A Surprising Kingdom

“Surprise” comes from Old French that means “to seize”. To be surprised is to be trapped for a moment — suspended, seized by a change so profound, so in contrast with the colors of the normal, so unraveling, that you’re compelled to simply stay motionless. Emotion follows.

It’s hard to surprise us anymore. Just a century ago, South America was almost unexplored, and before that the interior of Africa called. Whether it’s movie spoilers or information of any kind, we’re so connected it’s hard to be truly seized.

In our cynical age, surprise is almost always a let down.

What’s more is this sad reality: not all surprises, not all moments, seize us for the good. In our cynical age, surprise is almost always a let down. It’s spelled out in the pages of our life, and the pages of Scripture; a phone call with a diagnosis you weren’t expecting, the betrayal of a close friend, a deal that was too good to be true, sin that runs deeper — that runs generations.

But in a better way, the Kingdom of God is surprising. Followers of Jesus have every reason to be seized, to be captivated by this love. Think for a second — not just what God has done, but how He has chosen to do it — calling it all a “surprise” doesn’t come close to cutting it, but it’s a good description for the gospel.

But in a better way, the Kingdom of God is surprising

The circumstances of Jesus’ life alone — born in a musty cave, to parents rumored to be scandalously involved, that became a refugee family, with a humble workman for a father, living in a backwoods part of a far-flung Roman colony named Judea, dying a shameful death on a Roman cross outside the city gates, a hasty & rushed burial, all in a borrowed tomb— this is the culmination of God’s salvation, the installation of His Eternal Kingdom, establishing justice and securing forgiveness of sin, the sin of the world.

Beyond that, the very death of the Son of God — the darkest day in human history — was God’s bringing-us-to-Himself plan. Jesus allowed the power of sin, which is death, to swallow Him up so that He could swallow death in all it’s finality. Surprised? Are you seized?

Jesus’ Kingdom continues to be surprising. It calls the poor, rich. It calls the rich of this world, poor. It calls for repentance, while the world clamors for recognition.

Jesus’ Kingdom continues to be surprising.

To know our King is to know His love of surprises, to seize us with “grace upon grace” not just someday but also today. To accomplish in 10 seconds, what would take us 10 years, as John Piper puts it. To do more through our praying than our working.

The very surprises that marked God’s good-news-work in Jesus now, through His Spirit, should mark the lives of Christians — keeping us out of step with the world so we can witness to the next one.

We talk about being relevant in the church world, but don’t we serve a King who is delightfully & surprisingly out of step with the religious professionals, and right in step with good news to the poor, the scandalous, and the broken?

“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” writes Paul. What is more surprising than that?

Published by Jared Stacy

Jared is an American Pastor, writer, and PhD Candidate in Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

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