Jesus’ message promised Justice to people abused by hardship or by those in authority over them (Matt 12:20)
It spoke of Healing to hurting hearts and bodies (Matt 9:12, Jer 30:17)
The message offered Forgiveness for past failures (Luke 1:77)
It spoke of Reconciliation between people, and between mankind and God, in the intimate language of family (2 Cor 5:18)
Jesus’ message presented Freedom from the prescriptive constitution of the law (with transcendence to a life based on principles), from guilt and fear, to power and joy (2 Tim 1:7)
Ultimately, the message offered freedom from the oblivion of death to abundant life (John 10:10), and in doing so, it gave Hope (Rom 5:2)
But above all, perhaps to summarise all, the message which Jesus himself embodied, was one of Love. Jesus saw and was moved with great compassion for the needy, he reached for them, ate with them, spoke to them, healed them and comforted them. He, the Son of God, offered himself as a servant to mankind (Matt 20:25-28).
He revealed again and again that all the purpose of the law, which had governed the believers until then, was accomplished in the statement “love your neighbour as much as you love yourself” (Rom 13:8-10, Mark 12:29-34). His new commandment was for all his followers to love each other in the same manner with which he had unrelentingly loved them (John 13:34), a love which originated from the love which God his father had for him (John 17:26).
And ultimately, demonstrating just how far love can really go, Jesus gave up his whole earthly life to give the world a hope beyond this life.
To walk with Jesus, therefore, is to imbibe this directive of love. To have within our hearts an unshakeable knowledge of the love with which we have been loved. The kind of love that meets all of our most desperate human needs and expels our ugliest fears. It places us in a position of strength and peace and enables us reach out and offer love freely to those around us (Matt 10:8).
The Greek language, in which the New Testament was originally written, had a special word for this love – ‘agape’ – a sacrificial and unselfish love. It’s a love that’s not based on personal gain.
God’s love is demonstrated (witnessed) to the world through our application of it to others (John 13:35), and this love in operation becomes concrete evidence of the power of God’s message, as given through Jesus, to transform lives. “God’s Way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life.” (1 Cor 4:20).
This kind of living, that reflects a desire to honour God and show His character to the world, happens in the context of community. We connect, we share, we love. And our faith and love is built by practice and challenge. A community of this kind is what God calls the beginning of the kingdom of His son (Col 1:13).
The complete realisation of this kingdom will be experienced when those who are already citizens of it (Phil 3:20) inherit it fully at Jesus’ return as king, when they will experience abundant and everlasting life on a renewed earth (James 2:5, 1 Cor 2:9). But this incredible realm commenced when Jesus (himself described as ‘the kingdom of God’, Luke 17:20-21, Mark 1:15) first came and established his right to sovereignty (Matt 21:5, John 12:13; Luke 19:38). As more people come to believe in Jesus and the power of his message, surrendering to his rulership in their lives, his kingdom grows and develops.
This kind of kingdom growth starts small. It starts with an individual planting the seed of truth, likened in one of Jesus’ parables to a minuscule mustard seed, in his own garden. This seed grows into an enormous tree, expanding outwards to include a place for others (in the parable, birds, which find rest in it).
To be a part of Christ’s kingdom now, to first light on those branches or later plant your own seed, is to experience ‘goodness and peace and joy’ (Rom 14:17). The Good News of the kingdom is pertinent to every area of everyone’s life now, not simply a message about a future life. It can deliver what it promises – healing, restoration, freedom, hope and love. The whole world is invited to come and be a part of the kingdom of God (Luke 14:15-24) and the way is wide open to those who choose to enter (2 Pet 1:11).