Today a Savior has been born to you . . . (Luke 2.11)This week, I want to wrap up our four-part series. In Part 1, we discovered that Jesus came to this earth as a new King. In Part 2, we saw that this King came to give us freedom from the fear of death. In Part 3, we saw that this King called us to enact and enlarge His reign as His followers through the way of peace. In the final part, I want to look at what the reign of this new King looks like.
We get the clearest picture of what the world changed by Jesus looks like in Matthew’s sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 and Luke’s sermon on the plain in Luke 6. Let’s begin with Luke.
Luke portrays Jesus as looking at his disciples one day and saying, “Blessed are you who are poor right now for this Kingdom of God that I have come to establish here on earth is slanted in your favor. Blessed are you who hunger now for in this Kingdom I have come to establish you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, whom the present structure of this world oppresses and keeps pressed down, languishing in need that are never met, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you [and they will hate you when they see how much of a threat this new Kingdom is to their current structure], when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of this new Kingdom (see Daniel 7.13,14). Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because great is your reward in this Kingdom from heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich right now for you have already received your comfort. You are going to struggle with the changes I have come to make. It won’t be impossible, but it is going to be difficult for you (see Matthew 19.23). Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now for you will mourn and weep. You will view me as the enemy and see this Kingdom as a threat to your way of life, which benefits you at the expense of so many others. Woe to you when everyone who benefited from this world’s present unjust power structures speaks well of you for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets” (Loose paraphrase based on Luke 6.20-26).
As we covered last week in Acts 17.6-7, from the perspective of those who benefit by the way this present world is structured, it may seem as if Jesus is ruining your life! It may seem that these changes Jesus has come to make are a threat. Jesus is initially perceived to be the enemy. It looks from their perspective that Jesus, His Kingdom, and His followers are “turning the world upside down!” But remember, what Jesus is really doing is turning the world right side up once again. The world is already upside down. That’s the problem. Jesus has come to restore, heal, and turn the world over, placing it back on its feet once again. To those at the top of the pyramid, the proclamation of this good news doesn’t seem like good news at all. But to the masses at the bottom of the pyramid, pressed down and slaving to benefit those at the top of the pyramid, the coming of a new way of doing life on earth is gospel. It IS good news!
But again, to those who presently benefit from this world’s current unjust power structures, everything about this new King’s reign may seem backwards. His Kingdom will benefit the current poor, rather than the present structures, which benefit the rich. His reign will benefit those whom the present structure causes them to morn. He will bring them comfort by contrast to those who are presently living in comfort and ease within a system that gives them blessings at the expense of causing untold sorrow for others around the globe. Christ’s Kingdom will benefit the meek by contrast to the present structure, which benefits those who know how to play the game, who are competitive, ambitious, bold, brave, and uninhibited. It will favor those who practice mercy, by contrast to our present structure that is rooted in retribution and the an eye for an eye way of defining justice. It will favor those whose heart is pure, even if this present structure has judged them as inferior based on their inability to outwardly conform to society’s standards or whose exterior performance doesn’t measure up. This is in contrast to a world where favors come to those who know how to play the game, be it religious, political or economic, with little regard for an integrity that can be seen only when one looks below the surface. It will be a reign of peace makers rather than war mongers. And yes, it will be comprised of those who are persecuted by the present structure and those it benefits for simply believing life on this earth can be, and should be, different. To those benefited presently, it will look like the world is being turned upside down, but to those who have eyes to see, they will perceive the world as being put right side up once again.
All of the changes this Baby will bring to the world had been foretold by the seer Isaiah long before this Baby’s birth:
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear, but with justice he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips He shall topple the wicked. Justice shall be the belt around His waist, and faithfulness the belt around His loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy all on my holy mountain for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. On that day, the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations shall inquire of him and his dwelling shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11.1-10, emphasis added).
There are three things I want you to notice in this passage. First, He will restore justice for the poor and the meek. Second, He will topple the present structure NOT with force of arms, but with a force that proceeds out of His mouth—truth. This is what Gandhi called “Truth” force, or what Dr. King called “Soul” force. This is what we covered in Part 2 of this series. Third, this is a reign where the relationship between predator and prey is radically revolutionized. When reading this passage, remember that Isaiah was not speaking literally, but as a poet. The great problems of this world have nothing to do with predatory animals, but predatory people (Daniel and Revelation both portray visions of Predatory animals, which symbolize the kingdoms of this world, being conquered, subdued, and changed by a little Lamb who was slain.). The reign of this Baby lying in a manger brings a world where the smallest among us, the little children, will be perfectly safe (Isaiah mentions children in this passage three times as if to say, “don’t miss this.”). The world we see around us presently is a world run by lions, tigers, and bears. OH MY! But this prophecy speaks of a “child” that will lead them to a new way of doing life? Who is this child? I submit to you the Baby lying in a manger. Because of the death and resurrection of this Baby born in Bethlehem that day, this world is now ruled by a Lamb! This causes those who follow this world’s new King to rethink everything! He is the Lamb slain, now reigning and ruling, and we are called to follow Him in executing that reign, in putting on display a world where children and elderly are safe, where the marginalized are welcomed and allowed to experience empathy rather than judgment, and where the poor are fed and kept warm. As we saw two weeks ago in Part 2, the reign of this Baby lying in a manger will be a Kingdom where He “will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2.4). What I want you to see this week is that we have been called to proclaim the reign of Christ, a reign already begun, a reign that we see around us by faith not by sight, a reign that we call this world to embrace. This is not to be confused with Christian Right or the Moral Majority of the 80’s and the 90’s, which sought to simply take over the top power positions of this present corrupt structure. We are talking about a revolution where everything is rethought and radically reimagined—a world of love, justice and peace, especially for the religiously marginalized and the politically oppressed.
Take an imaginative look at these passages:
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11.15)
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give Him glory because the hour of His reign has come.” (Revelation 14.6-7)
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree. He said to me, “You are my son. Today, I have become your father. Ask me and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalms 2.7-8).
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established. It cannot be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice. Let the earth be glad. Let the sea resound and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant and everything in them. Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord for He comes. He comes to reign on the earth. He will judge [reign over] the world in justice and the people in his faithfulness (Psalms 96.10-13, emphasis added).
Coming out of his MOUTH is a sharp sword with which to topple down the nations. “He will shepherd them with an iron staff” (Revelation 19.14-15, emphasis added).
To those who are victorious and who will do my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—they ‘will shepherd them with an iron staff and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ [Hebrew idiom for toppling their governments]—just as I have received authority from my Father (Revelation 2.26-27, emphasis added).
To those who are victorious, I will give them the right to sit with me on my throne [over the nations] just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne (Revelation 3.21, emphasis added).
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5.10).
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to reign (Revelation 20.4).
The nations will walk by its [the New Jerusalem’s] light and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it (Revelation 21.24).
The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22.2).
“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to Your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your just acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15.3-4).
A new world is coming. In fact, it has already begun!
Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King!
Our job is to 1) proclaim this good news to the world, 2) put on display what the world looked like after it was changed by this new King, and 3) call this world to receive her new King, restore justice, healing and reconciliation His reign brings. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation [new world] has come!” (2 Corinthians 5.15, TNIV)
I want this to be clear. It is the politics of Jesus as seen in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 that we are to be put on display. We are not called to force Jesus’ politics to the world. No. We are called to put on display what the joyous vision looks like and to invite those around us to “receive their King”. The church, far from being an entity that is vying in culture wars for top power positions in this presently flawed, upside down system, are to put on display the beauty of God in Jesus is as well as a radically new way of doing life here on earth that stems out of that very beauty. Again, this will not be perceived as good news to those who are in the top positions of the present power structures, who benefit greatly at the expense of those further down the pyramid. Our living demonstration will be misrepresented, attacked, and portrayed as a pernicious movement that must be crushed. It will be a threat to “our very way of life.” Lowering the standards! Unsafe! Dangerous! They will threaten with violence (John 16.1,2). They will cry out that it is “better for you that one man dies for the people than for the whole nation to perish” (John 11.50; Luke 9.23). Our call is to live in freedom and to avoid the fear of being put to death, which this little Baby from Bethlehem has given us. This Baby we follow was killed for this dream, too (Mathew 6.10), but God raised Him from the dead and has promised that to us, too! Our call is to provoke both the religious systems that marginalize as well as the political systems that oppress by putting on display how the world, which has been changed by Jesus, looks like and to voluntarily embrace the Cross, which they will put us on, for in the same enemy loving, enemy embracing, enemy forgiving our new KING so beautifully modeled for us. This is what will change the world!
It is to embrace the just and equitous, restorative reign of our new King.
It is to embrace the freedom from the fear of death, the way of peace, the way of the Cross of our new King.
It is to embrace the reality that our King is truly “making everything new” (Revelation 21.5; 2 Peter 3.13).
Our call is to believe that this world can be and will be different under the reign of this Baby born to us in that manger long, long ago. We are not just to believe it; we are to give everything in our lives to become bent, re-formed, and re-fashioned in that direction.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King!
I have something special for the HeartGroup this week:
1)This week, with Christmas being celebrated by so many, I want you to take some time each day to meditate on what I have compiled for you here. This is a paraphrase based on the passages that I have listed at the end.
Comfort, comfort to this world, says your God. Speak tenderly to its inhabitants and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed; that her sin has been pardoned. There is a voice calling in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low. The rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together”. He has come to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. He has shaken all nations, and what is desired by all nations has come, and he has filled this house with glory. But who could endure the day of His coming? Who could stand when He appears? For He was like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He sat as a refiner and purifier of silver, refining people like gold and silver. He has given us a sign: the virgin has conceived and given birth to a son and He was called Immanuel. You who bring good news, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news, lift up your voice with a shout. Lift it up. Do not be afraid. Say, “Here is your God!” Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. To those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. For to us a child is born. To us a son is given, and the government is on His shoulders. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Understand that there were shepherds living out in the fields near Bethlehem one night, keeping watch over their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” Rejoice and shout inhabitants of the earth! See, your King has come to you, just, fair, true and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will take away all the war chariots and all the warhorses, and the battle bows will be broken.He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. He wills the nations like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. He gently leads those that have young
(based on Isaiah 40.1-5; Haggai 2.6-7; Malachi 3.2-3; Isaiah 7.14; Isaiah 40.9; Isaiah 60.1-3; Isaiah 9.2, 6; Luke 2.2-14; Zechariah 9.9-19; Isaiah 35.5-6; Isaiah 40.11).
2) Each day, as you meditate on the themes represented here, I want you to make a journal. Write down the thoughts, ideas, questions, and inspirations that Jesus, our new King, shares with you.
3) This week, I want you to share what Jesus teaches you with your HeartGroup.
For everyone else, Merry Christmas! For the final time, may the truths proclaimed by the events that this season brings to the minds of so many be ever-present in your heart.
There will be no eSight next week. I am dropping off the map for a bit to spend some much needed time with my precious family. However, we will resume the following week with a whole new series on the Kingdom for 2014.
I love you guys. I’ll see you next year!