Tuesday, 13 November 2007

You will not taste death! Until...

From a comment on the previous post:

v27 "But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

I don't get it. Even Jesus has tasted death. Unless its a different kingdom?

The verse is difficult, for sure, because the immediate context gives no clue about what "the kingdom of God" exactly refers to. There is a crisis, we know that much, because the words let us know that this thing that has been expected for centuries is now about to happen—even within the lifetime of the hearers.

But what does it mean to "see the kingdom of God"?

As we read further we find that the very next thing that happens is the transfiguration, which serves as a divine confirmation on Peter's confession in 9:20 that, "you are the Christ of God." Then there is the humbling incident of the demon that the disciples (for all the privilege of their position as followers of this Christ) have been unable to dislodge. Both these incidents are, I would say, linked to the confession of the Christ and the challenge that Jesus has laid down to forsake all to follow him.

Then in Luke 9:51, "Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem." This is a major statement by Luke, its importance reinforced just a couple of verses later by repetition (v 53 "the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. ") In fact, this statement governs the next 10 chapters or so, because from now on Jesus is indeed heading towards Jerusalem, where he is to meet his death.

He will die, yes—but all the others who heard Jesus' saying that "there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God" will still be alive, with the possible exception of Judas (See Matt 27:5-8, and also Acts 1:18, neither of which tell you when he died).

So the first candidate, to my mind, for the timing of the coming of the kingdom is Jesus' death in Jerusalem.

This would also explain the urgency of the mission of the disciples then recorded in Luke 10:1-24.

Although come to think of it, when the disciples return from this mission, perhaps the kingdom has already come—noting Luke 10:18, " saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven"; followed up almost immediately by Jesus' acknowledgement:

Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

-Luke 10:23-24

Anyway, maybe this question of timing is like watching a car accident unfold. When is the accident happening? When the car hurtles through the red light at 80 ks? When the other car fails to notice the first car? When the first car, realizing what has happened, begins to swerve and brake? At the point of collision? Or when both cars have come to a screaming standstill?

You could argue that all these events are part of the one accident. In a similar way, you could argue that the miracles and teaching of the Christ; the transfiguration; the mission of the seventy two; the trip to Jerusalem; the rejection by the elders; chief priests and scribes; the killing of Jesus, and his raising on the third day—that these are all part of the single coming of the kingdom of God. It has come, and now we (the angels of God) are preaching it to the nations.


hayesy said...

Helpful, thanks Gordon.
Aren't there a few 'kingdoms'?
Jesus talks about who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew, but then in Mt25 it sounds like it is Jesus' second coming, as does Luke 17:20-25.
And yet Mt 12:28 sounds like Jesus has brought the kingdom with him already, "the kingdom of God has come upon you"

It's as though Jesus is saying "The kingdom has arrived, it is coming soon, and it will come when I return; and you will enter into it."
Haha confusing?
There was a John Piper sermon on this. I think I need to re-listen to it. (This one and this one)

Gordon Cheng said...

Hi hayesy, no, I would've said that there is only one king —the Lord Jesus—and that he rules over only one kingdom.

The timing of the coming of the kingdom is one that we could discuss at length, but I would say that it is certainly here once Jesus on the cross says 'It is finished.' He has brought in the kingdom.

Genghis7777 said...

Hi Gordon

I think that you are on the right track when you link the passage with the transfiguration.

In Mark 9, by mentioning "six days" later, he links this event with Exodus 24 where Moses also had a powerful kingdom experience on a mountain. There are lots of similarities between the two.

I think the Transfiguration is the "Kingdom/Power" experience Jesus was alluding to in Mk 8 and Mark is narrating its fulfilment in Mk 9.

The Transfiguration thus validates Jesus as a prophet because what he foretells comes to pass; and it validates him as a prophet like Moses (see Deu 18) because of the similarities between the Transfiguration and the Exo 20 experience: all aspects that were foretold of Messiah.