848:“The Reign of God is at hand”
Day 848: Tuesday, July 12, 2022
“The Reign of God is at hand”
Hope is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success. Rather, it is the ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.
Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is also this hope, above all, that gives us the strength to live and continually to try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now... Life is too precious to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, without meaning, without love and, finally, without hope. – Vaclav Havel
Reign of God or Reign of Caesar?
by Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFaith Ministries.
Luke 10:1-9 is a section from Luke’s longest meditation on mission. There are all sorts of details to the instructions, some of which we don’t fully understand. But, the entire passage is lost on us if we don’t understand one key ingredient.
There is a phrase that is repeated twice in the passage and which, in a critical sense, is the key teaching of Jesus’ ministry and mission of the disciples. And the key phrase is “The Reign of God is at hand” or “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
This is to be the primary message of the disciple’s mission, just as it was Jesus’ primary message.
For many of us Christians, the language of the Reign of God or Kingdom of God has been defined, to put it somewhat abruptly, as heaven. “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” meant that heaven is near. Of course, heaven was understood to be a spiritual something that happened after death. And, so, for many of us the phrase was meant to remind us that something better was waiting for us after this life. That was, at best, not very helpful and certainly not worthy of the kind of reaction that Jesus evoked from his listeners.
I don’t think anyone gets crucified for saying that life in the hereafter is on its way so clean up your act. I don’t think anyone gets anything—even an audience—for saying that life in the hereafter is on its way. And, indeed, the proclamation “The Reign of God is at hand,” meant something very different.
The Reign of God was in fact a proclamation associated not with the hereafter but with the here and now. The Reign of God was actually a phrase borrowed and adapted from Roman political language, which used the word “reign” to refer to the leadership of the Roman ruler.
“Reign of God” was borrowed from the common phrase, “The Reign of Caesar.” And, in effect, Jesus was contrasting the dominant reality of his day—the subjugation associated with the Roman Empire, the Reign of Caesar—with a reality that is of God, which is the presence of justice, mercy, forgiveness, solidarity and equity.
Note: Jesus is both announcing good news and disclosing bad news.
The good news is the Reign of God, with the recognition that all of us are valuable, that all are worthy. The bad news is the Reign of Caesar, with its degradation and exploitation. The Reign of Caesar meant hunger, landlessness, suffering and oppression.
And since most Jews had been impoverished, exploited and made powerless by the Roman Empire, Jesus’ words struck a chord. And since some Romans were the direct beneficiaries of this bad situation, it was clear that, for them, Jesus was a problem.
Those of us who have spoken on behalf of and worked side-by-side with those experiencing poverty and marginalization know in our gut that the Reign of God is indeed good news.