FOR THE KINGDOM Part 2: Why Can’t God Mend a Broken World?

God can change the world.  He is all powerful, all knowing and all seeing.  He is King of creation and he controls the universe.  He has the capacity to intervene at any point in the affairs of humanity.  So persecution, injustice and poverty raise the legitimate question, why is God not restoring justice, mercy and faith on the earth?  If he is in control, why can’t he do it now?  What is the plan?  Where is God in the midst of a wounded world?  That is exactly the question the disciples were asking in Acts 1:6

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Act 1:6

All of Israel was looking for a deliverer–a Messiah.  Jesus was born into troubled times in a troubled nation.  Jesus came into a world in a nation that was poor and persecuted.   Life expectancy at birth in the time of Jesus was 25 years.  Infant mortality was very high, but even by the age of five you could only expect to live to 48.  Seventy percent of people died by age thirty-five.  Most of the people of Israel lived in rural areas and were totally dependent on the weather and the harvest for survival.  In the midst of that difficult life, farmers and fisherman were heavily taxed on their produce.  These taxes were used to support the occupying armies of the Roman Empire and the opulence of the city of Rome—most were not spent on government services!

Since the return from Babylon, the Jewish people had struggled to re-establish a community of faith in the small city of Jerusalem.  It was not a large urban centre.  The population at the time of Christ was still only somewhere between 20,000 to 50,000 people.  Despite its relative insignificance, in the eyes of the world, Jerusalem stood on the route between Egypt, Persia, and Greece.  The city continued to be over-run by invaders multiple times.  Antiochus the Syrian destroyed the city and sacrificed pig’s flesh on the temple.  Later the Roman general Pompey invaded and annexed the city as part of the Roman Empire.

The Jewish people were looking for a political and spiritual leader to arise who would deliver them from the power of the Roman occupation.   Some were looking for a powerful political leader to bring in an earthly Kingdom. They became the terrorists of the time, or the zealots.  Some were looking for a messianic spiritual leader who would usher in a new age of religious fervour in a Godly Kingdom come down from heaven.  They laboured at religious duties in minute detail to keep God’s law so that he would find them worthy to be a part of his Kingdom.

Jesus spoke powerfully to the cultural expectation of a coming kingdom of freedom and peace by saying, the Kingdom of God is here already.  He preached about the kingdom of heaven. 

Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Mat 4:23).

He instructed the disciples to pray for the kingdom of heaven.

Therefore pray in this way: Our Father, who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  (Mat 6:9 )

He told them to seek first the Kingdom.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.  (Mat 6:9)

He taught many parables about the Kingdom, saying the kingdom of heaven is like:

  • …a man who sowed good seed in his field (Mat 13:24)
  • …a grain of mustard seed (Mat 13:31)  ;
  • …leaven (Mat 13:33)
  • …treasure hidden in a field (Mat 13:44)
  • …a merchant seeking beautiful pearls (Mat 13:45)
  • …a net that was cast into the sea (Mat 13:47)
  • …a man, a housemaster (Mat 20:1).

However, as mentioned two weeks ago, Jesus’ Kingdom message was not about the religious rules and regulations which seemed to dominate aspects of Israel’s spiritual life and leadership values.  Rather Jesus was intimately and passionately concerned with the issues of injustice, poverty and unbelief.  He passionately preached that God’s rule is not about minor issues of religious duty but about justice mercy and faith (Mt 23:23).    Later in the New Testament Paul picks up on this theme when he states that God’s kingdom is not about trivial arguments about what we should eat or drink.  It is all about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17 ).

The disciples heard Jesus preach a passionate message of justice mercy and faith, and God’s kingdom coming to earth.  They saw him demonstrate the power of the kingdom as he healed the sick, calmed the waves and then rose from the dead.  It is no wonder the apostles were looking for a political and spiritual restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.  If the disciples had ruled the world they no doubt would have taken off on a massive military conquest to win God’s Kingdom for Israel. But Jesus’ approach to ruling the world and bringing in the Kingdom of God was different to the disciples’ expectations and I believe sometimes even ours today.

Jesus did not come to the world centres of political and economic power to announce his Kingdom and proclaim what he would do to change the world.  Jesus was not born in a wealthy family with influence, education and economic power.  Instead Jesus set about changing the world by incarnating himself among one of the poorest and most brutalized communities of his day.  He demonstrated that the character, the power and the presence of his Kingdom can change the world we live in, even in the most oppressed and impoverished of circumstances.  He did not act through the normal channels of authority and power.  Jesus himself was a far greater authority.  He had intrinsic power not borrowed authority.   He showed that an inside out kingdom of character, community and courage could change the world.  He set an example of inside out living that has literally changed the world as his disciples believed in, were empowered by him and followed him to the ends of the earth.  The Kingdom of God is like that.  It is like a small seed.  It has within itself the capacity, to change, grow and multiply and change its environment from the inside out.  In the next blog we will discuss, “What is the Kingdom of God?”

– Andrew