Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Keys of the Kingdom 18

Here are the words of Jesus from Matthew 10, our next reference to kingdom in the Gospels: 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ?Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ?The kingdom of heaven is near.? 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep..
1. The message the twelve missionaries are to preach is summed up in these words: “the kingdom of heaven is near.” The same is found at Luke 9:2 where it is connected as well with healing.
2. This message is the same message John (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus (4:17) preached. Thus, part of this point is continuity: from John to Jesus to the Twelve we have one message; that message is that the kingdom has drawn near.
3. The terms “is near” means future, perhaps imminently future, but still future. This term does not mean “already here” but “near, very near, so near its presence is being felt.”
4. Alongside this “message” (kerygma) is act: healing, raising dead, cleansing lepers, exorcising demons, living by faith in God’s provision.
5. Do we look back too? Is the kingdom Jesus preaches and tells his disciples to preach the kingdom that gathers in the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”? If so, this kingdom is not concerned with Gentiles or Samaritans, but the “lost sheep” — whoever they might be.
6. The praxis of missioners is to enter a community, find someone worthy — someone who responds to this kingdom message and actions — and settle there. So, there is community formation involved in this missional work. (Opposition too!)
It seems to me we are back to two things: (1) what the word “kingdom” meant in the Jewish world (esp here) and (2) how Jesus has used this term up to this point. My contention is that we thrust back on these themes: God as King, Davidic kingdom expectations (think Magnificat, Benedictus, Nunc Dimittis), God’s will, God’s society, God’s society doing God’s will, etc.. Land is involved in such expectation.
Your thoughts?

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posted January 30, 2008 at 1:24 am

This idea of the kingdom being very near. Is it at all possible that the disciples associated kingdom with the return of Christ? I’ve heard often that many of the apostles felt that once Jesus went to heaven that it was only a matter of time before he came back. They felt that his return was imminent just as the kingdom is spoke of here as being imminent.

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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2008 at 7:15 am

Second coming hope is later than this period in the life of the disciples.

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Scott M

posted January 30, 2008 at 7:51 am

I don’t think I entirely agree with number 3 above. While “at hand” or “near” can be interpreted through the lens of the dimension of time, it can also be interpreted through the lens of distance or proximity. I think here of Luke 10:11. If a city does not accept the proclamation of the seventy, they were to shake the dust of the town from their feet and proclaim that, nevertheless, “the kingdom of God has come near you.” That’s not a statement about the future. There is an immediacy to it. And the proclamation which was rejected was “the kingdom of God is near.” I think proximity might be a better lens. The Kingdom is breaking through in the story in the text. You can see it right there in the work of Jesus and those he sends out. You can reach out and touch it. You can enter it by following Jesus, by accepting that he is the prophesied and anointed liberating king — in other words, the Messiah.

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Scot McKnight

posted January 30, 2008 at 7:57 am

Scott M,
“Has drawn near” can be translated “proximate” but not so proximate to be “present.” There are too many statements by Jesus that clearly speak of time for me to think “proximate” doesn’t have the element of “imminent” in it.

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Beyond Words

posted January 30, 2008 at 9:44 am

This brings me back to thoughts of Jesus immediate mission: to warn Israel of the need to return to her true calling. Why? Because YHWH was returning to Zion to be king of all the nations as YHWH had promised. But not in the way Israel expected–it was going to happen through Jesus. The “nearness”of the kingdom is about urgency–now is the time to repent or face judgment. And part of that judgment happened in 70 AD.

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Mark Eb.

posted January 30, 2008 at 11:08 am

?near, very near, so near its presence is being felt.?
I like this expression. Is it in quotes because somebody else said it?
It is difficult for me to see this passage (and several others like it) as exclusively future. Future-oriented, yes. It seems both/and to me (a la Howard Snyder, Models of the Kingdom). But if the presence is being felt (and seen) then in some sense, for me, their is a present quality about it. I understand your position, Scot. I guess I’m wrestling with some of my prior formulations and trying to decide how I can integrate and what the implications are.
I guess the main question for me is, for Jesus, when will the Kingdom have arrived? Can it really arrive partially or for it to have arrived must it do so completely? Just wrestling with these implications for my belief system.
Thanks for your relentless questions. It keeps me from resting on my laurels.
In Christ,
Mark Eb.

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posted January 30, 2008 at 3:00 pm

As I look at these passages it really seems as though there is a sense of future – but always a sense of imminent future; as though the kingdom is in the process of coming into being. There is a real urgency to the message. So the questions I keep coming back to are: what did that mean in the early church ? after the crucifixion; what did it mean after 70 AD; and what does it mean for us today?

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Bradley Cochran

posted February 1, 2008 at 12:17 am

Coming to conclusions without comparitive studies in the other gospels will hinder this discussion. There are other statements in the gospels where the kingdom is proclaimed as having already come.
R.T. France is a beast of a scholar on this. His comments in both his commentary on Matthew and Mark are unbelievably helpful. To sum up his interpretation: “To declare that God’s kingship has come near is to say that God is now fulfilling his agelong purpose.” R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002, 93.
France has written a whole book on the use of the phrase “the kingdom of God” in Mark that is very helpful: Divine Government: God’s Kingship in the Gospel of Mark (London: SPCK, 1990).
Basically, once you see what “the kingdom of God” is, it becomes less of a strain to figure out the nature of it’s “already not yet-ness” (to coin a phrase).

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