Do you see that the kingdom of God has come with power? (Mark 9:1) Jesus said to the multitude with his disciples, “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
I can tell you, almost with certainty, that everyone who was standing there has by now tasted death. I do not say that they are dead! Our God is not the God of the dead, but of the living! And he is their God! I say, rather, that they have tasted death. Just as Jesus Christ himself has tasted death and yet is not dead.
Jesus is not wrong here. He has not miscalculated the day of the second coming, as many modern doomsday prophets often do. This is not what Jesus has done. So, if he is not wrong, and all who was standing there have tasted death, then it can only mean that the kingdom of God has already come with power and some who were standing there have seen it.
So I ask you again, have you seen the kingdom of God? Remember that the reign of God is forever and ever. When the kingdom of God comes, it does not then retreat away again. If the kingdom of God has come already in the lifetimes of those who lived with Jesus, then it must be that the kingdom of God persists now today. But the kingdom of God is among us and the kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21). So I ask you again, have you seen the kingdom of God that has come with power?
Who is the king of glory? The Lord Jesus. Who is the king of kings? Jesus Christ! Who is the Lord of hosts? Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is no earthly politician, neither this candidate nor that candidate, that is Lord of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ alone rules over all and he is King and God of all.
As citizens of this country, it’s important for us to vote. But, if we love our country, there’s something even more important. It’s even more important for us to pray. How often we pray for our civil authorities in almost every liturgical service, and rightly so.
St. Peter teaches us: “Honor everyone. Love the brethren. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Pet 2:17). Yes, even the emperor, he says. Even Nero, who would slaughter Christians and use their burning bodies as torches to light his dinner parties. Yesterday I saw a Christian confess on Facebook that he would not pray for Ruth Bader Ginsberg. As Christians we pray for everyone, even those opposed to us.
It is prayer for them and for all that can truly bring needed change, which is metanoia – repentance – the change of heart. Change of policy unaccompanied by change of heart yields precious little fruit. This coming Thursday is a National Day of Prayer and Fasting for God’s mercy on our land and the healing and conversion of our hearts. Consider joining in.
Who would Jesus vote for? Would he vote at all? I have no idea. But do we even care? Vote your conscience. But if you leave your conscience unformed by prayer to the one true king and Lord, it will lead you astray. It will be malformed. You’ll be like the wooden puppet Pinocchio before he got his conscience in the form of a cricket. Your decisions will be immature and inadvisable. Pray before you vote. Pray while you are voting. Pray for whoever wins the election, whether or not you voted for them.
I know it’s not November and that maybe I should save all this for then, but today Jesus Christ is talking about the kingdom of God! And I follow his schedule. Because I’m living in his kingdom.
Yes, I am an American. I found that out real fast the moment I visited foreign country. When I went to Germany in my early twenties it became very quickly clear to me that my Americanness was written all over my face. And that it came out in all of my mannerisms and habits and that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. It is an aspect of our identity, where we we’re from, it shapes us. So, yes, I like most of you am an American. But God forbid that I should make that my primary identity. That I should put that first. If my first identity is not in the Lord, I am lost. Indeed, it is for his sake and the Gospels, that we are to lose our lives if we intend to save our lives (Mark 8:35))
What does it mean for us to lose our life for Christ’s sake and the Gospels? For some, it means just that. Many of those Jesus was speaking to would soon after his death and Resurrection begin to join the ranks as martyrs. And martyrdom has persisted into our own day. Just one example among many is the Coptic Orthodox martyrs beheaded by the Islamic State five years ago in Libya. If we are not prepared and willing to act as they did in that kind of situation, then we are not yet truly followers of Jesus Christ. He calls us to lose our life for his sake and the Gospels. Now remember that the gospel is a gospel of life not of death. It is for life that we are losing our lives. Jesus is the life. For nothing else would it be worthwhile after all to lay down our lives. But this is the pearl of great price and we eagerly and willingly sell everything else we have to buy it.
Some of us, on the other hand, do not have the opportunity to die in the flesh by those persecuting Christ and his Church. Does this mean that we are lost? Because we have had no chance to lose our life Jesus and his gospel? Don’t worry, we will have that chance in one way or another
This is in fact the vocation of every Christian. We must take up our own cross. We will discover our own way to lay down our lives. Every vocation – being married or being unmarried, being laity or clergy – is a vocation of martyrdom of one kind or another. Each vocation is to give witness, which is what the word martyr means. And each is a way of giving up our whole lives for the love of others.
This is what Christ does on the cross. He lays down is life for the love of others, for the love of us, and for the love of all. It is on the cross, which we continue to exalt today, that the coming of his kingdom is realized.
We know that Pilate ordered it to be written and posted above Christ on his cross, “Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews”. It’s interesting to note that in iconography, this is not what we find on the cross of Christ. Rather, it says here, Ό Βασιλεύς της Δόξης – the king of Glory. Pilot likely did not consider Jesus to be glorious in this moment. He likely failed to see the kingdom of God come in power here. He did not regard of a cross as the throne of the most high King. He thought of it rather as something he could threaten the king with. When, in fact, it is his throne. And here he is enthroned as king of glory. And some who stood there before when he was preaching and heard him say that there was some standing there who would not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God which has come in power. They looked, and they remembered, and they saw exactly that. That in this moment of supreme weakness and humiliation, was the power of the coming of God to be exalted. By them and us until this very day.
Those of us who do not yet see the kingdom of God, are like pilot who failed to recognize the king standing before him. It isn’t that to the kingdom of God is not among us. It is that we do not see it. It is present and it is invisible. As invisible as it was when Jesus hung on the cross. It looked to be his defeat, but in fact it was his victory. The same continues on and on. The saints of God and his martyrs and those who give testimony and witness to him by their lives laying down their lives both literally and figuratively. We have seen the self-sacrificial love of Christians, I hope. If we have not, we have not yet met Christians. And if we have, we have seen the kingdom of God, and power. The cross gives us power to seek God where God is not. Or where God seems not to be. The cross gives us the power to see the kingdom of God. And to live in the kingdom of God. Even now. Live first of all as citizens of the Kingdom. Let’s make that our identity above all things and l et the cross inform how we see things and all the decisions that we make. May all our decisions be cruciform.