Where is the Kingdom?

Read Luke 19:11-27

Sometimes I get questions about my “interpretation” of scripture in these morning reflections. As a word of clarification, what I write is simply intended to be a reflection of my thought process… a version of me thinking out loud, if you will. Understanding scripture, and listening for God’s voice in scripture for me comes through a process of thinking theologically while wondering about and sometimes questioning traditional understandings and interpretations of even familiar passages. I share these thoughts not primarily as proclamation (although I hope the gospel rings loud and clear through what I write). I share these thoughts primarily to invite and challenge people to read and think and question along with me while engaging in conversations about God and scripture and life. I share that, because today is one where something different has caught my attention in this familiar story.

Jesus is in the middle of dinner at Zacchaeus’ home when he declares, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” This text is a continuation of that dinner party, “As they were listening to this” Jesus shares this parable to answer their questions about the immediacy of the Kingdom of God, because they, “supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” Typically I’m drawn to the apparent point of this parable — the stewardship lesson. Jesus says, “…those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” This is an important lesson for sure, but this morning, I’m wondering if this is the only point of Jesus’ parable here. It’s A point for sure… maybe ever the primary one. It is certainly the easiest to spot, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of the question that is being asked about the Kingdom. So, is Jesus dodging the question by making another point, or is there more to be seen here? I’m not sure, but a little bit of historical/contextual perspective makes me think there is. This parable actually has a contemporary parallel for those who were listening that night at dinner. When Herod the Great (who was in power at the time of Jesus’ birth) died, he left his reign in the hands of three people: Philip, Herod and Archelaus. Archelaus was to rule over Judea. There were a group of Jews that did not want Archelaus to rule because of his wickedness, ego, etc. Before Archelaus could take the throne, he had to be confirmed in Rome by Caesar that it was his right to rule in Judah, so he had to make a trip to Rome. There was a group of Jews that went to Rome to see Caesar to complain about Archelaus. Caesar let Archelaus go ahead and take his throne and when Archelaus went back to Judah, he killed all those who had complained. So, add in the stewardship lesson and basically you have Jesus’ parable.

The people listening are wondering about the Kingdom of God and when it will come in full, like what Luke describes in Luke 17. There is the subtle detail in the story of Archelaus coming to power that has caught my attention this morning… that there was a group of people deeply opposed to his coming into rule. Granted, there was reason for concern. Archelaus was not exactly on the side of the Jews. I’ve got pictures of modern day political rallies and protests in my head. These kind of protests take time and energy and effort and focus. They can be all-consuming. In the Kingdom of God, Jesus reigns on the throne… not Archelaus or any other king or president or CEO. Jesus. The cross (an essential part of establishing the Kingdom) had not happened yet, so Jesus’ reign had not yet fully begun, but I wonder if their over-concern with the kingdom at hand was making it difficult to see even a glimpse of the Kingdom to come. Maybe this is a stretch, but I wonder if one of the reasons why they struggled to see the Kingdom of God at hand was because they continued to elevate and be over-concerned with the powers and principalities of this world… those who hold no power or authority over God in God’s Kingdom. I wonder if sometimes we miss out on seeing and experiencing the Kingdom that has now come because we do the same thing. This world can consume us, but something happens… we become different when we turn our eyes to Jesus and join with him in advancing his Kingdom in this world.

Jesus, today I pray as you have taught us to pray. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

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