DEVOTIONAL GUIDE: The external gives way to the internal
The new reality created by Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension stands in contrast to the old reality of outward works and religious practices.
As we approach the last week of Lent, I'm reminded of Jesus' teaching that seemed veiled, or invisible, to the religious leaders of the day – many Jews and even those disciples closest to Him.
Jesus, in so many ways, was announcing that He, and He alone, embodied the Kingdom and that His Kingdom was an internal reality, not an external extension of religious tradition, laws or practices.
We see the disciples arguing about who will sit in places of honor with Jesus in an external, earthly kingdom (Mark 10:35-37). The Jews laid palm branches and cloaks in the path of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem a week before His resurrection (Palm Sunday).They hailed Him as "Son of David," a Messianic title used to denote Jesus as King – no doubt expecting Him to rise to power in a geo-political manner and free them from the influence and abuses of Rome. Their expectation and desire was for an external, earthly, visible kingdom.
Jesus’ first message following His baptism was "Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near" (Matthew 5:17). Later, responding to the Pharisees (religious leaders) who asked when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered "The Kingdom of God can't be detected by visible signs. You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you." Some translations say, "For the Kingdom of God is within you.” Here, Jesus begins revealing the true nature of God's Kingdom.
Just as Jesus embodied the Kingdom, so His people would realize that same reality on the day of Pentecost and thereafter (Acts 2:1-4). Every person who has been born again receives new life by the Spirit, and inherits this Kingdom; (John 3:1-8, Romans 6:4 & 1 Peter 1:3-9).
This is an internal reality: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). This newness works from within.
May we consider how God is using these past few weeks and weeks to follow as an opportunity to understand more fully the contrast between the former external, visible working of the law, religious tradition and practices of the old system – all the sights and sounds of Temple worship – and the new reality Jesus modeled, promoted and made possible through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
As we remain faithful and alter our activities to protect the vulnerable, realize that the Lord is with you. He loves the quiet, abiding, one-on-one time He is getting with you!
Contend for those who suffer. Pray often. Be at peace and rest in the Lord. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
John Arras is the Park Rapids campus pastor at Lakes Area Vineyard Church.