The Gospel according to Mark jumps right in with the announcement of a King. “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way…’” (Mark1:1) We know this messenger is John the Baptist, a God appointed herald, proclaiming to all that the King is coming. And this King is not only the long awaited Messiah, but God Almighty clothed in flesh and stepping into our world.
The King of Kings has arrived!
Then just a few verses later, King Jesus announces the Kingdom. “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). I love how Peter later describes the anticipation of this moment. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow…Even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Can you imagine all of Heaven, looking on as God did the unthinkable?
“Christ Jesus, being in the very nature God…made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)
This Creator King drew near providing a way for us, in our sinful state, to be reconciled to a Holy God. Our way home is through a simple, yet life altering message. “Repent and believe the good news”. We are headed away from God and down a path of our own making. But the King calls us to repent, to turn from the path of destruction, to Him. Then he says, “Believe the good news.” This word “believe” carries with it so much more than simply acknowledging him as King. There is the call to trust and place our confidence in Him.
We enter the Kingdom by turning to the King and accepting his rule, reign and authority in our lives. We enter by receiving God’s gift like a child, submitting to His Lordship.
I think of it this way. If the True King entered the room and we turned toward him, we wouldn’t just stand there, we would immediately fall to our knees out of respect and awe for his authority and power. This very posture reflects a surrender of our hearts to His rule and reign. Then amazingly, this King welcomes us not just as subjects or servants of the Kingdom, but as heirs as well!
Once we enter the Kingdom, there is still an ongoing surrender to the King’s power and authority. Every moment of every day we have to determine who is going to rule our hearts.
Who will be in the throne? Will self rule? Or will God?
Until Jesus returns and asserts His rule over all, we live on an earth where there is universal rebellion against the King. That is why life is difficult and full of challenges. The pull of the world is strong and requires us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and in an ongoing posture of surrender to the rule and reign of Christ in our hearts. We must know and feed on God’s Word because His Kingdom often calls us to do what is completely opposite of what the world says we should do!
The Kingdom is radical and completely different from what we would expect of a human king. Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41-45).
These words of Jesus highlight what it means to live in His upside down Kingdom. The word “servant” is from the same Greek word we get deacon or minister. This servant is one who executes the commands of another. In our case, we serve the King and execute his commands. We are his ambassadors carrying out his directives.
The word “slave” is “doulos, one who gives himself up to the will of another.” A Hebrew slave, out of love for his master, could decide to stay and willingly serve his master even after being given his freedom. He would go before the elders and receive a very large ear piercing against a door post. This became an ongoing reminder of his willing surrender to his master. Do we, out of love for our Lord, willingly surrender to Him? Do we allow Him to lead and guide us?
Living in the upside-down Kingdom takes daily focus to not be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1). We turn from our human urges and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s promptings as we allow our Lord to guide our thoughts and minds.
As I reflect on the King and his Kingdom, I often pray a prayer written by Paul in Colossians 1:9-14. I hope you will join me.
God, fill me with the knowledge of Your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that I may live a life worthy of You and please You in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the Knowledge of You, being strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might so that I may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to You, Father, who has qualified me to share in the inheritance of Your holy people in the kingdom of light. For You have rescued me from the dominion of darkness and brought me into the kingdom of the Son You love, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
May His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:9-10)