Published in the Bridge Magazine, April 2019
The Kingdom of Easter
So what’s Easter really all about? The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus? New beginnings? Flowers, chocolate and Easter bunnies?
To make sense of Easter you have to understand one thing: Jesus’ core message. So if you’ve just picked this magazine up at random, then read on – because if you grasp this, you’ll be well ahead of a lot of churchgoers!
The gospel of Mark sums up Jesus’ core message like this:
The time has come, the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:14).
Jesus’ core message is as simple as that.
So what does this “Kingdom of God” mean? Maybe it’s like a religious frequent flyers club where you build up point for being good and doing religious things and being on church fundraising committees. Now those are all good things, but they aren’t what Jesus meant.
Or maybe the Kingdom of God is about politics: a way for religious leaders to motivate the masses to fight for whatever bit of land needs defending? But that’s not what Jesus had in mind, either.
Instead, think about kingdom like this: remember the days when you used to sit in the back seat of your parents’ car and fight with your brother or sister about “my side” and “your side”? Well, your “kingdom” is the bit of the seat you rule over. And that’s what the Kingdom of God is like: it’s the realm over which God rules: a realm of eternal love, peace and justice.
Now when some people hear that, they imagine Jesus means Heaven, but again that’s not what Jesus meant. The Kingdom of God isn’t about us going from down here on earth, to up there in Heaven. Instead, when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God his focus was on bringing up there down here. That’s why he taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom Come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” His point is not that we go up to Heaven, it’s that the Kingdom of Heaven is coming down to earth. And it all starts with Jesus. His body and life was the first place people could see God’s will being done on earth, as they would in Heaven.
That’s why he was such a threat to the rulers of his day. It wasn’t “love one another” that troubled them, it was all his talk about Kingdoms. That’s why they killed him. And that’s why God raised him from the dead: because in the Kingdom of God, there is no death. Only life in all its fullness, forever.
And that’s the point of Easter: a forever and a day promise of life in all its fullness, in the Kingdom of God; a Kingdom which is still near to us now.
And to receive it, we have to welcome it’s king, Jesus, by making him the centre of our lives. And when we do that –a little bit of “up there” comes and dwells in us, a deposit guaranteeing us all of God’s Kingdom promises for the future.
So that’s Easter: The Kingdom of God is near – repent and believe the good news. And it’s as true and accessible today as it was on the first Easter Sunday.
May you have a very Happy Easter, and may a little bit of “up there” come “down here” to dwell with you this Easter time.
Visit www.hopechurchfamily.org/easter to find out about Easter celebrations in the church in your community.
In a spirit of full disclosure, I might have pinched an idea or two for this article from a talk given by US Pastor John Ortberg on Easter Sunday 2015.