23rd August 2023

Your kingdom come, Your will be done.

These two phrases belong together. If you were to pose the question: ‘What did the idea of kingdom mean to those to whom Jesus spoke’, then the answer is necessarily complex, for real power rested with the occupying Romans, with the Herods merely puppet kings implementing Roman intentions on a reluctant population. The major figure was Herod the Great, but great only in his building accomplishments and the extent of the territory he sought to rule over. In all other respects his was far from being a model reign as Matthew’s story of the birth of Jesus makes clear. Moreover Herod was not originally ethnically Jewish being on both his mother and his father’s side Arab but with conversions to Judaism. Thus the significance of ‘Born to be King’. If the word Kingdom had any significance for first century Jews it was in terms of an idealised concept of the Kingdom of David and Solomon.

With the death of Herod the Great, his kingdom was split into separate parts so that the Herod to whom Pilate referred Jesus was not ‘king’ in Judaea, but the son who had title in Galilee where Jesus exercised most of his ministry. All of this represents kingdom power at a much lower level than that of the glory days of David and Solomon. Accordingly immediate reference points for kingship were weak, hence the need to hold together the idea of the kingdom of God and the carrying out of his will and purposes. The vital point about the kingdom of God it is the sphere where God rules – it is his kingdom not ours.

With the life and death of Jesus God’s kingdom is already here – God is implementing his perfect reign in our very imperfect world. So day by day his kingdom comes as the people of God incarnate his rule in the way that Jesus showed them. But there must always be an element of ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ as we await the final establishment of his kingdom ‘on earth as in heaven’. Amen.

John Briggs