I’ve been having a great discussion with some Buddhist friends from Singapore. Among other things, we’ve been discussing some differences and similarities between Jesus and Buddha, and what the end game of each was. During a great Facebook thread, one asked, “What was Jesus’ point?” In other words, if you could sum up Jesus in a Tweet, what would it be?
My first thought was, “Wow – what a great question!” Few ever even ask. Fewer answer it adequately. Theologian Gordon Fee used to ask his students in a word or a sentence to tell him what is essential to understanding Jesus. They would respond, typically, with things like love, justification by faith, and other things taught in church. They were wrong. In fact, every year more than 90% of his Christian students would get it wrong – alarming since he taught in Christian schools.
Fee’s point in the exercise was to get his students focused on “kingdom,” and then of course what that means. Fee would argue (scream actually), that “you can’t understand Jesus until you understand what he meant by kingdom.”
As one can imagine, I was hesitant to respond as the weight of trying to sum up the complexities that surround Jesus can seem overwhelming. But then I thought, no – it’s simple. It’s always been simple. That’s why “anyone” could grasp the Good News. That’s the beauty of Jesus’ Good News.
My response was this, and is borrowed heavily from Dallas Willard. What was Jesus’ point: to invite us and to teach us to live in God’s world (what he called the kingdom of the heavens). It is available to us, right now.
God wants to be in relationship with us in what Jesus called the kingdom. It’s the kingdom of God’s reality – where one thinks and lives in a godly manner with wisdom, compassion, truth, love, and power – amazing power. It can start now. There is no waiting. It’s an empire that lasts forever. It does not erode, crumble, or fall. We’re shown that we can trust God no matter what. The list goes on of course, but the message has always been a simple invitation. He reigns.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson