Jesus tells us to proclaim that “the kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:11; cf. Matt. 10:7; Luke 9:2, 60), but what does that really mean?
We don’t get a straight answer to this question. Jesus describes the kingdom with metaphors and parables about ordinary, often seemingly insignificant things, like mustard seeds, bread, and fish.
Jesus also declares, “The kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17: 21). Here and throughout the gospels, we discover that the reign of God breaking in and changing everything among us is Jesus himself. As John Timmer explains, “Just as Jesus’ parables proclaim the kingdom of God, so does Jesus’ life. His entire mission—his life, teaching ministry, death, resurrection, ascension—proclaims the kingly rule of God. The story of Jesus discloses to us a new way of living that is marked by total submission to the rule of God. … At the same time Jesus is both proclaimer and proclamation of God’s kingly rule” (The Kingdom Equation, 12).
“Kingdom,” Eugene Peterson affirms, “is what Jesus reveals, patiently but insistently, word by word, act by act” (The Jesus Way, 21).
In other words, if we want to know what the kingdom of God is like (and how to proclaim it), we need to know what Jesus is like. Jesus is like a warm welcome (for the outcast and marginalized), a listening ear (at a well and on a road), trust extended (to fishermen and tax collectors), a healing touch (so the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame and the lepers leap, and the dead live) and a dinner table where dirty feet, deniers, sleepyheads, liars, and betrayers feast together.
So, if we want to bear witness to God’s kingdom come near, perhaps a good place to start is by paying attention to the people and places in our neighborhoods that look like Jesus—where kingdom things are happening—and join in! We join in, like Jesus, by welcoming the other, listening, caring, and enjoying the table with our neighbors and our own dirty feet. Perhaps in so doing we too will exclaim, “God’s kingdom is near!”