The 4th of July brings to light the significance of what is perhaps my favorite parable (Luke 19). To understand the connection, let’s remember exactly how different this day would have been back in 1776.
As the ink was drying on the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War was just around the corner. Whether willingly or reluctantly, every citizen was thrust onto the horns of a dilemma:
- Take up arms as citizens of the new nation and simultaneously condemn themselves as traitors against Britain.
- Take up arms on behalf of the “homeland” (Britain) and fight to quell the rebellion. (Be traitors against America.)
- Play it safe by avoiding allegiance to either country in order to await the end result of the war before deciding. (Be condemned as cowards regardless of who won the war.)
Undoubtedly, there were many reluctant decision makers in the days following July 4, 1776. Many people were going about their lives, doing their work, paying their taxes, and raising their families. Most weren’t politicians. Most weren’t soldiers. They were simply swept into something bigger than themselves. Many were forced to make a decision that they didn’t want to have to make.
This is exactly the scenario that Jesus describes in Luke 19 to help us understand the circumstances in which we’re living. He has declared (and revealed) himself to be the King over all creation – the heavens and the earth. The kingdom of God has come. However, his reign has not yet been fully implemented. And in the meantime, conflict is underway because many people are living in opposition to the King’s reign.
How we emerge into God’s story is determined by how we respond to Jesus’ claim of lordship in the meantime. We find ourselves (along with every person we’ll ever know) on the same horns of a dilemma faced by the first citizens of America back on July 4, 1776:
- We can be faithful to the King and live in faith and anticipation that he will indeed reign.
- We can be appalled that Jesus’ claims lordship over us and live in opposition to him.
- We can try to play it safe and simply go about our own business trying to offend neither Jesus nor his opponents.
The decision is inevitable. Our circumstances have been thrust upon us whether we like it or not. The only question is how we will respond and who we will be in God’s story.
One day, the decision will seem as obvious as it does for us today looking back on America’s Independence Day. Jesus will reign over all creation. Everything will be restored and renewed according to God’s eternal plans for his creation. God’s people will live eternally and immortally, reigning over creation and governing it according to God’s design. We will eternally celebrate what God has done and remember every step we took along the way to be faithful to him, living in response to his goodness and in anticipation of the New Creation.
Today, let’s take a look at Jesus’ references to “eternal life” through the gospel of John. (John 3:15-16 & 36; 4:36; 5:24; 6:47 & 54; 10:28; 11:25.) Notice Jesus’ consistent perspective throughout these verses:
Eternal life is a present reality.
Before turning our attention to why Jesus refers to eternal life as a present reality, let’s clarify a couple things before we go any further.
- The present reality of eternal life does not diminish its “eternal” nature. Eternal life simply begins much sooner than we sometimes imagine.
- The present reality of eternal life doesn’t imply that the way things are today will be the way that they’ll be forever. As 1 Corinthians 15, there is a forthcoming transformation. Life will be MUCH different when the kingdom is fully manifest. Death will be swallowed up by life. Mortality will give way to immortality.
In light of God’s story, the present reality of eternal life should make sense to us. And so it should be no surprise that this same perspective is consistent throughout Jesus’ teaching –- particularly in his parables.
Remember Jesus’ parable in Luke 19: The citizens and servants defined themselves in the kingdom BEFORE the King returned. Jesus taught his disciples that the trajectory of their lives based on their priorities and allegiance would naturally extend into his kingdom. In other words, their everyday lives were already eternally significant. The same is true for us today:
- Eternal life is a natural extension of the lives we are now living. So Jesus refers to it as a present reality for those who have come to know him.
- One day, the veil will be taken away, and we’ll see things more clearly, but we’ll still be us, and the reality in which we find ourselves will be the same that it’s always been.
- Though his reign is not yet fully manifest, we are already living when Jesus is King. We’re already defining ourselves within his reign.
- The more we come to know & serve Jesus and to live in fellowship with him, the more we’re living an eternal kind of life (John 17:3).
So again, what now?
Let’s live well. Let’s be faithful to Jesus in our relationships. In our finances. In our time management. In our allegiance. Let’s embrace Jesus as our Lord and King here & now. And then when the day comes and he returns to finalize his victory, we’ll find ourselves quite at home as we transition into his eternal kingdom.
(Excerpt from Reimagining Discipleship)
Take a moment to read Luke 19:11-27. In this chapter, Jesus and the disciples are heading to Jerusalem. As they approach Israel’s capital, the disciples assume that the kingdom Jesus had been announcing for three years is finally going to appear. Aware of their misguided assumption, Jesus stops to tell the disciples a story – a story about a man who would be king, an unexpected delay in his coming, and an ensuing dilemma for those left to determine their fates during his absence.
Our journey together begins with this parable because Jesus’ words are as relevant for us today as they were to his first disciples. Continue reading “When Jesus is King”