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    • Mar31Wed

      Holy Week and the Upside-down Kingdom of God

      March 31, 2021 By the TWR Canada Team
      Filed Under:

      This week, as we remember our crucified, buried and risen Saviour, we are reminded that this is the very reason that we share the hope and good news of the gospel among the nations. As you reflect on the truth of this upside-down kingdom, it is our prayer that you would also be inclined to pray for those who have never heard about the truth of Calvary.

      “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 (ESV)

      The kingdom of God is mentioned many times in the Bible, but what does it look like? Let’s explore how Jesus demonstrates the kingdom of God during his last week on earth.

      Day 1: Triumphal Entry

      “Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” Matthew 21:1-5 (ESV)

      With this entry, Jesus emphasizes the way of his kingdom, and how it contrasts with the kingdoms of the world. The empires and rulers of the day would ride in on a white military horse, waving flags and wielding their weapons of power. Jesus shows us that his kingdom is one of peace and humility.

      Day 2: Jesus Cleanses the Temple

      “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:15-17 (ESV)

      Jesus cleansed the temple for two reasons. The first is because the moneychangers had set up their stalls in the Court of the Gentiles. This was the only part of the temple in which the Gentiles could worship God and gather for prayer. In this way, the Jews were denying Gentiles the ability to worship. The second reason is because those selling animals were doing so as a business rather than as a spiritual service. Sellers were profiting from the system. That is why Jesus called it a ‘den of robbers.’

      Jesus’ kingdom is one in which there is no room for abusive economic systems. It is also one where all nations are welcomed, and Jesus made this clear when he restored the place for Gentiles to pray.

      Day 3: Jesus Gives Warnings and Woes

      Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.’” Matthew 21:31-32 (ESV)

      In the upside-down kingdom, the least and the lowly will be first, and as Jesus explains in the next parable, ‘the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’. The kingdom will be given to “a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:42-43 ESV) In God’s kingdom, occupation does not matter, obedience does.

      Jesus then delivers seven woes to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. (Matthew 23) They are condemned for not practicing what they preach (v3), making a show of their piety (v5-7), keeping people out of the kingdom (v13), neglecting justice, mercy and faithfulness (v23), being full of greed (v25), being full of hypocrisy and wickedness (v28), and having evil in their hearts (v32).

      Those who are part of the kingdom of God have none of these traits, rather they are filled with the fruits of the Spirit.

      Day 4: Jesus Anointed

      “Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.” Matthew 26:6-7 (ESV)

      The kingdom of God is one of service and humility. Mary of Bethany demonstrates this when she takes on the role of a servant by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointing his head with oil. The upside-down kingdom kneels with a towel and washes feet (John 13), saying “I come to serve.”

      Day 5: Passover

      “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” Luke 22:24-27 (ESV)

      Again, we see that in the kingdom of God, the greatest is the one who serves. Jesus demonstrates this multiple times in his ministry and reminds his disciples one last time before he leaves.

      Day 6: Crucifixion

      “There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ Luke 23:38-43 (ESV)

      The cross is the central symbol for the upside-down kingdom. Why would a person of great power and significance willingly die on a cross? In this kingdom, our King lays down his life even for those who hate and reject him.

      Day 7: Burial

      “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.” John 19:41-42 (ESV)

      Through his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus conquered death, both spiritually and physically, securing our eternal salvation.

      Where the kingdoms of the world are all about protecting our own selfish gains, the kingdom of God is one where ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ John 10:11 (ESV)  

      Day 8: Resurrection

      “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Matthew 28:6-10 (ESV)

      In the upside-down kingdom of God, the dead are brought to life! Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are blameless before the Father. Through Christ’s victory, all are welcomed into the kingdom. Who will you share the good news of the upside-down kingdom with?