As we talked about in our previous post, as you’ve read the New Testament you may have thought of Jesus as just traveling from place to place doing random acts of kindness. But in reality Jesus was carefully following a meticulously laid out plan to embody each of the eighteen dimensions of the coming of the kingdom of God identified by the prophets.
You can see this in Luke 4:16-21, Jesus’ formal public announcement of his ministry:
16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
So the crowds flocked to him and hoped. The disciples sat at his feet and learned. The religious leaders debated so fiercely about what to do with him…and then finally hatched a plot to have him executed.
That’s why there’s such a major focus in the story of Jesus of his heading to and entering into Jerusalem. What would happen when he arrived there? Would the day of the Lord come? Or would he be revealed as a false prophet?
Well, I don’t think I’m ruining the story for you when I tell you that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem ended with him on a cross and the disciples disillusioned and hopeless. The day of the Lord, it seems, did not come.
Albert Schweitzer, the illustrious medical missionary to Africa who was also a Lutheran, wrote a book about what he called “the historical Jesus” in which he summarized Jesus’ efforts to inaugurate the day of the Lord by saying that Jesus threw himself on the wheel of history and got crushed by it.
And that’s certainly the perspective that the disciples had. Remember the story about the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus, joining up with the two depressed disciples who didn’t realize that he had been resurrected from the dead?
When Jesus asked them what they were talking about as they were moping along the road, they said to him in Luke 24:21, “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.”
Jesus’ response to the two disciples is fascinating.
- He did not respond to them by saying what Schweitzer believed. He didn’t say, “Well, the wheel of history crushed me, but I got it rolling. From here on, the rest is up to you!”
- And he didn’t say what evangelists today and for the last two hundred years have believed. He didn’t say, “No, no, no—you had it all wrong. I didn’t come to free you from the Romans. I was only interested in one of those eighteen dimensions of the kingdom of God: the forgiveness of your sins. Accept me into your heart so you can come live in heaven with me when you die.”
Listen carefully to what he did say, in Luke 24:25-27:
25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” [Editor’s note: Did you catch that—all that the prophets have spoken? Not just the one part about forgiveness of sins, but all eighteen dimensions of the kingdom! Anyway, back to Jesus…] 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
It turns out that Jesus did inaugurate the kingdom of God—all eighteen dimensions! But he did it in a way that nobody—not even the Old Testament prophets themselves, nor any of Jesus contemporaries—ever expected. In fact, he did it in a way that most Christians today don’t even understand.
And that’s because we omit from our understanding what may prove to be the most important phrase in the gospel–one so important that it has the unusual distinction of being the only phrase that appears twice in the gospel.
We’ll talk about that phrase–and why it’s so crucial to understanding how Jesus inaugurates every dimension of the kingdom–in our next post on “Mysteries of the Kingdom: Part VI of the Work of Mercy of Proclaiming the Gospel!”