The service opened with Pastor Brad Shannon telling us the that today’s message is a continuation of the kingdom theme, and this week will be the introductory part for next week’s message on Jesus’ Magnificent Kingdom Courage.
This week the pastor received a call from Chuck Colson’s Angel Tree Ministry asking if we would “adopt” a 12 year old girl from Saginaw for Christmas this year because her father is in prison. Because of Colson’s incarceration due to his Watergate involvements, he discovered the grace of God and has a lifelong ministry to prison inmates. One facet is this effort to bring a measure of Christian charity to the children of inmates who cannot be there at this meaningful time. New Life Covenant will bring a little bit of Christmas to a girl named Ashley.
For the children’s challenge, Pastor Brad donned a bright orange hunting cap and used the example of camping to engage the kids, to illustrate God’s provision. And to remember those less fortunate than us who have been so blessed by His goodness.
Today’s Scripture readings:
Psalm 100 and John 6:25-35, which includes that well known passage where Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”
There is no reason to ever lose hope when we are followers of Jesus. The kingdom of God is at hand, has broken through. That ‘in-breaking of God’s kingdom continues to this day and God wants to keep breaking into the world… through us.
Wherever this occurs there will be resistance, because God’s kingdom is a threat to earthly kingdoms.
Jesus was not a docile, inoffensive guru who went around saying, “Be nice.” If this is all that his life was about, it would not have ended on a cross. People get crucified when kingdoms are threatened.
Jesus’ life exemplified a magnificent defiance as demonstrated by his encounters with the powers of his day.
Pastor Brad detailed some of the leaders in Israel from that period of history beginning with Herod the Great whose life overlapped the birth of Christ Jesus, the man responsible for the slaughter of the innocents as recorded in Matthew 2:16. It is recorded that Herod had ten wives and 43 children. Despite his power, he lived a paranoid existence because of his cruelty and was always suspicious. As a result, he had his favorite wife, Mariamne, executed as well his mother and oldest son, among countless others. Thus it was said of him, “Better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” The historian Josephus notes that Herod was so cruel to those he didn't kill that the living considered the dead to be fortunate.
Because he knew that there would be no mourning for him when he died, Herod gathered the principle leaders of Judaism to Jerusalem in order to have them executed upon his death. In this manner he intended to have the nation of Israel mourn when he died.
Ultimately, Herod’s three sons – Archilaeus, Herod Antipas and Philip -- went to Rome to seek power and in return received regions where they each ruled. Like father like sons. Archilaeus maintained a cruel rule in Judea, Herod Antipas was given to rule over Galilee, and Philip procured power over Caesaria Philippi.
In one terrible event, Archilaeus purportedly executed 3000 Jews in an effort to maintain power. Fifty Jewish leaders went to Rome to make an appeal to Caesar: do not make this man king. But Archilaeus indeed became ruler and executed the fifty.
Against this backdrop we see the New Testament stories in a more vivid light. The Lord’s parables, as exemplified in the parable of the ten minas (Luke 19:11ff) show that He was not afraid to confront the authorities.
Earlier in this gospel account, Luke lays out the powers of this world at inauguration of John the Baptist’s ministry: Pontius Pilate governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee,
brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. To whom and where did the word of God reveal itself? Not to the powerful and famous but to a hermit in the wilderness. The Word of God came to John the Baptist. (Luke 3:1-2)
So it is that we see the Law of Inversion in action. “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
When John the Baptist rebuked Herod the tetrarch for his heinous behavior, Herod had John placed in prison. Jesus at this time did not fear the powers. He set about to return to Galilee.
Where is your Galilee? Where is it hardest for you to manifest the Kingdom? In your job? In your family? In your neighborhood?
What is it you need to do to bring the Kingdom into your Galilee? Maybe you need to bear witness. Or confront. Or perhaps simply become humble.