Service for June 21, 2020 — Your Kingdom Come
31“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
36“This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
39“After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
44“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
Psalm: Psalm 119c on page 111 in Christian Worship
Your Word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your Word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Your Word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
10Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
Luke 8:4-8, 11-15:
4While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
11“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
20Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
This is a little scene that plays itself out in our house, I would say, on an almost daily basis. My wife will ask me to hand her something that is sitting on the cupboard. Doesn’t really matter what it is. It could be a piece of paper or a pen or a utensil. She will tell me that it’s right there on the countertop. And I will go and look for it and can’t find it. I look over at her and I ask her, “Do you mean this one?” And she will answer, “No. It’s right by that, though.” “You mean this one?” “No! It’s the pink one right beside it!” I’ll start hovering my hand over the counter for a little while and she’ll finally say, “Yes! Right there! That’s the one I meant.” Finally, I will have the right item in my hand and I will hand it to her. For whatever reason, I am so dense that I can’t figure out what she needs right away. If I had a nickel for every time that scene played out in our house, I probably wouldn’t be able to find the nickels. This morning, we are looking at the Second Petition of the Lord’s prayer. In that petition we pray, “Your Kingdom come.” in our text for this morning, we witness some people who are so dense that they can’t see the Kingdom of God even though it is right there in front of their faces. Kind of like How I don’t see the thing that my wife tells me to get even though it’s right there out in the open.
Your Kingdom Come
Luke tells us that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem for the final time. He is traveling in the area East of the Jordan River , an area called Paria back then. As he is getting closer to the place where he will cross the Jordan River again opposite to the ancient city of Jericho, he has an encounter with some Pharisees. Luke tells us how the little conversation went. Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is ἐντὸς ὑμῶν.” The Pharisees, you see, had a problem. They were looking for the wrong thing when they were looking for the Kingdom of God. They thought that they would recognize it because the Messiah would be this glorious military leader at the head of a mighty army. This Messiah would charge into Jerusalem, defeat the Romans, and set up a glorious rule where Israel would be recognized as the greatest nation on earth. They, of course, would be all set to receive special honor in this Kingdom because they had been so careful about observing the law of Moses.
Then Jesus came along and he started speaking about the Kingdom of God on a very regular basis. The gospel of Luke, alone, has over 30 incidences where Jesus speaks to the people about the Kingdom of God. He told them parables that describe the Kingdom of God. He told them that humility was necessary for entering the Kingdom of God. All of this just did not seem to make sense to the Pharisees. And now, Jesus and his little band of disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Everyone who was following Jesus was probably talking about the coming of the Kingdom of God. To the Pharisees, this man who was not speaking about earthly glory but instead was speaking about humility and repentance just did not fit their bill as to what the Kingdom of God was all about. Their question about when the Kingdom of God would come or where it would be was probably a question aimed at mocking Jesus and his followers.
In Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees, we see what the meaning of the Kingdom of God is. Notice that before, when I quoted Jesus from the gospel of Luke, I quoted two of the words in the original Greek. There is a reason for that. It is because there is a little bit of disagreement as to how those words should be translated. To tell the truth, either way makes sense and either way explains what we are praying about in the Second Petition.
You can translate the expression either as “The Kingdom of God is in your midst” or “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Either one of those translations is true and both of them makes sense in connection with the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer.
First, let’s take a look at translating it as, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Translated in that sense, Jesus is telling the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God that he is speaking about is a spiritual Kingdom that takes up a position inside of the hearts of believers. What this means, is that we no longer consider ourselves to be the ones who are in control of our destiny both now and forever. We abdicate our own rule in favor of the rule of Jesus in our hearts. We are saying to Jesus in this petition, “Lord, I know that without you and without your forgiveness I am nothing. Please, use your word and sacraments to remind me again and again that I need you as my head in my life. If left to my own rule, I would make an utter ruin of my life and be lost forever.”
That is really the sense that Martin Luther took in his explanation of the Second Petition in his Small Catechism: Your kingdom come. What does this mean? God’s kingdom certainly comes by itself even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us. How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word and lead a godly life now on earth and forever in heaven.
There is that other way to translate this expression. We can translate it as, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” If taken this way, what Jesus was telling the Pharisees was that, even though they didn’t realize it, the work of the Kingdom of God was going on all around them. All of these people that the Pharisees were looking down upon were people that God had brought into his Kingdom. He had brought into his Kingdom ordinary workers, people who had led very sinful lives, the high and mighty who realized that their power and influence could accomplish nothing before the presence of a holy God, etc., etc. No, there wasn’t some great army following a majestic and powerful Messiah on horseback. Instead, there were people that God’s word had quietly brought into God’s Kingdom all around them. It was just that they could not see that.
So this is what we are also praying about in the Second Petition. We are saying, in essence, “Lord, I thank you that you have brought me into your Kingdom. I am not a worthy subject. It is true that I would often rebel if my sinful nature got the better of me. However, for the sake of your son you redeemed me and made me a part of your glorious Kingdom now and forever. My prayer is that all of these people that I see around me every day be brought into your Kingdom as well. If it is your will, use the things that I say and do to bring your message of Salvation to them. As I prayed in the First Petition, lead me to show the world how holy your name is so that The Holy Spirit works through your word to bring them into your Kingdom.” This is what we are praying about in this petition every time we pray it.
Now comes the question of “When?” When is it that God’s Kingdom comes? The answer to that question is that it comes now and that it will come in the future as well. The Pharisees could only imagine it coming in the future.
I have to admit that when I was first learning this prayer as a child, I thought that I was praying about something that was going to happen in the future as well. I thought that we were praying about God bringing this world to a conclusion and setting up his glorious heavenly Kingdom. When I prayed this petition as a child, I imagined myself looking up to heaven and hoping to see Jesus returning from the clouds to judge the living and the dead and bring those who belong to him into heaven.
But when we look at what Jesus said to the Pharisees here, we see that he is talking mostly about something that is happening right here and right now. He tells them that the Kingdom of heaven is within them and in their midst. So, when we pray this petition, we are praying mostly about the work of God going on in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We are also keeping in our minds those who live in far distant lands whom we want to hear God’s word as well. We are praying about the here and now in this petition for the most part.
That being said, we are also praying about the future. That idea that I had as a child when I was praying this petition is a valid one. Ultimately, we are looking forward to that time when the work of the Kingdom of grace is finished here on this earth and we do get to see with our own eyes the Kingdom of glory that God has prepared for us. We do look forward to being in that heavenly Kingdom that our savior has prepared for us. While we wait, though, it is our firmest and utmost prayer that the work of the Kingdom of grace continue on until that time that the Kingdom of glory is revealed.
This is what we are praying when we pray, “Your Kingdom come.” Amen