The Kingdom of God
During Lent, we also consider the Messiah's message about the kingdom of God.
1. Recognize the Context:
After this awkward exchange between Jesus and Peter, he gathered his disciples and the crowd together. Jesus wanted to make sure they knew, anyone who desired to follow him must to do three things. True disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him.
But what is self-denial? In his commentary on Mark, Walter Wessel explains, “By denial of self, Jesus does not mean to deny oneself something. He means to renounce self—to cease to make self the object of one’s life and actions. This involves a fundamental reorientation of the principle of life. God, not self, must be at the center of life.”
Next, a disciple needed to take up their cross. Jesus’ First Century Greco-Roman hearers had a vivid picture of this horrific process. Roman rulers forced convicted criminals to carry their cross beam to the place of execution. His meaning was quite clear, and in a short time, these words would be Jesus’ reality.
Finally, disciples of Jesus must be willing to follow him continually. The verb “to follow” is in the present tense identifying the command's continuous and ongoing nature. Luke's parallel passage brings this out more clearly with the word "daily" (Luke 9:23). True discipleship calls for a constant life of devotion patterned after the Master.
For Jesus, not following the way of discipleship now might preserve this present life, but it will lead to loss in the future. However, the opposite is also true. Surrendering your life now will lead to future salvation. Ultimately, nothing in this present world is worth forfeiting eternal life.
To be ashamed of Jesus in this present age, the equivalent of saving one's life (verse 35), will lead to Christ being ashamed of that person at the final judgment. However, the inverse is also true (Luke 12:8-9). A shameless proclamation of Christ now in this present age will lead to a proud acknowledgment of his followers before heaven at the final judgment.
2. Read the Scripture: Mark 8:34-38
And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
As the Messiah, the emphasis of Jesus’ message and ministry was the kingdom of God. Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated God’s rule and reign on earth as it is in heaven. It was not a military kingdom, as some had anticipated. It was a spiritual kingdom which transcended people’s expectations. This kingdom was confirmed through Jesus’ teaching and his miraculous deeds including healings, miracles, and exorcisms (Luke 11:20).
Most people assume when they hear or read the phrase “kingdom of God,” Jesus was simply referring to a future reality, namely, his second coming. That is partially true, but not the full picture. In Jesus' teaching and parables, he referred to God's kingdom as being both a present reality (Mark 1:15) and a future reality (Mark 14:25, 15:43). Sometimes he emphasized the present aspect of the kingdom, and at other times he emphasized the future component.
Concerning God’s kingdom as a present reality, verse 1 was actually a message of hope for Jesus’ First Century hearers. He demonstrated numerous signs the kingdom of God was present for those “who had eyes to see.” This is why he promised some would see the power of the kingdom before death. This “seeing” included miracles, healings, the transfiguration (in the following verses), his death, resurrection, ascension, etc. These were all signs God’s kingdom was present, in the First Century. Today, in the 21st century, we remember there is more to come. This is why we can talk about the kingdom of God being already here, but not yet here in its fullest form. We live between the first and second coming of Christ. His ultimate return will fully establish his kingdom and it will have no end.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully consider the passage today about the kingdom of God and the last passage in Mark 8 about true discipleship-denying self, taking up your cross, and following Jesus. Today, prayerfully reflect on the dual nature of the kingdom, present and future.
To do: (Actions with the Holy Spirit's help)
Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers.