John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
I often have complained to myself and sometimes to others about how we Christians put too much confidence in the politics of this world, specifically where I live, American politics. I think this is a mistake. And yet there is something fundamentally true and sound about this, what we might call instinct to do so. Politics we might say is how society is ordered.
Jesus is often considered King solely in a spiritual sense. In some kind of relegated, private, individual sense. At best from that, it is conjectured that he could become King in larger ways through ruling in the hearts of one person at a time, then from one person to another, then to others. These Jesus people being salt and light to the world. And there most certainly is truth in that, except for the incomplete view of spiritual.
But the kingdom of God come in Jesus beginning now concerns every sphere of creation, of humanity and culture. It brings judgment as well as redemption. Certainly the consummation and completion of this rule will take place when Jesus returns.
As we can see from the passage quoted above, God’s kingdom is political. It is to affect all of life in every sphere of the world in humanity. While how that plays out depending on the culture will be different, the driving, dynamic force is that Jesus the Lord is King. And that in God’s grace Jesus brings in a kingdom.
And that kingdom is now seen in the church. The church is the setting and agent of this kingdom in which Jesus rules. And it is a rule now by way of the cross. In another sense it is through the cross, Jesus’ death, by which this rule will go on forever. But the way of the kingdom now is especially marked by the way of the cross. Yes, a spiritual way, but one that is to mark all of life, in contrast to the way of this world, which is tit for tat, in a never ending vicious cycle.
And so we look forward to Jesus’ reappearing, as we remember his first appearing in becoming one of us. And in so doing, coming as King over Israel, a kingship ultimately meant for the world. Bringing in shalom, a flourishing peace in love, the love of God in Jesus by the Spirit. And beginning now, even through us in Jesus, the church, for the world.