We know Jesus by lots of names–like, Son of God and Prince of Peace. But there’s one that stands out and comes into focus as we venture into the realm of the Kingdom of God this Lent, and it’s King of Kings (Revelation 19:16). Most of us have only a faint understanding of how kings rule–they reign over nations, govern groups of people, create and enforce law, and expect their people to represent them in all they do. There’s no voting or debating or holding a king accountable.
Like most earthly kings, the King of Kings sits on a throne (Isaiah 9:7), is worshiped by His people (Revelation 22:3), executes justice (Jeremiah 23:5), and conquers enemies (Psalm 110). He wears a crown, carries a scepter, and wears royal garments (Psalm 110).
Unlike earthly kings, however, this King’s kingdom will never be destroyed, and His people will never lose their land or know another king (Daniel 2:44). All government rests on His shoulders, and He rules only and ever with true justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:6-7). It is by His name alone that people are saved (Acts 4:12). And, His kingdom is not only eternal but forever includes all people, of all nations and tribes and tongues, because He has been given a kingdom of full dominion and glory (Daniel 7:13-14).
This King rules all kings, which brings us much comfort in these days of watching a tyrannical leader wield his power with such evil intent.
But, this King also rules His people–that’s you and me. And that might make us wiggle. Outwardly, we say we are His people. That we follow Him. But, the truth is that most of us are not used to the idea of being ruled, governed with no room for personal opinions and ‘rights.’ Yet, this Jesus we love is also who we must serve and surrender to because He. Is. Our. King.
As King, Jesus rules a kingdom that exists in a mysterious place theologians call the already-and-not-yet. Most American Christians are well-acquainted with the Kingdom that is to come–the not yet Kingdom that brings with it a New Heaven and a New Earth. But what Jesus’ first arrival on earth ushers in is God’s kingdom now, which is why He says things like “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).
It’s also why He says, “The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15); “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus uses much kingdom language in all of His teachings because He wants His people to recognize His new way to live with God while on earth (Hebrews 10:20). John calls it the abundant life (John 10:10), but it’s upside-down to what Jesus’ original audience, the Jews, had known about living for God. Their religion had become a legalistic way to ‘look the part.’
And for us today, Jesus’ kingdom still looks quite upside-down compared to the ways of the world–ways of living that get wrapped up in outer appearances and human approval. It’s why Jesus climbs that mountain and teaches and prays and preaches His most important sermon ever.
Pull all this together, and a picture forms, showing us that King Jesus extends an invitation to all people to live in the already-not-yet Kingdom of God. The eternal Kingdom is the one He died for so that death could be defeated and we’d have life forever with Him. It’s not earned but gifted to anyone who believes in Jesus by faith. Yet, there’s more. For today.
Kingdom living now is what Jesus longs for us. This is the place where we know freedom and peace and power and mercy, and it’s where we plant ourselves so that we can be His representatives in His kingdom–right here, right now.
So, as we dive into the most all-encompassing lesson on what it looks like to live for Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount, we’ll look at the three chapters in Matthew (5-7) with ears and eyes that seek to understand the ways Jesus calls us to live for His kingdom now. But, we aren’t called to live as distant, disconnected lords of the land. Rather, we’ll see that Jesus calls us into a relationship with Him–one that’s meant to be interactive. One that is filled with acknowledging our deep need for Him, of praying and fasting and storing up our greatest treasure: Him. Because His is a kingdom that requires us to come into His presence so that when we go out and serve others, we do so in His name.
Just as Jesus does that day on the mountain in Galilee with the crowd around Him, He calls us to come in close to Him. To hear His message. To feel His love. To receive His truth.
So, as we draw near, let us open our hearts to all He has for us, releasing what we think we know of the Sermon on the Mount. Maybe instead of seeing a list of behaviors that are expected of His people, we begin to awaken to His call of inner transformation. Because it’s when our hearts and minds and spirits are made new because of our relationship with Him that our behaviors begin to change. It’s when our focus is on Him–not on outward actions–that obedience to our King comes not from a desire to earn but from pure motive and deep love.
Friends, we are citizens of a kingdom built for our good and for the glory of our mighty, holy King. And, on this journey through Lent, Jesus invites us to hear Him as He speaks the truth of His kingdom into our everyday moments.* His words will sink into our hearts, and we’ll discover that right living comes from having a right heart–a heart that seeks Him first and most.
- First, let me say WELCOME to my blog. I’m so honored to journey with you through the Sermon on the Mount as our Lent focus. I’m also excited to collaborate on this particular series with my friends at New Covenant UMC in Edmond, OK. Pastors Jay Smith and Cali Eck are preaching each Sunday of Lent on the Sermon of the Mount. It’s our hope that by partnering in this season we’ll better immerse ourselves and you in the lessons Jesus has for us.
- We grow best as we learn in community, so please comment below with any questions or insights that might encourage the rest of us!
- If you’d like to watch their sermons, you can check out their Facebook page each week at any time. Or you can catch the sermons live at either 8:30am or 11:00am on Sundays on their website.
- Part of the Lenten experience includes embracing practices or refraining from something that will help us better focus on Jesus, so each week I’ll post in this spot a challenge for the week, alternating between fasts and feasts. So, here’s the LENTEN PRACTICE for this week: Feast on the Word by reading the Beatitudes everyday this week. Try reading Matthew 5:1-12 in a variety of translations, making note of differences in word choices. Write down questions, thoughts, or new insights as you read.
- Finally, as is my practice on this space, I invite you to include music throughout your days — music that uplifts the spirit, pours out truths, and offers Jesus’ joy. I know we all have a variety of music preferences, but somehow when God’s Word is put to a tune, the walls come down and we find ourselves encouraged. This is your invitation to tune in to our specially curated Spotify Playlist for this specific Lenten journey of Kingdom Living Now.