Jesus taught us to prioritize the Kingdom in our praying. His model prayer begins with a three-fold petition: May your Name be revered on earth, may your Kingdom come on earth, may your Will be done on earth - even as it is in Heaven. Oh, to have holy reverence, utter deference and full obedience for the King of Kings! That triune perfection will be ours one day when the King and His kingdom are established in their fullness forever. But until then, we have to do our best to revere, defer and obey right where we are. We must worship and serve Jesus and follow His instructions in this world to give others a glimpse of the new world that is coming.
Unfortunately, there are many challenges to the Kingdom of God, and we see three of them in today's text. The first is that the wicked and the righteous live near and among each other. The most challenging aspect of this truth is that they frequently go to the same church together! So then, the self-righteous give the righteous a bad name. The 'hypocrite religionist' is often identified as the first reason by those who reject the church and the gospel. But there are truly good and righteous people in the church who represent Christ's Kingdom well. If only the rejectors would focus their gaze on them. When the Kingdom comes in it's fullness, the wicked and the righteous will be separated like the catch in a fisherman's net. Until then, just devote yourself to genuine righteousness, regardless of who's swimming next to you.
The second challenge to the Kingdom in our text is the familiarity that undermines faith. Jesus had a hard time teaching and performing miracles in His home town because most of the people there were familiar with Him and His family from a human perspective. They assumed they knew all about Him, and so discounted His claims on the basis of "He's just the carpenter's son." In fact, they were offended to think that Jesus would make Himself out to be more than just another one of Mary's kids. Even today, so many are so "familiar" with church and Jesus and Christianity that they can easily wave it off. Let's do our best not to show people an institution or a cultural icon or an ideology. Let's show them a living God whose Spirit lives in us and manifests Jesus through us.
The final challenge for today is the struggle for power. The Kingdom has spiritual power and moral authority. But sinful humanity loves to possess power and exercise authority, too. In Matthew 14, John the Baptist comes with the power of God's Word and the Kingdom's moral law. But Herod has a kingdom of his own and rejects the Word of God. Herodias has power over her daughter, the dancing girl. The dancer has seductive power over Herod, the King. Herod flaunts his power to make an unconditional oath. The crowd shows their power to hold him accountable. And in the end, the Baptist loses his head! If only we would all acknowledge the superior power of God in Christ and defer to His Kingship. If only we would wield what power we possess to bring the Kingdom in - on earth as it is in Heaven.
Pray: King Jesus, help me not to be a stumbling block or a hindrance for the in-breaking of Your Kingdom. Help me to represent You well in this world. Help me not to wait for Heaven to act like a citizen of Heaven. I can do that here and now and transform the circles in which I have influence.