Study Guide: The Kingdom is Here and Now

Sunday February 8, 2009 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus gave them an answer they didn’t expect, and it’s very relevant for us today. Instead of spreading Christian ideas and values through laws, politics and force, Jesus reminds us that we’re called to be the Kingdom by loving, serving and sacrificing for the people around us.

Extended Summary:

In today’s text, Jesus tells the Pharisees that “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 in your midst.” Greg pointed out that this would be confusing for them because different groups of people thought there were different activities that would contribute to the bringing about of the kingdom of God. For example, the Pharisees hoped that if Jews would return to obeying the laws of God, then the kingdom would come. The Zealots thought that if the Jews would take up arms and do their part, then the kingdom of God would come. Others watched for “signs of the times” by interpreting historical and astronomical events as indicators of the coming of the kingdom of God. Jesus refutes each of these approaches and declares that, in fact, the kingdom is already there in their midst.

The application to our context is pretty direct. Many Christians today imagine that we can bring the kingdom of God by controlling the behavior of others through laws we try to pass or resist. Greg pointed out how this was similar to what the Pharisees were doing. Some Christians think we can bring the kingdom of God by reinstating Israel, even if we have to use force to do it. This is similar to the Zealots of Jesus’ day. Greg’s challenge to us was that these sorts of things don’t bring the kingdom of God closer; instead, the kingdom is in our midst just as it was when Jesus answered the Pharisees. Jesus lives in and among us and we bring the kingdom when we become Jesus to one another and to our hurting world.

Some examples Greg gave of how to turn toward this include:

  1. Rather than exert ourselves fighting “for” or “against” a certain definition of marriage or civil unions, let’s be Jesus to our gay neighbors. Love them, serve them, sacrifice for them and befriend them.
  2. Rather than fight “for” or “against” a certain way that government helps the poor, let’s be Jesus to the poor. Extend help to the friend who’s losing their home to foreclosure, or just lost a job. You and your small group could find many ways to love, serve, and sacrifice on behalf of someone in trouble in today’s economy.
  3. Rather than fight “for” or “against” abortion, let’s be Jesus to those who have unwanted pregnancies. Let’s love, serve, and help them expand their options for their own sake and that of the child.
  4. Rather than fight “for” or “against” going to war in various circumstances, let’s be Jesus to our enemies. Let’s remember the command we’ve received to pray for them and to love them.

There are so many people all around us that we can “be Jesus” to! Each neighbor, co-worker, customer, employer, each person we meet is another gracious opportunity God gives us to obey the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is what the kingdom is, and it is this when we become Jesus to others.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you from today’s message?
  2. Discuss together which of the groups from Jesus’ context you identify with most. The Pharisees who want to put too much trust in laws? The Zealots who want to put too much trusting forceful action? Or those who watch for the “signs of the times”?
  3. What did you think of Greg’s confrontation of how many Christians put too much trust in politics? Do you agree?
  4. There were many examples of ways that a small group could “be Jesus” to those who cross our path. Think of some folks who this small group might be able to bless. Make a list.
  5. What is one way we, as a group, can respond together to this message?