The Kingdom that Cannot Fail
Today’s reading: Judges 1-2; Luke 7:1-30
13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. Judges 2:13-14a
28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke 7:28
Jesus came announcing the arrival of the kingdom of God. He demonstrated His power by healing a Gentile servant of a Roman centurion and raising a dead man (just to take the examples in today’s reading). Word spread about Jesus, and the people were both fearful and joyful. God had visited His people.
The disciples of John the Baptist came asking for clarification. Was Jesus the Messiah? Jesus’ answer gave no doubt.
So, what are we to make of the ministry of John the Baptist?
Jesus said that John was unsurpassed among all mankind. John is often referred to as the last of the prophets. His ministry marked the end of the era of the old covenant kingdom with its symbolic priesthood, its earthly temple, its feast days, and its sacrifices. Something new had come: the kingdom of God and the new covenant. So new and different are these that Jesus could say “the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than” the one who was greatest under the old covenant and kingdom.
Our reading in Judges underscores the failure of Israel under the old covenant with the judges and later the kings. They started badly and continued with more downs than ups. The people failed to obey God’s commands. They mixed with the pagans who had been marked for extermination. They abandoned the true and living God, Yahweh, who had delivered them from Egypt, kept them in the wilderness, and opened the Promised Land to them. They worshiped the gods of the heathen.
The old covenant and kingdom fell far short of perfection but they did fulfill their purpose to point to the need for something better, something lasting. Jesus brought the new covenant and the kingdom of God and He calls us to enter His kingdom by faith in Him. Charles Wesley’s great hymn “Rejoice, the Lord is King” says it well:
His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and Heav’n, The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus giv’n; Lift up your heart, lift up your voice; Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Are you in?