I don’t know if we fully appreciate what Jesus meant by “kingdom.”
Abraham and Sarah had stood on the land which was promised to their descendants. A kingdom to be.
By the end of Genesis, they were slaves in Egypt, a foreign kingdom.
Moses lead them back into the land, and then there was David, king over the kingdom.
The prophets saw them out, into the foreign kingdom of Babylon.
Ezra and Nehemiah lead them back into the land. They built walls. They established a throne. Then they waited for a king in the bloodline of kings to come and rule the kingdom.
The camera in the closing scene of the Old Testament pans out focussed on an empty throne.
The camera pans back in, past a star, past shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, zooming in on the throne which has been disassembled and reassembled as a manger.
They wanted a king. Mashiah. Messiah. It means “anointed one.” Because when a king was crowned, or inaugurated, he would kneel down, and the prophet would anoint his head with oil. Mashiah was not a wandering religious guy sitting on a hilltop teaching people to love each other. It was a prince rising to power. It was a warrior, not a pacifist.
When he gave them bread, they tried to force him to be king.
When he went to Jerusalem, they cheered that the rival king had finally come to town.
When they caught him, they forced a crown of thorns on his head and put a sign on his cross to make fun of what was expected of him. King?
And Jesus fed their lust a little bit. He said, “The kingdom of God is near.” And that’s what they wanted. Kingdom was their love language. That’s what they were waiting for. It had been 1800+ years of Advent, waiting for the king to come. The problem was that he was not that sort of king.
When a friend of mine was a little girl, her dad taught her to call steak “chicken” and chicken “steak.” A harmless joke, perhaps, except they no longer speak to each other and she had food allergies. In any case. She figured it out when she went to a restaurant and ordered “chicken” and they brought her chicken, and she said, “I ordered chicken,” and the waitress said, “That’s a chicken.” She wanted steak.
They came to Jesus ordering “kingdom,” and he gave them a kingdom, and they said, “No, a kingdom,” and he said, “That is a kingdom.” And they crucified him. They came wanting power and control of the culture and armies and war. He gave them love and self-sacrifice.
As we prepare for Christmas, as we go to God seeking kingdom, I’m going to try to order what he’s serving.