This Monday morning’s Moltmann minute, from the opening chapter of Jesus Christ for Today’s World:
Anyone who gets involved with Jesus gets involved with the Kingdom of God. This is an inescapable fact, for Jesus’ own concern was, and is, God’s kingdom. Anyone who looks for God and asks about the kingdom in which ‘righteousness and peace kiss one another (Ps. 85:10) should look at Jesus and enter into the things that happened in his presence and that still happen today in his Spirit. That is obviously and palpably true; for who is Jesus: Simply the kingdom of God in person.
The two belong inseparably together: Jesus and the kingdom of God–the kingdom of God and Jesus. Jesus brings God’s kingdom to us human beings in his own unique way, and guides us into the breadth and beauty of the kingdom. And God’s kingdom makes Jesus the Christ, the savior and deliverer for us all. So if we want to learn what that mysterious ‘kingdom of God’ really is, we have to look at Jesus. And if we want to understand who Jesus really is, we have to experience the kingdom of God.
–Jesus Christ for Today’s World, p.7
Most of us are familiar with the concept of Jesus being the Word incarnate, as the Gospel of John tells us. He is the word made flesh, the words of the prophets and the judges and the kings fully realized in human form. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). I love that Moltmann expands this idea to its theo/logical conclusion. Jesus is not only the Word made flesh, but is also, simply, the kingdom of God in person. In this one person, we see the fullness of God’s realm. And from his kingdom fullness, we have received “grace upon grace.”
There’s always a lot of debate about the kingdom in theological circles–what it is, where it is, how it is, and perhaps most ardently, what we should call it–and perhaps this is why I’m so drawn to the elegant simplicity of Moltmann’s words. All of those things are worth discussing (and of course M himself does so at more length in other places) but it’s very helpful to start by reminding ourselves that this idea is not some abstract strange possibility looming in the universe. It has come to us through the person of Jesus, who definitively showed us what it is, where it is, and how it is. If we want to get anywhere at all in our discussions about the mysterious kingdom, we have to look at Jesus.