Today’s Lectio Divina: After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s Kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.” Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with Me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed. A dozen yards or so down the beach, He saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. Right off, He made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed. Mark 1: 14-20 (MsgB)
As we continue our in-depth look at The Lord’s Prayer, it’s important to know a few things about Jesus of Nazareth and the unique time in which He lived.
Why you ask?
Because anytime you and I attempt to apply ancient biblical truth to our current, everyday lives, it’s vitally important to keep the original intent and meaning of the text, if at all possible, in play. In other words, when Jesus tells us…
Pray this way…Thy Kingdom come,
…it’s important to ask the question…
What exactly did Jesus’ disciples perceive in their imaginations when Jesus says to them, pray this way…Thy Kingdom come?
And maybe an even deeper question might be this…
What exactly did Jesus mean when He tells us to pray these words…Thy Kingdom come?
George E. Ladd, in his classic book, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (1959) was one of the first biblical scholars to introduce to our current culture the vast difference that existed between what Jesus meant by Thy Kingdom come versus what His first-century listeners heard.
With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, beginning in the late 1940s, biblical scholars, for the first time since the days of Jesus, were able to reconstruct, with much more accuracy, the mindset or worldview of the Jewish people living during Jesus’ time. One of the greatest breakthroughs coming out of the study of the material found in the caves of Qumran was a much clearer understanding of what Jews of Jesus’ day were thinking when people spoke about God’s coming Kingdom. And from what the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate, the subject of the Kingdom was a hot topic indeed!
Did you know, for example, that the New Testament writers talk about the Kingdom of God 147 times, and that Jesus, Himself, speaks of the Kingdom 56 times in Matthew’s gospel alone?
You see, to the first-century Jew, the coming of God’s Kingdom was a huge theme. Something that was front-n-center, right on the surface, a pot simmering and ready to boil over. Similar to the confrontational conversations often found today when talking politics via Facebook, first-century Jews had many strong opinions when it came to the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Keep in mind, that for those living in Israel during Jesus’ day, many suffered under the constant oppression of Caesar and the power-hungry Roman empire while worshipping in the midst of a corrupt religious system headed up by King Herod. For most, the only hope in this miserable situation was found in a merciful God sending His powerful Messiah, a delivering King who would drive off all of God’s enemies, restoring Israel to the nation it once was when David was on the throne.
This is why so many were filled with hope and excitement when they heard John the Baptist, and then Jesus, Himself, preach these words…
Time’s up! God’s Kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.
But here’s the rub.
While the great majority of Jesus’ listeners, including His disciples, believed Jesus was God’s soon-and-coming King, the long-awaited Christ/Messiah who would rid Israel of its enemies, restoring the good old days of King David, Jesus was constantly disappointing them by not acting like the Messiah they all expected Him to be! Many now believe that it was this on-going disappointment that encouraged Judas into his betrayal of the Master.
If you look carefully at the Gospels, you’ll find numerous places where this on-going disappointment in Jesus’ approach to God’s coming Kingdom is expressed. John the Baptizer seems to be the first one to broach this subject when he finds himself in prison, about to be beheaded. Addressing this inconsistency in Messiah’s job description, John sends his disciples to Jesus with this point-blank question…
Are You the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? Matthew 11: 3 (NIV)
Even, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, followed by forty days of fellowship and teaching, His own disciples still seem to be having a very difficult time understanding what Thy Kingdom come means as they pepper Jesus with this question…
Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? Acts 1: 6 (NIV)
Thy Kingdom come.
Jesus, what in the world did you mean when you spoke so much about God’s Kingdom coming? Isn’t this all about our Holy God stepping back into His creation, embarrassing and defeating His enemies, while setting up heaven on earth?
Oh wait, maybe Thy Kingdom come means we, God’s people, need to do that job for God?
Maybe we, the Church, are the Kingdom and we need to do God’s dirty work for Him and in that way, we’ll set up His Kingdom on earth?
Can you see the confusion?
You see, even today, many well-meaning Christians are unsure what Thy Kingdom come actually means. We pray it, but in truth, do we really know what we are praying for?
Well, take heart. All is not lost. Next time, we’ll take a crack at trying to straighten all this out, as we add in Jesus’ next phrase…
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
I hope you’ll join us.
My Prayer: Jesus, it’s obvious from reading the Gospels and by looking at church history that we, Your people, don’t always interpret Your words with the same accuracy by which You spoke them. It’s becoming apparent to us now that Your first-century friends failed to grasp the fullest meaning of Thy Kingdom come, but rather than criticize them for their ignorance, maybe I need to learn from their lesson and re-evaluate where I might be misinterpreting Your words in my life as well. Holy Spirit, please come to clarify and help us better discern the truest meaning of Jesus’ prayer, Thy Kingdom come. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions To Ponder: How have I interpreted Jesus prayer, Thy Kingdom come? Have I added or subtracted to the meaning, or maybe in my hurriedness to get through The Prayer, have I failed to pay attention to the phrase and its truest meaning altogether?
So, what is God speaking to you as you ponder on The Lord’s Prayer?
Over a period of four weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take you on a journey (12-sessions) we call Contemplating The Prayer: Pondering Anew The Prayer of Jesus. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read. Each session also ends with a few thoughts to ponder on. I look forward to hearing some of your insight as we journey together!
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