Jesus is in charge? Prove it….

If it’s true in Matthew 28:18 that “All authority in heaven and earth” has been given to Jesus, and he is now in charge, then why is there so much suffering in the world still? And if “by the cross,” Colossians 2:15, Christ “has disarmed the powers and authorities,” why does evil still exist? And if, Daniel 7:14, Jesus has been “given authority, glory and sovereign power,” and “his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed,” then where do we look for evidence of it, when the world seems to be getting worse, not better?

Jesus answered all that for us in Matthew 21:43, when he told the Jewish leaders “that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

The clue Jesus gave in that verse that he is in charge, and his kingdom on this earth is real, is the fruit produced in the lives of people to whom the kingdom has been given. This included the people in verse 31, who were already “entering the kingdom of God,” even before Jesus died on the cross. They were the ones who’d taken John the Baptist seriously when he “came to show you the way of righteousness,” verse 32. Jesus explained what that”way” was too, in the previous parable: It was doing what “the father” figure in the parable wanted done, willingly and in obedient action.

So the fruit produced by those to whom the kingdom had been given was obvious: It was their belief that God had sent Jesus to be the first building block – or “capstone” (verse 42) – in the building of his kingdom on earth, and their willing obedience to Jesus as its ruler.

It stands out in clear contrast to those from whom the kingdom was taken away. These were the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees in Jesus’ day (verse 45), who should have been the “builders” of the kingdom of God on earth, but they blew their opportunity because they rejected Jesus, exactly as Psalm 118 said they would: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (verse 42). They would not accept that God had sent Jesus to be the first building block in his kingdom, or the need to obey Jesus as its ruler.

There is only one place on earth, therefore, where the evidence that Jesus is in charge and his kingdom is real can be found: It’s in those who produce its fruit of willing obedience to Jesus as the capstone and ruler of God’s kingdom. It’s the only proof we’ve got, but at least we’ve got that as hope of a better world on its way.

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Raising the dead is already happening

Jesus chose disciples because he had a job for them to do. The job began after Jesus “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” Luke 10:18. The result of Satan’s fall was a new age in which Jesus gave power to his disciples to “overcome all the power of the enemy,” verse 19, and begin the process of undoing the terrible damage caused by Satan. There was no job more important.

Wherever his disciples went, therefore, they’d leave healing of Satan’s damage in their wake as proof of the near presence of God in this world, verse 9. In the first stages of that healing it was in the form of healing people’s physical illnesses and releasing people from the control of demons, first demonstrated by Jesus who healed all who went to him for such healing. But it took on new and deeper form when Jesus told Paul in Acts 26:17-18, “I am sending you to open (people’s) eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

And how was Paul to do that job? By preaching a simple message, that “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” 2 Corinthians 5:21. The result of such preaching was the Spirit “working miracles” in people, Galatians 3:5, miracles that would free people from the awful, selfish attitudes “of the ruler of the kingdom of the air,” Ephesians 2:2. And as people were freed, the evidence would keep mounting up that the era of the dead endlessly burying the dead was over. Instead, the dead were being raised to new life.

By James 5:15 a “prayer offered in faith” would make a “sick person well” and with it a promise that “the Lord will raise him up.” In context it meant raise people up in every way, from whatever sin or “multitude of sins (verse 20)” the devil’s world had infected them with. Such was the job God gave his disciples to do, and the power to do it.

Why, then, would a disciple be more concerned about burying the dead when it was in his power to heal the dead? Did it not cross his mind that he was now a carrier of healing power wherever he went? Did it not stir his imagination as to the effect he could have on people? Did he not realize this was the amazing service in the kingdom of God that Jesus had specially called and equipped him for? – and us too, of course.

The healing has begun

Jesus chose his disciples to fulfill an amazing purpose, to begin the healing of a dead, lost world from the damage caused by Satan the devil. It was a staggering, scary calling because Jesus was sending his disciples straight into the enemy camp to take on the devil on his own home turf, and to take the battle to him too, carving a swath of healing through the devil’s ranks that would clearly demonstrate the nearness of God’s kingdom and its ability to “overcome all the power of the enemy,” Luke 10:19.

The key to the success of this mission was the understanding in the disciples’ heads of what they’d been chosen for, and the realization of the power they’d been given to do it. So when a disciple asked Jesus if he could first bury his father, Jesus replied with a clear reminder of what the disciple was a disciple for. It was to “go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” not go and bury his father, because “the dead” could do that, Luke 9:60. And who were these dead people who could bury his father? The lost and dead in the devil’s world, who’d sadly been burying people in the same lost and dead condition as themselves for centuries. So “let the dead bury their own dead,” Jesus said, just as they’d always been doing.

But Jesus had chosen this man to be his disciple to make people aware there was another world in operation, the kingdom of God. And the evidence of that world would be the healing of lost, dead people, not just more and endless burying of them in their lost and dead condition. This disciple, therefore, had been given the power to heal what the devil’s world had done to people. He could walk unharmed in the enemy’s camp and the spirits would submit to him, Luke 10:19-20. But had that yet dawned on this man, that this is what he’d been chosen and given such power for?

No, it hadn’t. He was more interested at this point in his life in the endless tradition of honouring the dead through the lengthy and strange rituals of burial, involving the storing of a dead body in a cave until the flesh had rotted away and then placing the bones in an ossuary, a process which took a year to complete. Was this what the disciple wanted instead, then, to take a year out simply to bury someone, rather than go about the immediate and marvellous work of lifting people out of the misery of the devil’s world and of starting them on the road to healing?

Let the dead bury their dead

When Jesus said “Follow me” to one of his disciples, the reply he got was, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father,” Luke 9:59. To which Jesus says in verse 60, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” because that’s how the disciple would become “fit for service in the kingdom of God,” verse 62.

Jesus was summoning this man to join him in making the kingdom of God real. How? By “healing the sick,” Luke 10:9, because healing would prove to people that “The kingdom of God is near you.” The kingdom of God would now become undeniably real in people’s lives as they experienced clear and obvious healing.

That’s because a new age was in the making, in which it was now possible to “overcome all the power of the enemy,” verse 19. With Jesus’ presence on earth the devil had been defeated, and Jesus had watched him “fall like lightning from heaven,” verse 18. So Satan was now weakened and vulnerable, opening up a whole new era on this planet in which the damage evil had done in people’s lives could be neutralized and cured.

And by whom would that healing of dead, lost lives be done? By Jesus’ disciples. And even they were amazed at the power they’d been given – as we see in verse 17 – when they rushed up to Jesus yelling, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

How could anything be more exciting and more important than that? But here was this disciple wanting to bury his father first. Not that burying his father was wrong; the problem was wanting to bury him “first” – as if burying dead people was more important than healing living ones. How on earth would it make the disciple “fit for service in the kingdom of God” if he thought there was anything more important than setting up heaven on earth, right then and there, in his own life? Didn’t he realize that Satan was on the run, and that he, the disciple, had been given power to start healing lives wrecked by the devil – including, perhaps, the lives of the disciple’s own relatives, too?

But at this point in the disciple’s life, he didn’t yet realize what being a disciple of Jesus meant. It meant one thing: “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And because he was a disciple given that job to do, he would also be given the power to do it. And that power would involve bringing healing of some sort to people, so that the presence of God’s kingdom on earth would be undeniably evident – in him.

Is Christ really King of the earth – right now?

Jesus talked of “My kingdom” in John 18:36, to a man who understood perfectly what he meant too. That man was Pontius Pilate, who knew all about kingdoms all right, because he represented Rome, the greatest kingdom on earth.

Pilate’s reply to Jesus wasn’t surprising, therefore: “You are a king, then?” verse 37. It may have been said sarcastically, but the point was being established that, yes, Jesus was a king. And Jesus answered Pilate’s question in no uncertain terms too: “You are right in saying I am a king, In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world.” Jesus doesn’t back down one bit. He’s saying to the power of Rome, “I’m a king too.” It’s a face-off between the greatest pagan power and the kingdom of God, and Jesus knows he wins, because in a few days time his claim of “I am a king” will be verified by his resurrection from the dead.

So, when did Jesus’ kingdom actually begin? Ephesians 1:20-21 – it began “when God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the PRESENT AGE but also in the one to come.” So Christ has been king over everything and everybody ever since his resurrection, including our “present age” RIGHT NOW.

But if Christ really is King of the earth right now, why is the earth such a mess still? Shouldn’t he be knocking heads together and putting an end to violence, poverty, disease and all the other problems we’ve got in this present age? But that’s not how his kingdom began, or how it’s being established. It began when Christ “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross,” and then God “exalted him to the highest place,” Philippians 2:8-9. Jesus’ kingdom began with, and is being built on, suffering and death, not power and violence like pagan kingdoms.

And that legacy continues through his church, 2 Corinthians 4:11 – “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” It’s through our suffering now that Jesus’ kingdom is being built and established, as we now take the troubles of the world to heart, just as he did.

But “if indeed we share in his sufferings,” Romans 8:17, it’s “in order that we may also share in his glory.” That’s the ultimate proof that Christ is king of the earth, when those who built his kingdom HIS way are exalted with him.

Proclaiming the kingdom of God

While we’re alive in this life, Jesus has a job for us. It’s to “go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” Luke 9:60. How? Through the power Jesus gives us to heal people. Wherever Jesus went people were healed, and he gave the same power to his disciples, to prove to people that “The kingdom of God is near you,” Luke 10:9. People would know the kingdom was real because its presence could be felt. How? Through healing.

What kind of healing? Luke 4:18-19 – “Preaching good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, release for the oppressed and  proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour.” Jesus came to tell us that God was now deeply and personally involved in reversing all the damage in people’s lives caused by the devil. Proclaiming the kingdom meant healing people in every way. “When God raised up his servant (Jesus),” Acts 3:26, “he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” God sent Jesus and Jesus now sends us to heal people in every way possible. The restoration of every human being has begun.

We can be assured then, that wherever we go, Jesus is giving us the power to heal, because that’s what he made us his disciples for. We make the kingdom of God near and real to people through clear and obvious healing. In what form that healing happens is deeply personal to each human being, but anyone looking to God for healing will be healed. It’s a promise, stated outright in James 5:15 – “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”

Is that restricted to physical illnesses only? No, it gets right to the heart and core of all sickness – physical, mental, social, emotional or spiritual – because healing from God includes forgiveness of every sin, turning us from the error of all our ways, saving us from spiritual death, and reversing the effect of a multitude of sins, verses 15 and 20.

It’s God’s goal “that you may be healed,” verse 16 – healed in every way, that is, because healing in every way is what God sent Jesus for, and healing in every way is what Jesus now sends us for. This is the year of the Lord’s favour, the era of healing, as God now sets about the “times of refreshing,” Acts 3:19, “until the time comes for God to resiore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets,” verse 21.

And the proof that God truly is restoring everything? Through the healing and restoration of people’s lives now, proving God’s kingdom is near and real.

Is the world getting worse or better?

Whether the world is getting worse or better is not for me to decide. That’s Jesus’ business since he’s King of the world. What IS my business is whether the world is worse or better where I am, based, of course, on Jesus’ definition of worse and better, not mine.

The world’s getting “better” from his point of view when people repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15), that Jesus is bringing Heaven to the Earth in humans. He brought Heaven to the Earth as a human, and he’s been sending out witnesses ever since to do the same thing. Wherever those emissaries go they do things on Earth as they are done in Heaven. That’s what they pray for, that God’s Kingdom come, his will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. And as they pray that – and by the power, love and wisdom of the Holy Spirit are able to do it too – the world gets better in their small sphere of influence.

We’ve each been given a brief window of life to catch on to what Jesus is doing, believe it’s true, and stir up the Spirit to make it true in ourselves. And it takes the Spirit to do it because Jesus instituted a totally radical, new way of being human, patterned purely on how things are done in Heaven. He spent three and a bit years teaching and demonstrating that new way – in the Sermon on the Mount, in his compassion and care for the sick and troubled, in his criticisms of the religious folks of his day, and finally in his suffering and death. He was a living demonstration of how a human being can make the world better.

All he asks us to do, then, is repent and believe the good news, that we’re not helpless tools of the Devil, we are, in fact, carriers of Jesus’ way of being human wherever we go, meaning we can make this world better wherever we go. Ever since Jesus took over as King of the world, he’s been giving power to his emissaries to fulfill the purpose of Creation, to bring Heaven and Earth together in humans and to put things to rights on this planet, and we are his witnesses to that.

If we don’t believe that, and believe instead that things are only going to get worse and worse no matter what we do, then what’s the point of living? But if you believe the Spirit is providing a constant flow of power, love and wisdom to make the world better wherever you go, does that not make life already a bit better?