Great and Holy Tuesday
Jesus told numerous Parables about the Kingdom of God. In each one He gave us a glimpse into that Kingdom – a kingdom whose values are quite different than our own – where the first are last and the last first, where due to the master’s generosity all workers get the same pay no matter how long they worked, where judgment is not based upon sin but upon goodness, where human power and authority are excluded as belonging to the pagan and fallen world.
Jesus spoke to us about the Kingdom of Heaven while ministering on earth, and He used earthly images to help us get a sense of what God’s Kingdom is. As Russian Orthodox Theologian Paul Evdokimov wrote:
In the domain of Caesar, we are ordered to seek and therefore to find what is not found there – the Kingdom of God. This command signifies that we must transform the world, change it into the icon of the Kingdom. To change the world means to pass from what the world does not yet possess – for this reason it is still this world – to that in which it is transfigured, thus becoming something else-the Kingdom.
While Jesus spoke to us about the Kingdom of Heaven – and in His teachings as well as His life revealed the Kingdom to us – one temptation we have is to project onto the Kingdom of Heaven what we think it will be like. We project onto the Kingdom all that we want in this world, and imagine that everything we dislike in this world will be absent in the Kingdom. The disciples James and John clearly did this when asking Jesus if they could sit next to Him at his right and left sides (see also my Kingdom People) – and Jesus rejects their thinking entirely.
Instead of us shaping the Kingdom of Heaven into our ideas of what it will be like, we are to allow the images of the Kingdom of God to shape our thinking, our imagination, but more importantly how we live day by day. It is not what we imagine the Kingdom of Heaven to be like which is important, but how we allow it to shape our daily lives – our taking up the cross daily to follow Christ. Our vocation as Christians is not to form and shape what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like, but rather to allow the images of the Kingdom and the thinking of the Kingdom to shape and form our hearts and lives. The Kingdom of God is not a mere abstraction, pie in the sky, future place to which we will go.
In the Incarnation, Christ made the Kingdom of God present on earth and in our lives. We are to bring that Kingdom into our hearts – for that is where the transfiguration of the world begins. The Kingdom of God takes root in our lives today, this side of the grave, not just in the life after death.
Jesus said, “for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:21)
See also my The Non-Hierarchical Power of the Church