Jesus of Nazareth was born in first-century Palestine, under the rule of the Roman empire, to Mary who was betrothed to Joseph. The Judeans of this time were awaiting a King, foretold by prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, who would come from among their people and rescue them from pagan oppression. This King-Redeemer is called Messiah, Anointed One. Some had already claimed to be the Messiah, attempted violent revolts, but ultimately failed to establish the foretold eternal kingdom.
As an adult, Jesus began a messianic campaign, as others had before him. During his brief campaign, he traveled throughout the region of Judea preaching Good News to the poor, healing the sick, and freeing people from demonic bondage. The Good News he proclaimed and demonstrated was that God's Kingdom is breaking into this world through his Kingship—that God had declared now as the beginning of the end of all suffering, all pain, all disease, and all bondage. With Jesus as King, God was doing a New thing, establishing a New covenant with humanity, and declaring an end to the tyranny of sin, death, and evil powers that lurk behind and fuel oppressive empires like Rome.
Throughout Jesus's ministry, he demonstrated what this Kingdom of God looks like: healing, wholeness, forgiveness, spiritual family, purpose, and peace. However, his ministry threatened the existing power structures of the religious institutions and political empires. He disrupted their status quo; he challenged their authority. Therefore, he was targeted for elimination. Jesus of Nazareth was eventually executed by crucifixion. But Jesus's death was not only the result of a plot by power-mongers scared they would lose control of the masses, it was also fueled by forces of spiritual darkness and evil. Ultimately, Jesus's self-sacrifice is the most fully expression of the character and nature of God: Love.
What sets Jesus's messianic campaign apart from those who went before him was that Jesus was raised from the dead. The Resurrection confirms that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, God's Anointed One, who is the first-fruits of the Age to Come when every person will be resurrected, some to eternal life with God, some to eternal separation from God. Jesus's Resurrection confirms that Jesus has the power to save fully all who repent and receive new life.
God's love was demonstrated in Jesus's cross in many ways. Jesus laid down his life for us. Jesus suffered wrath at the hands of the religious, political, and spiritual powers who sought to silence him so that they could continue to oppress people. But Jesus overpowered them through weakness. Jesus's mercy and love was more powerful than their judgment and wrath. Therefore, Jesus liberated us from all bondage to the ways of their oppressive system, including sin. Sin estranged humanity from God because God is holy. When we were under the power of Satan, we were lost or sightless or dead. All these metaphors are used to communicate the truth that sin separated us from God. But through Jesus's defeat of Satan and all other evil powers on the cross, the way has been made for us to draw near to God—to be reconciled to God.
God's reconciling love is so powerful that Jesus's story does not end at the cross. No, Jesus resurrected and ascended to heaven! Through his resurrection, he declared and demonstrated that the New creation of God had begun. He proved that we too can have both a new way of life now and a new body in the age to come. And through his ascension he proved that he is exalted above every ruler, every title, every throne on earth—in this age and the age to come. Jesus is the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords. He is seated in heavenly places and reigns over all.
This same Jesus calls you and I to become his disciples. To live as he lived, to love as he loved—healing the sick, freeing people from bondage, creating spiritual family, and challenging the powers that be. Jesus requires of his disciples complete allegiance. Let the dead bury their own dead; count the cost. Jesus's disciples cannot have two masters. Jesus will not share allegiance from his disciples with any other entity whether it is money or Caesar. Jesus's disciples are citizens of God's Kingdom and strangers, foreigners in this world. Jesus's disciples do not bow down to any other ruler, principality, king, corporation, president, nation, or state. Discipleship means willingly submitting oneself to the Lordship of Jesus. He is the Master of his disciples; they are his servants. Jesus is a merciful and good Master; his disciples are also his friends, his family. It is because he loves his disciples that they cannot be torn between two allegiances, two masters. Such confusion does not provide the abundant life that Jesus wants for his friends and family. Only uncompromising allegiance to Jesus provides for the new life of the age to come.
Jesus's disciples are caught up in Jesus's mission to declare and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. In this mission, Jesus calls his disciples to replicate themselves the way Jesus did: to make more disciples. Jesus formed disciples by sharing his life with them in a community that comprised a spiritual family. Jesus formed disciples by sharing meals with them, and sharing the word of God with them. Jesus's disciples will carry on his ministry throughout the world until he returns to call an end to this age and usher in the new age.
The most fundamental way Jesus's disciples fulfill this calling to make Jesus-disciples is by planting churches. The Church is the global and historic assembly of all those who are Jesus-disciples. At the local level, it is the gather together of disciples in community that forms a diverse spiritual family. Diversity is at the heart of the Church because the reconciling love of God that destroyed every barrier that separated humanity from God also destroyed every barrier that divides humanity from each other. Jews and Gentiles are united in one spiritual family that shares the Spirit of God. This spiritual family continues the mission of Jesus as his ambassadors, his body on earth, declaring and demonstrating the Kingdom of God.
As the church grows numerically and extends geographically, the Kingdom of God expands spiritually. God's reign of love grows in influence in this world as more and more people are added to Jesus's spiritual family. Today, this family embodies the wholeness and peace that will cover the whole earth in the age to come. By seeking the welfare of our neighbors wherever we live, we invite them to experience that future wholeness and join Jesus's spiritual family.
God's Love > Allegiance to Jesus > Mission of Wholeness
If you would like to begin following Jesus as his disciple, please contact me directly so that you can get connected with a local expression of Jesus's spiritual family.
Theological Graffiti is a blog written by T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban minister, sometimes designer, writer, preacher, and theology geek. For more about me, visit my Personal Website or my Online Profile. Otherwise, enjoy the graffiti.