A girl falls asleep, phone in hand, lulled into her dreams by the past 30 minutes spent on Pinterest planning her dream home. If only she could create that space to live and work in, she would thrive.
A husband throws his pencil down on his desk in frustration. After hours of obsessing over every cent he makes, it seems there will never be a way to cover all their bills AND have enough left over to save for pursuing their dreams of traveling and owning the perfect vacation home. In the rat race of their lives he is sure it would provide excitement and relaxation, but it always seems just out of his grasp.
An elderly woman sits sadly in the rocking chair she inherited from her mother, a rocking chair she never had cause to make use of. Children’s laughter had never filled her home, and despite many prayers and medical treatments, infertility dictated her dreams be unfulfilled. Life could have been perfect if only she had had babies to raise.
Fulfillment, That Thing We’re All Looking For
There is a reason why people live for Friday, or the next bonus, or big life events like marriage and children and owning a home. It is because we believe that whatever we most desperately want will fulfill us. If only we could get to that event, that status in life, that place, or be with that person, peace, rest, and satisfaction would ensue.
We long for escape, ease, comfort, and freedom from anxiety and the stresses of life.
We are, in fact, longing for that which we lost way back in the Garden, and which can only be regained in the perfect kingdom of God.
C’mon Jesus, Throw Me A Bone
For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, it seems like He should do something about our longings, give us a little kickback, even just a taste of His kingdom here on earth.
I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to start thinking that Jesus is pretty unfair when things I am certain would bring me fulfillment continue to stare back at me from the horizon, dangling in front of me, just out of my reach.
I’m not asking for a lot. Just a few gifts from the Lord that I know would make life so much better. He’s the King of the Universe, right? Why’s it such a big deal for Him to give me a little relief in the midst of this hard life? After all, I’m trying to live for Him; I’m trying to do what is right.
Man, sometimes Jesus is just kind of disappointing, don’t you think?
Same Story, Different Day
We aren’t the first to feel this way, guaranteed. When Jesus came to earth He did amazing things. His actions declared what was true of Him – this was the Messiah, the long-awaited King of the Jews! He healed the sick and performed miracles. He was gentle and kind, speaking truth to the broken-hearted and cast aside. As His ministry escalated, so did the expectation and excitement of the Jews who saw His signs. Surely this would be the man who would break the iron rule of the Roman government, freeing his people and bringing peace and fulfillment to their lives. Had I been there the day Jesus rode the donkey’s colt into Jerusalem, I would have eagerly waved my palm branch and shouted, “Hosanna!” With all the rest.
But less than a week later, we find that Jesus lost His footing with the people. The man that just days earlier had had a following of thousands now had a small group of only twelve, one of which had already plotted to betray Him.
Something in Jesus’s message didn’t sit well with people. Those that still believed Him weren’t being public about it, and many of those who had waved palm branches in His honor were soon to be found in the mocking crowds at His crucifixion.
Jesus didn’t act very much like a King after His triumphal entry. He didn’t rally the people to battle the Romans. He didn’t give a motivational speech about His step-by-step plan to free His people. He didn’t arm the men and section off the women and children to be protected in the coming fight. Because there was no fight. He had given indications of being the One sent to His people from Jehovah, but His rise to fame was now anti-climactic and even pathetic as He found Himself arrested and thrust before Pontius Pilate to be tried, and spoiler alert, they ended up killing Him.
The people were disillusioned and disgusted with Him, and Pilate most likely found Him to be a joke, just one more of the Jewish “Messiahs” that didn’t pan out.
So Are You The King, Or What, Jesus?
Pilate asked the question bluntly – “Are you the King of the Jews?” And the conversation that followed gives us a different picture of the situation. It may even bring some relief to the disappointment we are tempted to feel when we look from Jesus on our right to our longings on the left.
Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
”Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kindgom is not of this world.”
Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize what I say is true.”
”What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.”
An Unexpected Kingdom
The Jewish people were expecting their King to come a certain way. Kings are supposed to be powerful, triumphant, conquering characters, not paupers in chains. But Jesus explained to Pilate that, His kingdom? It wasn’t going to come about the way mens’ kingdoms come about. His reign? It wasn’t going to be born in they way the Jews or the world expected.
Yes, He was and is King.
And His kingdom, is bigger and more triumphant and more all-encompassing than any empire Pilate or anyone else could have imagined.
But though He is King, He first came to the world not to conquer, but to give life. He came to speak truth. He came to deal with our inward struggle before He deals with our outward circumstances.
A Kingdom That’s Coming
Jesus’s perfect and finished kingdom is not meant for this world, at least not in the way anyone expected. He didn’t bring His kingdom to earth when He was here. He did not fulfill every dream of our hearts. He did not lift the curse from this world or make everything easy for His followers.
We still deal with the effects of sin. We live with and go to church with and work with sinners. We are hurt and grieved and frustrated by the pain of this life.
But while Jesus has not yet brought His perfect kingdom, He HAS taken the most significant action possible against the sin of this world. He dealt with it all in His body on the tree. He took care of the greatest problem we’ve ever had. He has dealt with our inward problem, and yes, one day He will come to rescue us from our circumstances too. Because of what He did then, we can find life in the now, even as we look ahead to His sure and finished restoration and reign.
Don’t Set Your Hope Here
The storyline is bigger than right now. It’s not wrong for us to want peace and satisfaction, but it should not lead us to set up our kingdom here. When longing strikes our hearts and we are tempted to believe Jesus didn’t or doesn’t do enough for us, we must set our eyes and hopes on the rest that He promises He is bringing.
Can we trust Him? Can we wait with patience for that day, even as He works resurrection life within us? Can we live in the longing now, believing Jesus’s promise that He will return again? And this time, He will bring His full kingdom.
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” -Colossians 3:1-4