Jesus: King or Servant

“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed,..because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Lk 17:20-21

But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Luke 11:20 

This implies that Jesus was a living example of God’s Kingdom. His compassion, mercy, forgiveness, healing, exorcisms, and other miracles were evidence of the behavior of one who lives in the Kingdom of God.

How does one get to be a citizen of this Kingdom? Jesus gives us the answer in the following passages.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered.  “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Mk 10:17-23

At another time, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mk10: 43-45

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mt 20:25-28

 “My kingdom is not of this world; if it were, My servants (subordinates) would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But now My kingdom is not of this realm.” Jn 18: 36

Not of this realm, not of this world, not a material kingdom made of brick and mortar nor a kingdom of money and possessions but a realm or kingdom of love, agape, the selfless love that gives not expecting any response or recognition. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Mt 16:25

Most Christians are waiting for the return of the Messiah, but Jesus said to his disciples that “the Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Jesus is the Incarnation of the Kingdom! He is the blueprint of that Kingdom. He is the model of what we are to be. To enter the Kingdom here and now we must “sell everything you have and give to the poor.” Jesus is very realistic! “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Entering the Kingdom requires total dependence on God, on Abba, the God of Love. It’s not about laws, creeds, rituals, tithing, but about the abandonment of power, fame, and fortune!

The “kingdom of God” is referenced all throughout Scripture. Luke 17:21 tells us the kingdom is in our midst, Matthew 3:2 tells us the kingdom of heaven is near, Matthew 13:41 tell of a “weeding out” of those who cannot enter the kingdom, and Mark 1:14-15 encourages us to repent as God’s kingdom is near. These are just a few of the many scriptures that point to God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God can be described as God’s reign and his rule over all things. God is in charge of our universe. Jesus’ purpose for our world was that we would be a part of his kingdom.

Immediately after his baptism, when God announced that Jesus was his beloved son, Jesus went into the desert to be alone, to pray, and discern what it meant to be a son of God. He did not consider that he was now God rather that he was about to live according to God’s will, or God’s rule, as an embodiment of the Kingdom.

Yet he was challenged by Satan or what some might say his Ego or a new sense of Self. According to biblical scholarship, Satan was the personification of evil or a rebellious attitude or behavior toward God. Luke 4:1-13 describes the threefold temptation of power, fame, and fortune. These have always be considered signs of authority, lordship, and kingdoms.

Confusion about the Kingdom of God and the role of the Messiah existed since the beginning of Israel. The coming of the Kingdom was to be the Last Judgement, or in the Christian era, a belief that the coming of the Kingdom of God would put an end to evil. Both these beliefs were widespread and indeed expected.

The people of Israel and the early Christians believed that the history of the world would come to a screeching halt, that God would intervene in the affairs of this planet, overthrow the forces of evil in a cosmic act of judgment and establish his utopian Kingdom on Earth. The concept of a King was what the title Messiah or Savior meant for the Jews.

Apocalyptic or “unveiling” expectations about the judgement and conquering evil began to take root in Judaism when the first temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 515 BCE and the second in 70 CE. It really begins in the year 586 B.C when the Babylonians, under the famous King Nebuchadnezzar, conquers the city of Jerusalem itself and in the process destroy Solomon’s Temple. It continued and became stronger when the Persian, Alexander the Great, conquered Israel.

“The document known as First Enoch is a series of pseudepigraphal books, most of which are apocalyptic, written in a period when the Jews were ruled by the Greeks. It is narrated by the character Enoch, the seventh patriarch in the book of Genesis, who is believed to be have received visions of secret knowledge from God. First Enoch introduces imagery of angels, heaven, and hell that evolve into common apocalyptic themes in later literature, such as the Book of Revelation. In this excerpt, Enoch describes the fall of the angels who turn away from God, and the judgment of the souls of the dead.” writes Michael White, Professor of Classics and Christian Origins at the University of Texas at Austin. Only now in First Enoch is the rebellion of the angels under their leader, Azazel, whom we’ll later call Satan….So First Enoch gives us some of the most important components of what we think of as later Jewish and Christian apocalyptic traditions. We have God and Satan, good and evil in a battle.” For more details go to: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/apocalypse/explanation/jews.html

What happened since the time of Jesus then is a positive or negative reaction to events that are drastic interruptions in the normal affairs of a society. Each generation since that time has been subject to individuals or groups predicting the immediate coming of the end of this world and the coming of the Kingdom of God which will conquer evil for all time. Sometimes there is a split in society with some believing that an event is Apocalyptic and some who refuse to believe such. Both believers and unbelievers react with their own solutions for fighting evil. The concept of a king and his army was paramount to the ability to conquer evil. Thus Jesus is not only the son of God but the King of his followers who become his army. Since Jesus had risen and gone to heaven then another “anointed” person would assume his role.

“For example, in Isaiah, chapters 44 and 45–a portion of the book of Isaiah actually written during the exile itself–we hear of Cyrus the great Persian king referred to as God’s anointed one. The Lord’s Messiah. And it even goes on to say he will be a shepherd for my people. Now, this is God speaking. He, Cyrus, will be a shepherd for my people and he will be the one to rebuild Jerusalem.” …writes Professor White. Today, some evangelicals believe that Donald Trump is the Lord’s Messiah because he is a Republican and claims he is anti-abortion.

Constantine the Great

In 313 CE, the emperor Constantine was seen by some to be a Messiah because he issued the Edict of Milan, which granted Christianity—as well as most other religions—legal status. … In 380 CE, the emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Christianity, specifically Nicene Christianity, the official religion of the Roman Empire. These seemed like a victory for good but were they?

This may have been the end of the persecutions against Christianity but it also was the abandonment of the teachings and message of Jesus. Constantine used the sign of the cross as a weapon to defeat the enemies of Rome thus introducing violence as a means of overcoming evil.

This was totally against the teachings of Jesus who taught non-violence. When Jesus was about to be arrested, his “companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.” “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Mt 26:51-52

Constantine was a pagan monotheist, a devotee of the sun god Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun. However, before the Milvian Bridge battle, he and his army saw a cross of light in the sky above the sun with words in Greek that are generally translated into Latin as In hoc Signo vinces (‘In this sign conquer). That night Constantine had a dream in which Christ told him he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies. Constantine was seen by many as a possible instrument of God and he was afforded the power to lead the fledgling Christian community so much so that he called the council of Nicea to solve some of the early theological controversies about the nature of Jesus as a human and as God.

At another time Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to he hell of fire.” Mt 5:21-22

Throughout the early history of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church used Constantine’s  “In hoc Signo vinces” as a rallying cry to overcome infidels and heretics, especially those who did not accept Christianity or those of another religion, like Jews and Muslims. The threat of these numerous unbelievers was seen as another sign of evil that had to be eliminated.

“The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The best known of these Crusades are those to the Holy Land in the period between 1095 and 1291 that were intended to recover Jerusalem and its surrounding area from Islamic rule. Concurrent military activities in the Iberian Peninsula against the Moors (the Reconquista) and in northern Europe against pagan Slavic tribes (the Northern Crusades) also became known as crusades. Through the 15th century, other church-sanctioned crusades were fought against heretical Christian sects, against the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, to combat paganism and heresy, and for political reasons. Unsanctioned by the church, Popular Crusades of ordinary citizens were also frequent. Beginning with the First Crusade which resulted in the recovery of Jerusalem in 1099, dozens of Crusades were fought, providing a focal point of European history for centuries.”

Christian Crusaders

“In 1095, Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont. He encouraged military support for Byzantine emperor Alexios I against the Seljuk Turks and called for an armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Across all social strata in western Europe, there was an enthusiastic popular response. The first Crusaders had a variety of motivations, including religious salvation, satisfying feudal obligations, opportunities for renown, and economic or political advantage.”

It’s no wonder then that Jesus is seen as the King of God’s kingdom. For many, this implies conquering the evil in this world by violent force if necessary. Thus the Church on earth is named the “Church Militant”. Such a notion, as we have mentioned, gives people the wrong impression and has done much harm.

Now, in America, we see the Catholic Church and the evangelical Churches waging political anti-abortion wars on those who don’t believe as they do or on those who challenge traditional morality and patriarchy. Truth, integrity, and love are being replaced by weapons of misinformation, propaganda, lies, corruption, and hatred. All this is occurring in the name of Jesus who warned his disciples: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Matthew 24:3-5

Also, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:12-13 “ I will keep on doing what I am doing, in order to undercut those who want an opportunity to be regarded as our equals in the things of which they boast. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” 

Jesus- the Servant King

In Matthew 7:20 Jesus says, “Wherefore by their fruits, you shall know them.” What are these fruits? Paul describes them in Galatians 5:22-24 as being the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

Could it be then that what is happening in this age is a battle between Kingdoms? A battle between the ways of this world and the ways of Jesus? Even the Catholic Church and the many evangelical Churches are complicit in succumbing to the ways of the world by engaging in politics, finances, and propaganda. Certain Catholic media are under scrutiny by Pope Francis. EWTN, the Napa Institute, and other such media outlets and groups are known to be actively involved in politics.

Perhaps this is another of those times about which Jesus warns us. Just consider the current amount of hatred and threats of violence and the silence of religious leaders amid the bigotry, lies, and accusations that have become the norm.

All of this is causing division and mistrust which is hardly the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

We must heed the words of Jesus and oppose the evil that encircles us. Truth and Integrity must prevail. The “weapons in this war must be TRUTH and INTEGRITY not violence of any kind. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jn8:31-32

About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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