One thing is for certain. Jesus is coming and He is bringing His kingdom with Him. There is no doubt in my mind that this is at the top of God’s current agenda. While considering this, what causes me to tremble at times is to consider how radically different His kingdom is from our perception of what a kingdom should be. I think we often fail to realize that, in the limited demonstration we have of the kingdom, the kingdom is always disruptive. There is simply no way around that. It is a confrontational kingdom that confronts every other system and kingdom that has been, is, or ever will be. Yes, Jesus is coming with His kingdom, but His kingdom will not be an improvement an an existing structure, rather it will be a radical overthrow of everything that we have known up to this point.
What makes me tremble at times is to consider how confident we are in our understanding of the kingdom. Sometimes I think we almost have a chip on our shoulder as Christians expecting that Jesus is going to come at the last minute and vindicate our religious system collectively known as Christianity. In the midst of this I believe we fail to see that His kingdom is going to be completely disruptive, not only to the kingdom of the antichrist, but to the kingdoms that we live and participate in on a daily basis.
We often look down at the first century Jews in a bit of theological arrogance and talk about how blind they were when Jesus came and marvel at how they were unable to discern the Son of God among them. We labor on about their preconceived notions of Him and their political expectations of His kingdom. All the while I wonder if we ourselves are not living in a similar blindness with regard to our expectation of the coming kingdom. I wonder if Jesus would not look at us and declare us to be theological children of the religious Jews that honored the prophets of history prior but rejected the prophet or all prophets when He stood in their midst. I wonder if we do not honor the prophets of the New Testament in our orthodox theology, but might just persecute a prophet of that sort if he actually stood among us. Nothing leads me to this conclusion more than the fact that I believe if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that our expectation of Jesus’ second coming is remarkable similar to the expectation of the first century Jews.
We are not expecting a disruptive Jesus that brings a kingdom whose values are in total opposition to everything we have known, but rather we are expecting Jesus to bring a kingdom that is simply an improvement upon the kingdoms of this age. We expect a modified and improvied values system and not a radically different one that opposes everything we hold dear. We expect Him to simply polish off the negatives of this age and bring a kingdom that is remarkable similar to what we know and love. The problem with this expectation is that it is simply not reality. We are in a position that, I fear, is just as dangerous as the one the first century Jews were in. We are expecting a kingdom of our own making and our own understanding and are not prepared for what Jesus will ultimately bring. This is a topic that we need to give a lot of time and consideration to. If we fail to do so, our discernment of Jesus and His kingdom will not be razor sharp at the end of the age and we may very well oppose the very thing that God is bringing to pass.
One prime example of the radical difference of Jesus’ kingdom is the issue of weakness. By nature we do not like weakness. We do not tolerate, much less embrace, weakness in ourselves or in others. We make some allowances for it only when there is a good excuse and we see a certain amount of chivalry in protecting the weak so long as we are protecting the weak that are helpless in their condition. Even in that I wonder if our honor is more rooted in the pride of our own strenth and our pity for them, and it is pity, is rooted more in a fear that we ourselves might one day be found weak than in a genuine appreciation of their weakness. Our limited respect for the weak is confined to those trapped in their weakness and we see no honor in those who have chosen weakness.
The problem with this attitude is that it is completely at odds with the values of the kingdom. We are expecting a kingdom where Jesus will take care of and make provision for the weak, poor, and in general those that we see as pitiful and helpless. It is true that He will do that, but we fail to see the appreciation Jesus has for the weak. We see them as objects of His compassion and pity. He, however, sees them as the cornerstone of the kingdom. Are we willing to embrace a kingdom where weakness determines the place of honor? Are we willing to embrace a kingdom where it is the measure of a man’s willing embrace of weakness that determines his place of advancement?
Consider Jesus’ most famous sermon, the “Sermon on the Mount” and slowly digest His opening lines. He opens with a blessing on the poor, giving them ownership of the kingdom. He moves on to those that mourn promising them comfort. He continues to the gentle. Those that hunger and thirst in the kingdom are promised the ultimate satisfaction. He continues with the theme of mercy, purity, peacemaking, and persecution. He goes on to describe these who are persecuted without fighting as the very salt of the earth.
Before you simply dismiss that great discourse as some kind of spiritual parable that has a symbolic rather than literal meaning, you must consider the way of the cross. How did Jesus overcome and destroy the power of sin and liberate the entire cosmos at the cross? What act of power was it that He performed? Did He march as a conqueror or was He led like a lamb to the slaughter? Did He slay men with words of power or was He as a dumb man making no defense for Himself? Before we quickly dismiss this issue of weakness and continue in a kingdom of our own making we must consider that fact that Jesus accomplished the greatest victory in eternity through the power of weakness. He embraced, not strength, but weakness and in so doing defeated every power that arrayed itself in opposition to God.
There is nothing in the manner of Jesus’ victory that impresses man. There is nothing about it that has an earthly air of victory. In fact, the entire thing is still a scandal to the earth. Men still reject the idea that Jesus’ sacrifice and the method of sacrifice that He chose has any power or relevance for them. This path of weakness exposes in us a deep seated desire to be strong and self confident and we can dress it up with religious language and practices, but the reality is that it must be crucified if we are to be great in His kingdom. Its crucifixion must be every bit as real and every bit as effective as the crucifixion that drained the very life blood out of the King.
Paul discovered this secret and continued the theme in His own ministry. He declared that it was not him that lived, but Christ that lived in Him (Galatians 2:20). Towards the end of his life he considered himself the chief among sinners and least among the apostles. He considered the cross to be the power of God unto salvation and he applied that cross to his own life. He boldly declared that he died daily (I Corinthians 15:31). He embraced the weakness of his own flesh and the indwelling power of a living Jesus.
Have we considered the profound nature of Paul’s statements in I Corinthians 1:27 where he states that God has chosen the foolish to confound the wise and the weak to shame the strong? We are very familiar with the statement, but have we truly embraced it? Have we considered the fact that this is not just a statement by Paul to build the self-esteem of the Corinthians? This statement is much deeper than it appears at the surface. It is a statement of the values of the kingdom. It is a non-negotiable declaration that declares the strength and wisdom of the world null and void and subservient to the foolishness and weakness of the kingdom.
If we are to have any greatness in the kingdom, it is this foolishness and weakness that must be embraced. This is not a statement merely of Paul’s uphill battle of taking the gospel to a pagan society, it is a statement of the values God will ultimately use to oppose and destroy the system of this world.
There is an apostolic power that comes only upon men of weakness. It searches for the men who will embrace weakness and hold tightly to it as if it were life and death because, in reality, it is life and death. Greatness in the kingdom comes only to the weak. In that final day we are going to find truly that the first, or strong, will become last and the last, or weak, will become first. The kingdom is in total opposition to our patterns and ways of thinking. It will reveal and uncover all the opposition in our hearts to the ways of God and weakness will be a core issue.
The resistance to weakness is the pride, strength, and arrogance of the human self. It is the exaggerated human self, born rooted in iniquity that resists that path of weakness. This human self also ultimately resists the full manifestation of the kingdom of God on the earth. It can tolerate and even promote a religious kingdom. It can even honor the prophets of old, but it cannot endure the spirit of the prophet. It will persecute the reality of the prophet should he dare show his face and oppose all their human power with this issue of weakness. Human self cannot tolerate weakness. It is content to work along side God and help Him spread His kingdom on the earth, for that allows self to still maintain a semplace of power and sufficiency. It is only when the cry comes from heaven for men to embrace willingly a cross that leads to weakness that the power of self is be revealed to be the same spirit that runs throughout the world in its different manifestations and, essentially, the same spirit that rules the evil one himself and brings the ultimate opposition to God’s kingdom.
The issue of weakness is a founding principle of the kingdom and we must embrace it if we are to be great. Let’s come quietly before the Holy Spirit and ask Him to reveal to our hearts the true nature of the kingdom and the great role that weakness plays in it. We can then ask Him, even as we tremble, to cut away all our human pride and strength and to put the character of weakness on us that we may be in touch and in tune with the values of His kingdom that we might advance his kingdom and accelerate His coming rather than live a deception that, while religious, is in opposition to His coming kingdom.