I heard a darling—and revolutionary—story.
A mother tells of her four year old at the dinner table, eating pizza.
“Pass the cheese,” says the child.
Looking to instill a sense of manners, the mother says, “What’s the magic word?”
“NOW!” says the kid.
That’s bad manners, but very good theology. Most of us are so spiritually polite. We know all about the life of God on offer right here, right now. We may not be experiencing that life right this moment, but we know it’s there . . . theoretically. But we’re not about to press the matter, insist that we drink the new wine of the kingdom now. One day, maybe in the after life, we’ll taste it.
This instantaneous, right-now presence of God Jesus called “the kingdom.” And when people tried to postpone or re-schedule this life, Jesus was not even polite.
Jesus said to another, “Follow me.”
He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”
Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”
Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”
Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”
(Luke 9:59-62 The Message)
Jesus was fierce about this present moment. The kingdom was now, and only now.
It was like a bolt of lightning that startles us, in the white phosphorescent light of which we see the world with stunning clarity—but only for an instant. He says:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)
This “kingdom of heaven” is no picture of the sweet by and by. It is a single, arresting image of a man discovering something so precious he will shed everything to have it—now!
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)
These are people gone mad for beauty, for glory. They live with an urgency frightening to staid people because they refuse to postpone the sheer pleasure of being in-God. They seek one thing and they will have it now.
And—they are not exactly well mannered. Like the little girl who wanted the cheese, they know the magic word.