42At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for Him and when they came to where He was, they tried to keep Him from leaving them. 43But He said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44And He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:42-44, NIV)
Jesus said that his purpose was to proclaim the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not a place, an inner state of spiritual awareness, or life after death. Rather, the kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus is God’s reign, God’s rule, God’s sovereignty.
As we reflect on Luke 4:42-44, I want to invite you to consider the way Jesus described His purpose and how this matters to us. Jesus turned down the invitation to remain in the region where He was popular because, as He said, “I must proclaim good news of the kingdom of God to other towns also; because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4:43). This is the first time we encounter the phrase “kingdom of God” in Luke’s Gospel. It shows up another 31 times as a central theme in the preaching of Jesus.
What exactly is the kingdom of God? Here is a brief introduction to the kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus.
First, it may be good to note what the kingdom of God is not. It’s not a particular place, like, for example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – though, the kingdom of God is experienced in time and space. It’s not some inner state or spiritual awareness. Additionally, the kingdom of God is not the same thing as Heaven, the place of life beyond this life. Sure, the kingdom of God is closely related to the life in the age to come. But when Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, He wasn’t just showing people how to get to Heaven after they died.
If the kingdom of God isn’t a place, or deep spiritual awareness, or Heaven, then what is it? To put it simply, the kingdom of God is God’s reign. It’s God’s sovereignty, God’s rule, God’s authority. The Greek word translated as “kingdom” refers to a physical kingdom, but it was also used for kingly authority. We see this clearly in the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When God’s reign comes, God’s will is done on earth, just like in heaven.
So, Jesus was sent to proclaim the good news that God was coming to reign. Indeed, He preached that God’s reign had drawn near. Therefore, the prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled in Jesus’s own ministry: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7). Jesus was this messenger. To be sure, He was more than just the messenger. He was also central to the message.
For us, followers of Jesus, the reign of God is something we can experience each day. When we acknowledge God as the sovereign over our lives, when we allow God to reign over everything we do and say, we experience what Jesus proclaimed. Each time we choose God’s justice over injustice, each time we offer God’s love rather than hate, each time we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, when we allow God to reign over every part of our lives, over every action and every word, we begin in this age to experience the reign of God. We celebrate the good news promised by Isaiah and fulfilled through Jesus “Our God reigns!”
As you reflect on the “kingdom of God,” think of the ways have you experienced God’s reign in your life. Can you intentionally find ways for you to live under the sovereignty of God each day? What can help you do that?