The King and the Kingdom
Jesus Christ’s mission was misunderstood by the Jewish leaders of that day. In fact, a majority of the Jewish people of his day did not recognize the ministry of Christ as being the fulfillment of Old Testament scriptures. John 1:11 states that Jesus came to His own, but they received Him not. Despite the miracles and the signs that accompanied the ministry of Jesus, including His absolute spiritual authority over the spirit world, He was not recognized except by a select few. After a 3 ½ year ministry there were only 120 followers of the Church. His teachings were at odds and cross purposes with those who had high positions in Israel. These conflicts led to His execution. Just prior to the execution the Transfiguration on the Mount occurs. This paper will tie in these events and analyze them from a scriptural perspective.
Keywords: Jesus, Christ, ministry, church, theology, kingdom
The King and the Kingdom
Scholars often point to the divinity of Christ by quoting from Mark’s gospel, where Jesus controls the sea (Mark 4:35-41; 6:45-52). According to Judean sources, Jesus exercises powers here that are alone reserved for God.
Despite a ministry marked by miracles, healings, the casting out of spirits and supernatural provision, the Jewish leaders never accepted Jesus. He was a threat to the public order in their eyes. He had cast out moneychangers from the Temple. The people wanted him to be an earthly King.
He miraculously fed thousands. These miracles caused such a high level of support for Jesus that the people who believed in Him wanted Him as their King. But John 6:14-15 states that when Jesus perceived this was their wish, he departed to a mountain alone. To be a King over Israel at that time in history was not His plan.
Just prior to the crucifixion, Peter, James and John were exclusively selected to be present at an awe-inspiring event. Jesus took them by night to a mountain, and as He was praying, Jesus was transfigured before them. His clothes shone as the sun, and His countenance was changed. This was a mark of God’s approval on His ministry. Moses and Elijah also appeared on the mountain. Jesus had just told His disciples that He was about to be arrested and killed, but after three days He would rise from the dead. Some believe that the reason Jesus allowed them to see Him in this state was to infuse their faith and prepare them for what was to follow.
The presence of Moses and Elijah is also significant. Moses was the chief law giver of the Old Testament, and Elijah was held in the highest regard as the chief prophet of the Old Testament. Jewish people would think no more highly of anyone else.
Elijah and Moses discussed with Jesus his impending death in Jerusalem. They knew it was about to happen. This shows that they agreed it was complementary to their work. It was a fulfillment of the Law. It was in harmony with God’s plan. The Old Testament foreshadowed the death of the Messiah.
The Transfiguration therefore was a reflection of Almighty God’s foreknowledge of the events of that day, and a further confirmation it was indeed God’s will. God understood it long before it happened and allowed it. The Old Testament teachings concurred with it.
However, on a political basis the people of that day knew of the Jewish prophecies of the Messiah but believed, falsely and to their detriment, that that person would be an earthly ruler. They were looking for freedom from Roman oppression.
King Herod ruled Judea as a Roman puppet and understood this. He was afraid of the Messiah since he felt that would be a rival position to his authority. Early in the gospels, in Matthew 2:3-16, Herod inquires of the wise men where Christ is to be born. He had the purpose of eliminating him.
Christ in the Greek language has the same meaning as the Hebrew word Messiah. It means an anointed one who came to do God’s will on the earth. The Jewish rulers expected that Christ would become an earthly king and rule over them. They knew He would be a descendant of King David, the most highly revered Israeli King in the Old Testament.
Many of those who did believe in Christ told Him this very thing. The blind men at Jericho in Matthew 20:30 and the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:22 wondered if this was the Son of David? In fact, when Christ entered Jerusalem, He was greeted by people who shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
But it was not time at that time of history for Jesus to accomplish a restored kingdom. God has promised that, but it will occur at a later time, at the Second Coming. Strangely, even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were still asking him when He would restore the Davidic Kingdom. In Acts 1:6 they asked Him that question again.
When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, even saying it is at hand. He was speaking of the future Kingdom of God that would come down to earth. He was telling people that He was the way. The timing of the physical kingdom was misunderstood, however.
Jesus was very indirect much of the time, and only revealed Himself to a select few as the Messiah during His ministry. For example, he forbad demons coming out of possessed men to confess that he was the Christ in Luke 4:41. When Peter responded directly to the question of Jesus – “Who do you say I am?” – Jesus commanded the disciples to tell no one that was the Christ.
Jesus spoke of His authority and divine power to John the Baptist by directing him to look at the proofs of His ministry. Both His teachings and works were proof. But this was in private and not publicly. There are exceptions, however, including the woman at the well. She was a Samaritan and Jesus revealed to her that He was the Messiah.
The Kingdom of God Jesus spoke about was on a spiritual level. He wanted people to be changed and to obey God. His kingdom philosophy was not the same as the Jews. They wanted an independent kingdom which would be set up against Rome.
At the very end of His ministry, Jesus was plain with Pilate. He told him that His Kingdom wasn’t then and now, but it would be in an age to come. His Kingdom will be established to rule all nations. Jesus revealed this to the last living disciple, John the Revelator, in the Book of the Apocalypse or Revelation.