Last Sunday afternoon, our church small group met at a park. As our children played on the playground nearby, the adults circled around in our lawn chairs and cracked open our Bibles. We are reading through the book of Mark, and that afternoon, the end of Mark Chapter 1 grabbed my attention. In that passage, Jesus healed a leper and then firmly told the newly-healed man not to tell anyone that he had been healed by Jesus. Of course, the man did the very opposite of this and went around proclaiming everywhere that he had been miraculously healed by this man, Jesus.

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.

Mark 1:45 NASB

Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city. His fame preceded Him, but He had actively tried to prevent it. What kind of a leader subverts his fame and authority by asking people not to talk about him? What kind of platform builder stays in unpopulated areas? What kind of King comes to announce himself by healing the marginalized: the women, the outcasts, the sick, and the demon-possessed?

The kind of King who comes with an upside down Kingdom, that’s who.

Much of my adult walk with the Lord has been spent carefully inspecting what I’ve been taught about Jesus and the Gospel and studying the Scriptures to discover who He is for myself. I am especially captivated with the imagery Jesus uses to describe who He is and what His kingdom is all about. He seemed to do this most through the questions He asked and the stories He told. Most of the time, it seems He left his disciples with more questions than answers, and it’s no surprise. His Kingdom is perplexing. It is upside down. It absolutely flies in the face of everything we as humans are taught about greatness, leadership, fame, and reward.

  • In God’s Kingdom, power is perfected in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • In God’s Kingdom, the last shall be first. Matthew 19:30
  • The Kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit. Matthew 5:3
  • In God’s Kingdom, losing your life is the way to find it. Matthew 10:39
  • In God’s Kingdom, neighbors love each other like they love themselves. Matthew 22:39
  • In the Kingdom of Heaven, humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33
  • Members of the Kingdom of God save up heavenly treasures, not earthly ones. Matthew 16:20

In this upside down, unexpected Kingdom, the King arrived as a tiny baby in an outskirt town, raised as a carpenter’s son. He chose twelve unqualified disciples to mentor. He was wrongfully arrested and didn’t fight back. He was crucified, and rather than staying dead and buried, He had the audacity to resurrect and beat death at its own game.

The Kingdom that Jesus ushered in is by all standards a paradox. It is a Kingdom of already and not yet. His Kingdom cannot be shaken, but remains invisible to the naked eye. It has been at work for 2,000 years, but is not yet glorified in its fulfilled, tangible state.

I often pray that the Lord would give me eyes to see and ears to hear His Kingdom at work.

Because it is, you know. It’s at work all of the time, whether we are aware or not.

Its evidence is rarely obvious. It doesn’t often show up in signs and wonders. Rather, we more often see it in the wide-eyed, innocent trust of small children. We can see it in the endurance of saints persecuted around the world. We can see it in the hard choices of loving difficult people. We can see it in the beauty of adoption. We can see it in lives transformed through the Gospel.

However, there is another kingdom also at work. It is an earthly kingdom where power, fame, strength, and beauty reign. In this kingdom, everyone looks out for their own interests. In this kingdom, one must manipulate or out-perform others to get ahead. In this kingdom, everyone must make a name for themselves. In this kingdom, lust and greed are not just everyday occurrences, they are glorified. Do not be deceived. These are the lullabies that rock us to sleep on our TVs, our smart phones, and our social media feeds.

As the kingdoms of this world contend for our attention, let’s not forget there’s another Kingdom at work. It’s coming is sure. We can bank on it.

Pause, Renew, Next: Take a quiet moment and consider: how does God’s kingdom differ from the way normal kingdoms are run? Where do you see His Kingdom at work around you?

Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to see where Your Kingdom is at work around us. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Pause, Renew, Next!