When Jesus began his public ministry, he came unified around one mission: The Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom, God’s Rule, and God’s Powerful Presence had entered the world of the first century Jews and things were going to be different. The people of Israel had been longing for a deliverer to come and rescue them from their lives under Roman rule. Something had to give, the people had had enough, and a messianic figure like Jesus was just the person they needed. They waited with anticipation when Jesus would make his move and once and for all defeat the hated Roman authorities. You can almost imagine some of the Jewish population sharpening up their swords in a battle that was yet to come. And when Jesus started flipping over tables and chairs in the Jewish temple then the fuse had been lit. It wouldn’t be long until Jesus called out the zealots of his following to fight to the finish.
So, on the night that Jesus was arrested by armed guards, one of Jesus’ followers grabbed his sword, wildly swung it, and struck the servant of the high priest cutting off his ear. I can imagine blood that flowed from the head of a severed ear. Before another sword was drawn or another person injured, Jesus turned to his followers and said, “Put your sword back in its place. For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Jesus could have easily brought down the armies of heaven at his word to defend him, but instead, he remained faithful to the message of the Kingdom which said, “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, and lay down your life for your friends.” With that, the disciples ran. It was not the fight speech they had hoped for.
Jesus now stood alone. The Kingdom of God stood face to face with the kingdoms of the world. The Prince of Peace would now encounter the violence of the worldly, political kingdom of Rome. Sham trials would turn into, real beatings, and ultimately into a violent death on a wooden cross. Yet, through it all, Jesus remained faithful to the teaching of the Kingdom: Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute, turn the other cheek, forgive one another, serve rather than be served, sacrifice for others, and in all things give glory to God in heaven. For Jesus, the Kingdom of God is never about oneself, but for others. So, Jesus reminds us in Matthew’s Gospel to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and visit those in prison. For Jesus, these actions demonstrate the King we follow and the Kingdom we live in.
The world today needs to know the message of the Kingdom of God. As Christians and as the church we must bear witness to its teachings in our words and through our actions. We bring for not a message of death and destruction but one life and healing. Our world is in shambles and as the church, our witness is needed more now than ever. Our world is confused, broken, and hurting. We must help bear the light of Christ in these dark times. We must be a place of hope for hopeless, a place of welcome for the weary, a place of friendship for the forgotten, a place of love for those who are hated, and a place where all who are troubled and weary can come home.