The centerpiece of Jesus’ preaching ministry was the bold declaration that “the time is fulfilled” and “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15). In fact, Jesus said that preaching this message was his purpose for coming (Mk. 1:38)!
But what is this kingdom of God?
God’s kingdom is best understood not as God’s place but as God’s reign. The reign of God means that God is in charge, God’s ways have embraced all creation. To put it simply, God’s reign means that God is present.
When we hear this, we may be confused or even skeptical. The time is fulfilled? The reign of God is at hand? God is present? Sometimes it sure doesn’t seem like it.
When preaching the kingdom of God, Jesus simultaneously calls for repentance (Mk. 1:15). Repentance is much more than sorrow for sin – it is a genuine change of mind and heart, a total reorientation of our lives. But before we can repent, before our lives can change, we must first learn to see and believe in God’s reign in our world. We must be open to possibilities beyond (or deep within) what we can see, smell, touch or hear. We must look at our world with the most charitable eyes and the most sensitive hearts. We must believe that God has drawn near.
If we do not live this way, with this kind of hope and openness, then we do not live in God’s kingdom. We live in a kingdom of our own making. And the kingdoms we make are small and confining. Our own reigns are weak and always leave us wanting more. But if we can listen to Jesus – there was never a bolder preacher – and believe the good news, the gospel, he declares, then we will learn to see God drawing near. The reorientation of our lives will naturally follow. And God will be all in all.