Full Essay Title: On the basis of the gospel of Mark alone, prepare a statement of “the kingdom of God” in the preaching of Jesus. (1000 words).
In Mark’s gospel the English word “kingdom” is from the Greek basilea, which means “kingdom, kingship, royal rule” according to Strong’s. It appears that this is the central message of Jesus’ preaching. When Jesus began his ministry, it was with the proclamation “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news” (1:15). He must have been referring to the prophecies of Dan 2:44 and 9:27 which refer to the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. This was in accord with Israel’s expectations too. For example, “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God” (15:43). And the people themselves expressed this expectation, saying, “Hosanna!….Blessed is the coming kingdom or our ancestor David” (11:9-10).
The Kingdom of God Present
Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God as being both present and future. In his own person, he was introducing the kingdom, or rule, of God on earth (1:15). And again, in 2:18-20, he talks of the kingdom being present in his own person, and that it was not right to fast in the presence of the king. John the Baptist, the herald of the coming kingdom (1:1-3), said it was near, and referred to Jesus (1:7-8). And when John was arrested, Jesus took over his preaching, saying it was now fulfilled (1:15). In 9:12-13 he told the disciples that Elijah, in the person of John the Baptist, had come, thus fulfilling scripture. Even before chapter 1 ends, Jesus has performed many miracles, thus giving substance to his claims that “the kingdom of God has come near” (1:15).
In the parable of the sower (4:1-20), while the teaching is no doubt about different “soils”, central to this idea is that the kingdom must be received by people for it to be effective in their lives (see also 10:15). In 4:26-29, the kingdom will continue to grow in the world until the end of time.
In 7:1-13 the kingdom of God is shown to be the very opposite of what human beings present as being of God. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes because they broke the commandment of God (his kingdom laws) by their traditions. In 12:28-34 Jesus boils down the commandments to loving God and neighbour. Jesus showed the relationship between obedience and being within the kingdom of God (also in 10:17-22).
Another example of the kingdom is found in 3:20-27, where Jesus alludes to himself as being the one who enters the strong man’s house and plunders it, rescuing people from Satan’s power (see also 2:17). His many miracles demonstrate this, for example the Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20) and the Mission of the Twelve (6:6-13) in which he gave his disciples “authority over the unclean spirits” (see also 3:11).
The Kingdom of God Future
In 8:34-9:8, Jesus shows the connection between the kingdom on Earth and the kingdom in heaven. As shown earlier, the Kingdom must be received by people; in these verses Jesus calls it “to become my followers” (8:34). Receiving God’s kingdom on earth will be costly for those who do, but it is necessary if we want to be a part of that kingdom, God’s rule in the age to come. Chapter 9:1 is difficult, but at the least Jesus is encouraging those present that some of them would “see that the kingdom of God has come with power”. There was imminence about it. And following this, Jesus is transfigured before three of his disciples, and the kingdom of God on earth and in heaven meet, as it were (9:2-8). In 9:1, Jesus refers to the Transfiguration. A connection is also seen in 10:17, 21, where Jesus tells the rich man to “sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” i.e. what is done on earth affects what we receive in the next life.
In 10:29-31 Jesus shows that the kingdom of God in heaven is eternal. And that the values of God’s kingdom are opposite to those of the world. This is further elaborated in 35-45,in which, following a dispute amongst the disciples, Jesus said that greatness in the kingdom of God required service and humility.
In his great discourse on the destruction of the temple and the end times (13:1-37), Jesus reveals that he himself is the one who will initiate the end of the age and the full realisation of the kingdom of God (13:26-27); see also 4:29; 8:38; 14:62.
It appears then that Jesus came to establish the rule of God on earth, and this rule would find its consummation in the coming age. It was that place between the cross and the return of Jesus, and which would extend into eternity. This kingdom of God is able to set people free from every kind of bondage and sickness in this life, and ultimately from death itself, because those who enter the kingdom do so through baptism with the Holy Spirit given by Jesus (1:8) and forgiveness of sins (2:1-12).
The kingdom of God means a relationship with God (12:28-34). It is death to self (8:34-35; 9:43-48; 10:15), and serving our neighbour (10:21) and our Christian brothers and sisters (10:41-45). Jesus himself summed it up in just two commandments – love to God and love to our neighbour (12:29-34). The kingdom of God is a life of discipleship and following Christ (10:21; 8:34). So important is the kingdom of God, and the losing of it so terrifying and dread, that it is to be gained at any cost – in fact, it is life itself. Nothing is more necessary or vital to human beings (8:35-37; 9:43-48).
But the cost of obtaining the kingdom for humanity was beyond comprehension. Jesus said he came “to give his life a ransom for many” (10:45). Although, as he approached the hour of his death, which was for humanity (14:22-25), he “began to be distressed and agitated….deeply grieved” (14:33-34), he obeyed the Father (14:36) and died “for many”. Without this priceless gift of himself, the kingdom of God would be beyond our reach. The gospel of the kingdom is indeed the good news that Jesus said it is (1:15).