then Jesus comes and proves another group wrong

Jesus touched lepers, spoke with prostitutes and gentiles…

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” Mat. 11:19

The Essenes were wrong. The kingdom of God will not be accomplished by withdrawing into a religious subculture

Jesus was asked “Is it right for us to pay the imperial tax?
Jesus refused to be co opted like the sadducees were

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:17

Jesus makes a clear statement that there are things that are superior to government.  The right to dictate worship does not belong to Caesar. The title Lord did not belong to Caesar. There is a higher kingdom! So Sadducees were wrong in Compromising

So Jesus continues to ruffle feathers. Politics divides us but Jesus unites us. He calls two people with opposing worldview to be disciples of his. There is room for all but all views are called to submission to HIS principles to live by which in the Bible is summarized in one word:  LOVE.

Zealots hated tax collectors and tax collectors obviously did not get along with zealots.  But Jesus calls them both:

Simon, you are a zealot.
You despise Romans and collaborators like tax collectors – come with me

Matthew, you are a tax collector. You are a collaborator, a despised tax collector. You too come…and you are rooming with Simon.  Jesus calls all to submit to his Lordship because he was calling them to a new kingdom!

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”          John 18:36

Paul asks the Romans to pray for their leaders. Think about what he is asking! Think about emperor Nero. stabbed his mother after a failed attempt to drown her, poisoned an aunt, kicked a pregnant wife to death and executed another one. He wedded a boy named Spores, whom he castrated, and Nero was rumored to have sung an opera while Rome burned.

Even the most moral of emperors became the most opposed to this new “Kingdom” that Jesus planted.

Marcus Aurelius was one of the most moral emperor and he was one of Christianity’s worst persecutor.
From their view, Christians were withholding from Rome the ultimate devotion needed to maintain what VIRGIL called the “Imperium Sine Fine” (The Kingdom that will never end)

Christians understood that they were part of a different kingdom altogether, they could not submit to demands that countered the rules established by Jesus but they were called to pray for the leaders in spite of.

AT SOME POINT CAESAR CONVERTED AND CHRISTIANITY BECAME THE OFFICIAL RELIGION OF ROME. Christianity went from being illegal to being legal.

A writer says that “Christians have behaved the worst when they have been in political power than when they were persecuted by it.”

Christians began to force non-christians and then went to kill 

Christians. They wanted to “force” the kingdom of God.They would torture and kill, all with the intend to establish “the kingdom” on others!

“They will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done ever since whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.”  (Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 126)

The Bible had prophesied that “the earth was going to help these persecuted christians.” A land where freedom was going to ring for all and America came about as a result of God’s sovereignty.  Positive also came from Christians being involved, specially at the beginning of this new country.

“Quaker William Penn & Baptist Roger Williams pioneered political work to embed freedom of religious conscience in law. The influence of Jesus helped create a state where people could choose not to follow Jesus. In this way, and not only in this way, Jesus is present even in his absence.” ~ Ortberg

This country came about to grant this freedom. So every time Christians get power and go back to “forcing” others attitude, we Adventist stand against it. We believe in the separation of church and state. We believe that God has given all humans the right to be free to worship as their conscience leads them. As a denomination, we defend this freedom.

Christians were known from early own as a different class of people all together because of who they were:

“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity either in locality or in speech or in customs. But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast….the constitution of their citizenship is nevertheless quite amazing and admittedly paradoxical. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners…Every foreign country is a fatherland to them and every fatherland is a foreign country.”
Espistle of Mathetes to Dionegtus 5.5 (2nd century)
(www.earlychristianwritings.com)

Nothing that is happening has caught God off guard. In Daniel 2, we find a historical overview of how it will all develop

The head = Babylon
The chest = Medo Persia
The legs = Greece
The shins = Rome
The feet = Modern day

All of these kingdoms thought they were going to be eternal. All of them fell. The vision that Nebuchanedzzar saw ended with a rock “cut not of human hands”.   Soon, Jesus will come back to this earth to make things right again.  

The biggest legacy of the Roman empire was not the pax Romana or the road system but a rather the birth of a baby he never heard of, in a providence he never saw…

So what can we do?

PRAY IT
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10

PROCLAIM IT

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!
Isaiah 52:7

SEEK IT

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

It’s all about character not politics. We are called to bring this kingdom of peace to this world. We can see the world differently and still love each other. We don’t fight each other. We don’t insult others who we disagree with. It is about character, not politics because we are part of a greater kingdom!

Resources:

*   Peter Richardson, Herod King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans.
* Discovering God:  The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief.
* Tertullian, “Apologetic: To Scapula”                                                         * The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. Robert Wilkins               * Who is this man?  by John Ortberg
* Jesus Through the Centuries:  His Place in the History of Culture.
* Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success.

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