In today’s reading, Zechariah draws his prophecy to its end with a vision of salvation and the true kingship of God. Living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, and the Lord will become king over all the earth. It is a vision of kingship brought about by the smiting of enemies, with dire warnings for those nations who do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord God.
Yesterday’s chapter in Luke’s Gospel ended with Jesus’ words that he was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. Today, chapter 5 outlines this work. We find that the kingdom of God is not brought about by smiting of enemies and dire warnings but by the invitation to follow, the healing of the sick, and the forgiving of sins.
The fisherman Simon and his colleagues James and John are amazed by the vast catch of fish after their night of catching nothing. Yet they are even more amazed by Jesus. They leave their boats and follow him. A leper is healed, and a paralysed man not only has his sins forgiven but is commanded to get up from his bed and walk. Levi the tax collector finds himself hosting a meal in which those who were outsiders are welcomed by Jesus, and he, too, leaves everything to follow Jesus. “And amazement seized them all” (Luke 5:26).
Yet these events are unsettling to those who feel they know the law and know how a good religious man should behave. The Pharisees and teachers of the law are disturbed by the words of forgiveness, perplexed by the healings, and outraged by the company Jesus keeps. This does not look like the holiness they understand—this does not look like the kingdom of God. This is new wine that demands new ways of understanding God’s kingdom and the people who are welcome in it.
What is your vision of the kingdom of God?
Are you sometimes like the Pharisees, holding on to your understanding and judging those who unsettle you? If Jesus called you, could you leave everything behind and follow him? And what would that mean?
Lord Jesus, you taught us to pray, your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to share your vision of that kingdom and through our discipleship play a small part in making it a reality in our world. Amen.