by Glen Elliott
Jesus was leading a revolution. He was far from conventional or status quo. In every way, Jesus was a radical. He gave his life to ignite a spiritual revolution that would invade and influence every nation and power on earth.
The “Jesus revolution,” also called the kingdom of God, is about radical change. The kingdom is anywhere God’s influence is supreme. I believe following Jesus is all about engaging in a revolution.
THE WORDS OF REVOLUTION
Where do we find this idea of revolution in Jesus and the Gospels? His words were the words of revolution. But first we need to go back to John the Baptist, for it begins with him. John says as he’s preparing people to welcome Jesus, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:1, 2).
Everyone who heard him would conclude John was declaring a coming revolution. The Israelites lived under the rule of the Roman Empire. To announce a new kingdom is to announce a new king, and that’s the talk of revolution! There was only one king, or lord, for the Romans, and his name was Caesar. Announcing a new king and kingdom was treasonous and revolutionary.
John said “repent,” which means to get ready to make a huge personal change. He was inviting them to join the God revolution! Joining a revolution means one’s whole life must refocus and change direction as one makes a total commitment to a new way of doing things and living for a new cause.
Then Jesus, after his baptism and temptations, gives the same challenge: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). First spoken by John the Baptist, now these words come from the one leading the revolution.
Then soon after, Jesus invites 12 men to follow him and he sends them on their first revolutionary mission. He tells them, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near’” (Matthew 10:7).
THE RISKS OF REVOLUTION
In Matthew 11 we find another story that represents this revolution idea. John the Baptist, the scout for this revolution—this coming kingdom—is in prison. No surprise; there’s always danger in doing something big and revolutionary.
John, from prison, sends some of his disciples to make sure Jesus is the one who will lead the revolution. “Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Matthew 11:4-6).
By his own words, Jesus is changing things. But it’s risky. There’s danger in a revolution.
After Jesus praises John the Baptist, he reflects on the reality of the situation. John, the prisoner, will be killed. Then Jesus explains, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12).
John announced the revolution was coming—a spiritual one, not a political one. The kingdom, the way of Jesus, is advancing. It is powerful (the New International Version uses the word forceful). It changes lives and whole communities. It has been advancing for 2,000 years and will not stop.
The second phrase is interesting, and I believe it has a double meaning. Jesus said, “forceful men lay hold of it.” He’s reminding us that powerful men, especially the religious leaders and Romans of that day, would try and stop it. In this sense we are reminded why John the Baptist is in prison.
Revolutions rarely occur without difficulty and opposition. Jesus constantly warned of persecution and hardship. Maybe we face so little persecution today because we’ve missed the revolution and become too much a part of the status quo.
Jesus also is teaching us that because revolutions are hard, they require folks who are willing to take a risk and be courageously determined to make a difference, even when “forceful men” resist the revolution. It is a challenge to courageously and sacrificially join the revolution.
THE INVITATION TO REVOLUTION
This is Jesus’ invitation to you and me. Join him and join the spiritual revolution, the kingdom revolution. We are invited to join God in changing the world. The kingdom of God invites us to make a decision today to join something bigger than ourselves. We decide we want to make a difference in our community, our nation, and our world.
Jesus’ call to repent is a challenge to get MAD! MAD is an acronym for Make A Difference. The church cannot be just a group of folks who come together and sit for a little over an hour a week in a church building. The church is primarily about making a difference and doing things that make the world better. We must move beyond sitting to serving and sacrificing.
How did the church drift so far from the idea that we are a band of revolutionaries waging a spiritual revolution? How have we moved away from the radical church of Acts 2? God is not interested in religion or the “business” of church. We must regain our focus on making this world a better place by bringing God’s influence into every relationship, structure, neighborhood, and city. We must again be primarily a serving church, not a sitting or entertained church.
A part of the restoration of the Restoration Movement is to recapture the spirit of revolution. As we repent, as John and Jesus commanded us, we reorient our lives to allow Jesus to make a difference in us so we will make a difference in our world.
We need to recapture our true identity. We are the revolutionaries of the revolution called the kingdom of God. We are the ones God wants to use to make a difference. He has no other army of folks. We are armed not with guns but with goodness, love, and service.
What is God laying on your heart? What are you passionate about? How will you reach those who are far from God? How will you serve those who are abused or neglected? How will you help the poor with resources to help themselves? How will you make a difference in your school or neighborhood?
Every one of us is invited to join the revolution—to make a difference wherever we are. The kingdom, his influence, is advancing.
Don’t miss it. Enlist and engage. Get MAD!
Glen Elliott serves as lead pastor with Pantano Christian Church, Tucson, Arizona.