“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come upon you.”
With these simple words, Jesus raised the stakes on the religious leaders. He had just cast out a mute demon, a difficult feat that some rabbis maintained could only be done by Messiah Himself. Rather than believing, the Pharisees had rejected Him again and accused him of casting out demons by Satan’s power. Jesus pointed out what a foolish thing it would be for the ruler of demons to cast out his own demons, but the real challenge was yet to come.
The real challenge was simple: What if He wasn’t using Satan’s power? What if it was the Holy Spirit? What then?
Then the Kingdom of God is come. God’s rule, already firmly established in heaven, is breaking into earth, and where that is happening, the agents of the kingdom of darkness are being driven away.
The Kingdom is future. One day, we will see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven, and Christ’s enemies will be His footstool. As Hebrews 2:5-9 observes, that day has not yet arrived, and so we can confidently say that the Kingdom has not yet come.
But then again, there are little pockets where we see exactly those things happening — God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven, and Christ’s enemies crushed under His feet. Jesus was pointing out one such pocket. In that place, at that time, the rule of God was being asserted, which is to say that the Kingdom had arrived.
Abram’s servant, seeking a wife for Isaac, met her at a well. Jacob met Rachel at a well. Moses met Zipporah at a well. In the Bible, when a man meets a woman at a well, you can practically hear the wedding bells in the background. So when Jesus meets a woman at the well outside Sychar, we know what is about to happen.
Jesus is going to marry Samaria.
Samaria has had five “husbands,” five nations who possessed her (see 2 Kings 17:24*), and the nation that dominates her now, Rome, is not really her husband. The emperor is just using her for the tax revenue. She’s defeated, hopeless, oppressed — a captive, trapped in the kingdom of darkness.
She meets Jesus, and her world changes. Finally, a man who knows her: “He told me everything I ever did,” she later says. He bypasses the theological smokescreen she throws up on the Gerzim-Zion question (there was a right answer, but she didn’t really care about it anyway). Instead, He speaks to the deep need of her heart: to have reality in her relationship with God, to have life. She drinks the water that He gives, and as He promised, it wells up in her and becomes a fountain of life. All her neighbors hear about it from her, and then meet Jesus for themselves, and He remains a few days in Sychar.
Now here’s the key question: In terms of the kingdoms of light and darkness, what just happened?
Obvious, isn’t it? Yahweh’s reign has come to Sychar, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom of God has come to Sychar. Has it come perfectly? No. Has it come fully? Nope. But has it come truly?
Of course. Where Jesus is, the Kingdom is already forcefully advancing.
So the question is, do we believe His promise?
Jesus sent His disciples out, not just with a commission, but with a promise: “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and disciple the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to do all the things that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Do we believe His promise?
If we do, then we know that He is with us wherever we go. As He cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, so we have the indwelling Holy Spirit in us, always.
If the Kingdom breaks out wherever Jesus is, then why shouldn’t the Kingdom break out wherever His Body is?
If we understand that it’s God’s will for the Kingdom to break out wherever we go, then we can pray boldly. He wants to break the domain of darkness through us. From driving away oppressing spirits to freeing broken people, we are agents of God, seeking to establish His reign. Knowing that He sent us out, that He is with us, and that He wants to establish outposts of His reign on earth, we pray as Jesus taught us: “Thy name be hallowed; Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
*many thanks to Michele for pointing out the 2 Kings 17:24 connection.
Nice. Very nice. It’s just like Him to call for those who will latch onto the advancing Kingdom in the most unlikely of places. Samaria. Hmmm. Who woulda ever thunk it. This smacks of remnant theology, and I wonder how God is calling out His remnant today? So, in an environment like this with Kingdom “pockets” firing up when we least expect them, who are His “faithful people” with ears to hear and eyes to see? No one can know who will respond to His invitation until we see how they respond to the invitation. How many times will we be disappointed by people who seem to be the very best prospects for hopping onto the remnant bandwagon only to hop back off again? … how long before we are finally content with just daily cleaning out the ear wax with sanctified Q-tips? … and advising others to do the same?
I knew you’d be all over this one. It’s very gracious of you not to say ‘told you so’ about the place of the Kingdom — which you did, years ago. Took me a while.
Approaching it all as Kingdom work puts a very different face on things. I don’t do as much planning — as you say, it’s nigh impossible to know who will really respond. So far my experience is tracking with Jesus’: the junkies and hookers and impoverished enter ahead of the deacons and seminarians. Truth is, it’s a *lot* easier cutting with the grain like this rather than trying to force something to happen.
That said, I’m finding a huge need to revise the way we approach people. Jesus said the fields were white for harvest; the world was *ready* to hear. We don’t usually think so — our experience is that it’s very hard to get anybody to listen, which suggests to me that what we’re pushing is often not what Jesus wants to give. Hearing from God is very helpful to me at this point in my life; I have so little intact theory to guide me. 😉 Mostly I just try to follow Jesus’ example, and He was so beautifully innovative that it’s a hard thing to follow. He repeated His sermon material (e.g., Mount/Plain) but the way He dealt with people shifts constantly.
Yeah, it’s kind of humbling for those of us with multiple sets of letters after our names . . . but not surprising, considering our penchant for building kingdoms of our own—even if inadvertently. It’s so much easier to play what you’re dealt . . . or to use a sports analogy, to play with the players He gives you.