The paradox that is the kingdom of God, the church, and every vessel set apart for God’s use, is it’s a kingdom unrecognisable and unacknowledged in the world’s eyes.
Think about this Jesus who was about to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9, to the acclaim of the many who laid down palm fronds before his path on that ancient first Palm Sunday:
“Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.”
— John 11:55-57 (NRSV)
“Surely Jesus will not come to the festival, will he?”
Think of the mood. Many are there, speculating, totally aware of the precarious idea that Jesus might show his face. “Surely he will not come...”
But they wanted him to come! They didn’t expect he would come, but they wanted him. And those who would want him to come recognised, somehow, that he was king – Jesus was a king for their hearts.
How does this kingdom work? How can it crucify its Lord?
That’s just the point – this kingdom is not of the world nor of the chief priests and the Pharisees. This kingdom is not about a wealth that can be seen. Its wealth is in that which cannot be seen.
Jesus wasn’t going to suffer and be rejected, and then be crucified, because he was this world’s king or even the “king of the Jews”; he suffered and was rejected because he was a foreign and unrecognisable king to those of this world – the ones who think in this world’s terms.
Jesus is king of the heart or he is no king at all, so far as we are individually concerned.
The heart is an organ of integrity, a pump for passion, and the lifeblood of virtue. Only when Jesus sits on the throne of our hearts can we live with integrity, run with passion, and operate out of virtue.
The heart is the seat of the intentions and the wellspring of life.
If we are corrupt it’s because there is Christlessness in our hearts – we haven’t yet sought him to be our Lord.
Those who sought Jesus on that first Palm Sunday either had corrupt hearts or hearts after him. They were either after Jesus (to arrest him and bring him to trial) or their hearts were after him.
One thing we can know, however. Christ’s kingdom is no ordinary kingdom. It’s a kingdom not after material riches, but spiritual riches. It’s a kingdom not after visible wealth, but invisible wealth. It’s a kingdom not after a prideful heart, but a humble heart. It’s a kingdom not intent on the vice of the world, but the virtue of heaven.
Jesus’ kingdom pivots on the vision of a new heavens and a new earth.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.