By: Sylvia Reynolds-Blakely
There is a shift happening.
Look closely and you can see the arrival of the "upside down" Kingdom of God manifesting. What exactly do I mean by that? Jesus was born at a time when the Jews were experiencing domination by the Roman Empire. After decades of persecution and uprisings, they longed for the promised Messiah to physically deliver them from the hands of their Roman occupiers. They expected someone whom they believed would have the earthly power to overthrow the oppressive regime, thereby granting them the authority to rule themselves. Little did they know that in their midst was the Son of the Living God with all power and authority to do that – just not in the way they expected.
Let's start by looking at Luke's account of Jesus after His 40-day fast in the desert. In chapter 4 verse 18 (NKJV), Jesus, ministering in the full power of the Holy Spirit, chose to proclaim a specific passage from the book of Isaiah in his home synagogue. Verses 18 and 19 say, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” When He was finished, He closed the book because He knew what He had just spoken into the rabbis’ hearing was becoming reality. And because His Word cannot return void, what He proclaimed has to come to pass.
God's Word is now going out to more of the poor and brokenhearted through electronic media than could have been imagined just a few years ago. God’s called are hungrier than ever for the preached and taught Word as the acceptable year of the Lord draws near.
Let's go to Matthew's account of Jesus' post fast experience. Again, as Jesus walked in His Holy Spirit derived power, the crowds were drawn near to Him. Jesus proclaimed in chapter 5 verses 3-12 (NKJV) what we call the Beatitudes or the Blessings:
3. Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4. Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5. Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7. Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8. Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9. Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
It is clear that Jesus means to raise up those who have been seen as the "least of these" and see them blessed. When He says the first shall be last and the last first (Luke 13:30 CEV), it is a declaration. When He says to the rich and powerful in Luke chapter 6 verses 24-26 (CBEV) that they have all of the reward they will ever receive, He is challenging all of us to beware of our reliance on our earthly status. The false prophets of old thought their stature and status would save them; Jesus assured them it would not.
We are seeing a flip in who has a say and who is being seen and heard. The inheritance of the earth is occuring for those who have been meek and left behind. The poor in spirit are gaining heart. What Christ preached as our future is beginning to be revealed right here in this exceptional country, and I believe we are being invited to partner with God to execute His plan. Why do I believe this? The fight for justice has become a battle cry for those who have never actually experienced injustice but who know, either by instinct or good upbringing, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said. People who seemed invisible (even to themselves) are beginning to see a hope and a future that includes them. This is no small thing. Each of us have a stake in seeing who we can be when revealed by God's plan.
Will the upside down 'reveal' be embraced by many who fear the future simply because it looks different than the past? Probably not. Power shifts threaten people in power. In Luke 20:46-47 (CEV), Jesus exposed the lure and corrupting influence of position and power when He called out the prominent teachers of the law of Moses. Jesus understood and taught this in intimate dinner settings in Luke chapter 14, verses 7-14 (CEV), where He counseled the rich and important to humbly make room at the table for everyone in order to receive God's blessing. He was unafraid to speak truth to the power holders or to speak life over those without any. Again in Luke chapter 18:22, 29 (CEV), Jesus was very clear about the process for becoming richer both in this life and the next: sell what you own and detach from those things and people who do not feed you as He can feed you.
How do we help disciple people while these rough waters of change swirl around us? This is where love + grace powered by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God will have to shepherd us through. Fear, hate, and intimidation have already been tried and, of course, have failed miserably. Love simply has to overwhelm hate and fear in every encounter. God's truth has to overwhelm lies wherever they are told. We know this because light consumes darkness, not the other way around (Luke 11:36 CEV). These are uncharted waters for our nation; humility, even towards our God whom we proclaim to trust, has never been our strong suit. If each of us begins to let the light in our heart shine, the nation will become more radiant. Yes, that light will reveal the dividing lines in some areas as the inversion comes to pass, but Christ promised divisions between those who believe in Him and those who do not (Luke 12:53 CEV). Those who have not been called by God simply won't understand or accept the Kingdom. Some have already abandoned the Jesus of the Bible for the Jesus of their own making. But when He comes again, none of that will matter because His Word will be fully actualized, and the upside down Kingdom will be apparent to all. I pray we are ready, but ready or not His Word will come to pass. Amen and Amen.