Ever since 9/11 we have become increasingly aware of the names of militant Islamic groups that are not our friends. Al Quida was one of the first names we learned. In the last two or three years we’ve heard too many times the name ISIS which committed terrible atrocities in Syria in their attempt for conquest. These groups have a vision of Islamic domination of the entire world no matter how long it takes or how many lives are lost. And we are all too well aware that groups intend to accomplish this vision through terror, bombs, and armies.
Today we sang the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers.” In that hymn we sing the words, “Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war. . .” and “Like a mighty army Moves the church of God.” We Christians also have a vision of the kingdom of Jesus Christ spreading through the whole world, and we sometimes use imagery of an army of God advancing and extending God’s kingdom as we do in this hymn. But our understanding of the kingdom of God and how it advances and grows in this world is far different than the Islamic vision of world domination.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Your kingdom come.” That’s really a petition asking that God would send his Holy Spirit with the power of the gospel so that we become believers in Jesus Christ, that we become even more faithful believers, and that many other people become believers in Jesus Christ as well. That’s how the kingdom of God grows.
Judas, not Judas Iscariot, the 11th disciple in our sermon series, in our text today expressed his desire for Jesus to reveal himself and his kingdom to the whole world and to establish his world-wide kingdom immediately. Judas was likely thinking of a kingdom in this world, a new Israel and glorious Israel with Jesus as the king. Judas’ heart was in the right place, but he needed to learn more about the nature of God’s kingdom and how it would grow in the world. So today we consider
JUDAS (NOT ISCARIOT) WHO WANTED GOD’S KINGDOM TO COME – NOW – AND TO THE WHOLE WORLD
In this text the gospel writer John is very careful to note that this Judas who spoke was not Judas Iscariot. He was another disciple with
the rather common name Judas. As a matter of fact this Judas had two or three names. He’s also referred to as Thaddeus and Lebbaeus. As we’ve noted with many of the disciples, it was not unusual for people to have more than one name, especially in an area where both Aramaic and Greek and sometimes even Latin were routinely spoken. Thaddeus could have been a surname or last name for Judas. Lebbaeus might have been a nickname for Judas possibly meaning courageous or tender-hearted. Perhaps Judas was meeker, more tender-hearted than the other disciples.
Judas wasn’t necessarily so meek in his desire for the kingdom of God to come. Jesus was speaking to his disciples in the upper room the night before he was crucified. He comforted his disciples by assuring them that he would send the Holy Spirit to teach them and strengthen them. He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Judas understood this expression that Jesus would show himself to them to be a promise that Jesus would reveal himself and his kingdom to the disciples. Judas thought Jesus should do more than make himself and his kingdom known to the disciples. He wanted Jesus to make himself and his kingdom known to everyone, to the whole world.
So he asked, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Certainly Judas understood that it was a wonderful thing that Jesus would reveal himself and his kingdom to the disciples and all who loved God the Father. But Judas wanted more than that – and so did the other disciples. He wanted Jesus to show the whole world that the LORD God of Israel is the true God. He wanted a new glorious kingdom of Israel to spread throughout and dominate the world. And we get the sense that Judas wanted that new kingdom of Israel right now.
We can see a couple of thoughts motivating Judas’ desire, one honorable and the other perhaps a little self-centered. From a positive and honorable perspective Judas most certainly wanted the name of the LORD God of Israel to be known and glorified and praised throughout the world. He wanted Jesus to show himself not just to this little band of disciples but to the whole world. And who of us would not desire the same thing – that the name of Jesus become known and believed through the whole world by everyone?
But the other more self-centered and self-serving idea motivating Judas’ desire would naturally come from a person who live in Judea and Galilee, in a nation that had been cruelly dominated for generations by the Assyrians and Babylonians and Persians and Greeks and Syrians and now the Romans. Judas’ request was a cry for freedom, a nation and kingdom so strong, so pervasive throughout the world, that there would never be a threat from an enemy again. We would probably have desired the same thing.
Jesus’ answer to Judas serves to guide him and the disciples into a clearer and more correct understanding of what it means that Jesus would show himself to them and have his kingdom come. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Jesus’ words were corrective and instructive. The kingdom of God had nothing to with the borders of Israel expanding until they encompassed the whole world. The kingdom of God was not a matter of armies conquering another nation forcing the worship of the LORD on its people. The coming of the kingdom involves one person at a time, one heart at a time, repenting of sin and turning to God for mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God extends wherever there is another person who becomes a believer in Jesus Christ.
There was also something very comforting in these words to Judas and the disciples. The promise of God the Father and Jesus coming to make their home with them, with any person, implies God’s love and mercy and forgiveness and bringing them into a perfect and eternal kingdom. Jesus was really saying, “Judas, you want the kingdom to suddenly come to the whole world. You want an earthly kingdom forced upon the world. I will give you something even better than that. My heavenly Father and I will come to you, reveal ourselves to you, live with you and in your heart. We will come to live with and in the heart of everyone who loves us. That’s how my kingdom grows. And my kingdom will be better than an earthly kingdom. It will extend beyond this world, beyond time, forever and ever.”
God wants his kingdom to come to each one of us. He desires to live among us and make his home among us. God lived among the Israelites in the holy of holies of the tabernacle. Jesus came to live for a while among us as a human being. He desired to live among us and have fellowship with us. But he came also that it would be possible for us to have fellowship with him. Jesus came to this world to live a holy life among us and to die an innocent death on the cross to atone for our sins. The sin and guilt that would have separated us from God have been removed in Christ, and now he can come and make his home with us, his kingdom can come to us.
We’re really a lot like Judas and ask some of the same questions. Why doesn’t God just make his kingdom come right now? Why doesn’t he just defeat all his enemies and force his kingdom on the world right here and now? Why doesn’t God just suppress all the sin and evil in the world and create a heaven on earth? And on a more personal level, why does God allow us to deal with the difficulties that we have in life? Why can’t the kingdom of God just come visibly now?
Those are difficult questions to answer. The answers exist only in the mind of an all-knowing, all-wise God. So let God be God, and let him build his kingdom in this world as he sees fit. What we do know is Jesus’ promise that he and God the Father will come and make their home with whomever loves God. The Father and the Son come with forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. They bring with them the kingdom of God. That’s how the kingdom of God comes. It comes to one person at a time.
Martin Luther in his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer petition “Your kingdom come” writes, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word and lead a godly life now on earth and forever in heaven.” What a privilege it was for Judas and the disciples to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his promise that he and God the Father would come to make their home among them and have the kingdom of God come to them.
But we really have the same privilege. The message of the gospel is readily available to us. The Holy Spirit uses that gospel so that he can come to us, forgive our sins, and dwell with God the Father and God the Son in our lives. Hear and believe the gospel. Let the kingdom come to you again and again. And look forward to that day when God will make his kingdom visible to the whole world, all enemies suppressed, sin and death destroyed forever, and Christ and his people will reign forever.
It is said that Judas brought the gospel to the city of Edessa in the area of Persia and that he served there for many years. One tradition says that he proclaimed the gospel to King Agbar and even healed the king when he had become ill. And it was in Edessa that Judas died as a martyr.
Jesus made his home in the heart of Judas, and now Judas makes his home with his Savior. To all of us who love our Savior, he has come to make his home in our hearts by faith. And we look forward to that day when his kingdom will come visibly and we make our home with him forever. Amen.