Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Kingdom of God 2

What did Jesus mean by “kingdom of God,” and what did he have in mind — in real world living — when he packed his vision into this expression?

A good place to start is with Luke 4:16-30. I’ll cite here the pertinent verses.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


Several observations:

1. This is Jesus’ inaugural sermon in his “hometown” synagogue, and we have every right to think he is setting out his major themes. Why? Because he begins by claiming that this powerful text from Isaiah 61 is about himself. This is bold. However bold, it becomes central for us if we really want to know what Jesus thought his purpose was.

2. Jesus here claims Spirit-empowerment and he claims to be anointed. This latter term is connected to the word “Messiah.”

In light of these two observations, we need to ask what Jesus thought this Spirit-empowerment and anointing were designed to accomplish and, so I must contend, this will lead us to an initial grasp of what Jesus thought the Kingdom of God was.


3. Jesus’ Kingdom mission concerned these four groups — who probably ought not to be distinguished so much as synthesized into a larger category: poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. That is, the marginalized and the neglected. Those who are mistreated, those who are not given justice, those who are abused, those who find no recourse…

4. Jesus’ Kingdom promises: good news, release, sight, and freedom. Again, put together: justice in the sense of reversal. In these terms we see what the OT often means when it speaks of the “forgiveness of sins.”

5. Many today think the last verse, in “the year of the Lord’s favor,” is suggesting that Jesus is inaugurating the Jubilee expectations of Leviticus 25. Perhaps so; I tend to think this is right. Whether or not Jesus has the Jubilee specifically in mind, what he does have in mind is the Kingdom of God as expected in a multitude of texts, including Isa 61 and Leviticus 25. In other words, Jesus is saying what the Lord’s Prayer is saying: “may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


Along the same line: many also think that Jesus omitted from Isa and “the day of vengeance.” I’m not so convinced of this, but it is possible, in which case Jesus would be eschewing the expectation of vengeance against the Gentiles. Which would mean, Jesus has an all-inclusive vision of the Kingdom of God. Again, this is possible.

6. Now, tell me, does this sound like the Magnificat or what? Jesus’ vision is the same vision his mother had: a socio-economic revolution in which peace, justice, and love would be rule the hearts and lives of all persons who were willing to walk with Jesus.

7. Let me emphasize something in #6: the Kingdom vision of Jesus is a Christ-centered vision rather than just an ethical vision alone. Jesus’ Kingdom is one that has him at the center, and not simply an abstract sense of justice (I’ve blogged on justice before and I’ll avoid repeating myself). Thus, his vision is not “social justice” the way many use it today, but “God’s idea of what is right” (and he is just about to teach what that means in the Sermon on the Mount).


8. Those who heard Jesus were impressed by his graciousness (Luke 4:22). Is it not inherent to the word grace that it is inclusive, forgiving, restoring — of all sorts, especially the marginalized? The “grace of Jesus” is God’s concern for the marginalized and he thinks it should come into realities now — in the real world.

9. The kind of “sin” Jesus has in mind is systemic as much as it is personal. There is a problem in Israel: it manifests itself in the abuse of power and the abuse of the poor.

10. Jesus was rejected by some of his townsfolk for his vision of the Kingdom of God.

11. If you were asked “what is the gospel of Jesus?”, how would you answer it?

We are not done yet; tomorrow we will look at Luke 6 (Matthew 5–7).

Comments read comments(6)
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Anthony Smith

posted July 24, 2005 at 2:17 pm

“If you were asked “what is the gospel of Jesus?”, how would you answer it?”Scot,I would say that the gospel of Jesus is God sending His Son into the world to inaugarate a revolution by which the fallen order of creation is coming into God’s desired pattern. And that God’s pattern is preeminently exemplifed by the teachings, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus from Nazareth. Jesus shows us the way into the kingdom of God.The short version:The good news of Jesus is this: The Kingdom has come and is coming!

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posted July 24, 2005 at 5:16 pm

I heard a venerable New Testament professor say once that the reason why Jesus left of the fateful last phrase from Isaiah is not because he was playing fast and loose with the text, but rather he was quoting from the Septuagint which conveniently leaves this phrase out in translation. I don’t have a LXX in front of me so you’ll have to check the accuracy of this yourself. If Jesus was in fact more accustomed to the Greek Septuagint than we give him credit for, then perhaps that will explain a number of cases in the New Testament where the quotation cited doesn’t look exactly like the scripture we read in our Masoretic textual translation. That Jesus left off the phrase didn’t seem to matter much. The people still got ticked off at him and attempted to run him off a cliff…

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posted July 25, 2005 at 7:15 am

Isn’t it also somewhat common for a New Testament personality who quotes from the OT to import the gist of a larger passage without actually quoting every word? I think this sort of thing is discussed in Beale’s Right Doctrine From The Wrong Texts, and maybe R. Hays’ recent books on Paul’s use and interpretation of OT scriptures. This doesn’t really answer the question posed on the nature of the gospel, but it is quite interesting.The understanding of the Kingdom being marked by relationships, between people and God, and people and people, as well as an abandonment of a Good Friday-only gospel, seems to go a long way to getting us to think rightly about how a passage such as Lk. 4:16-30 might impact the church. I’m nearly through reading Reggie McNeal’s 2003 book, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions For The Church, where he addresses a number of issues similar to those discussed in this blog over the past few months. He suggests a missiology for the entire church that represents an understanding of the K of G such as we have seen here. The hoped for impact is a mission-shaped church, not a program-shaped club.

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Ted Gossard

posted July 26, 2005 at 12:01 am

Ben, thanks for your comments. I want to get a better grip on the importance Scripturally of a mission-oriented church instead of a program-oriented church. Scot, Ben or anyone elseI wonder how we over many decades and probably centuries have lost sight of both Jesus’ message of the good news of the kingdom and the fact that the church is called essentially to mission. Some take Paul’s texts and then conclude that the church as body is to function for that body- i.e., in reference to itself. I knew a godly Christian who believed that the local church should be solely for the building up of the body, i.e., of the believers attending and a part (“members”) of it. I think he believed that the works of service were only for that body to be built up unto full Christian maturity- Ephesians 4.

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Larry Lee

posted July 26, 2005 at 11:25 am

I appreciate the analysis. I learned from it. But I can’t help but think that Jesus referred to something more, also, when he spoke of the Kingdom of God. That he promised us entry into the spiritual world at the tip of our nose.

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posted August 4, 2005 at 9:37 am

Scot,i’m trying hard to understand the KoG from this perspective that isn’t mine. i’ve been vacationing and looked forward to reading your series on the KoG upon my return. So this is what i don’t get. From the magnificat…it is the Lord who brings down the proud and the mighty rulers. It’s the Lord who lifts up the humble. He fills the hungry but sends the rich away empty. (How is this not metaphorical-it hasn’t literally happened except incidentally). And its the Lord who helps Israel. So it says nothing of his means. If it is us are we to bring down rulers and turn away the rich?Also, I’m having a hard time seeing the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 61. Is the gospel not for the rich? Are we to release violent criminals from their incarceration? Are we to put more effort in eye surgery and eye medicine and pray for more gifts of eye healing for the world’s blind? Does the implausability of literal application leave this gang of four better understood in spiritual terms? These are alot of questions. You can reach me at jumland at gmail. I’m sure i’ll have more questions as I continue this series.God is goodjpu

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