Kingdom of God is Jesus’ favorite expression for his mission and his aim. But what does it mean?
Scholars have gotten trapped into two boxes. First, many are preoccupied with the issue of time: did Jesus think the Kingdom was imminent, inaugurated, or entirely in the future? Far too often what that question of time is settled, kingdom is dropped. Second, others are trapped into thinking the kingdom of God is some kind of “experience” of the divine — as if Jesus was speaking only of a personal relationship with God or some religious experience.
I am suggesting we look together at a thread of texts I have mentioned in passing before. (We could, of course, begin with all sorts of “background” issues: what kingdom means in the Old Testament, or what it meant in Judaism prior to Jesus — all well and good. You can find all this in G.R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God.)
Today’s post begins where we need to begin: with The Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55). Not only does it provide a plausible context for Jesus — his mother’s faith and vision (I sketch this in Jesus Creed, chp. 9), but it sets out the themes that will become consistent for Jesus.
Here is what I see in The Magnificat as themes of the Kingdom of God.
1. God is Savior and Lord in redeeming his people (1:46-47).
2. God, finally, shows his promised mercy to the poor and humble (1:47). [The terms here speak of the Anawim, the pious poor, those whom Jesus is blessing in “blessed are the poor.”]
3. God shows mercy to those who fear God (1:50).
4. God’s Kingdom is demonstrable in “mighty deeds” (1:51)
5. God’s Kingdom involves stripping the mighty and proud from their lofty places (1:51-52).
6. God’s Kingdom involves giving justice to the oppressed (1:51-53).
7. God’s Kingdom involves the people of God, Israel (1:54)
8. God’s Kingdom is connected to the Abraham promises (1:55).
In short, Mary’s vision is the realization of the long-expected hope when God will create the society he promised to his people and through his prophets. This society will marked by justice and peace, by fear of God and holiness and mercy/love.
This is the cradle in which Mary rocked the baby Jesus. This was a new vision, yea an old vision, for a new Israel.
Tomorrow I will look at Luke 4.