WHEN THE KING COMES INTO HIS OWN
“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he used to say to them, “This is the truth I tell you–there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste of death until they shall see the Kingdom of God coming with power.”
One thing leaps out from this passage–the confidence of Jesus. He has just been speaking of his death; he has no doubt that the Cross stands ahead of him; but nonetheless he is absolutely sure that in the end there will be triumph.
The first part of the passage states a simple truth. When the King comes into his Kingdom he will be loyal to those who have been loyal to him. No man can expect to dodge all the trouble of some great undertaking and then reap all the benefit of it. No man can expect to refuse service in some campaign and then share in the decorations when it is brought to a successful conclusion. Jesus is saying, “In a difficult and hostile world Christianity is up against it these days. If a man is ashamed under such conditions to show that he is a Christian, if he is afraid to show what side he is on, he cannot expect to gain a place of honour when the Kingdom comes.”
The last part of this passage has caused much serious thought. Jesus says that many who are standing there will not die until they see the Kingdom coming with power. What worries some people is that they take this as a reference to the Second Coming; but if it is, Jesus was mistaken, because he did not return in power and glory in the lifetime of those who were there.
But this is not a reference to the Second Coming at all. Consider the situation. At the moment Jesus had only once been outside Palestine, and on that occasion he was just over the border in Tyre and Sidon. Only a very few men in a very small country had ever heard of him. Palestine was only about 120 miles from north to south and about 40 miles from east to west; her total population was 4,000,000 or thereby. To speak in terms of world conquest when he had scarcely ever been outside such a small country was strange. To make matters worse, even in that small country, he had so provoked the enmity of the orthodox leaders and of those in whose hands lay power, that it was quite certain that he could hope for nothing other than death as a heretic and an outlaw. In face of a situation like that there must have been many who felt despairingly that Christianity had no possible future, that in a short time it would be wiped out completely and eliminated from the world. Humanly speaking, these pessimists were right.
Now consider what did happen. Scarcely more than thirty years later, Christianity had swept through Asia Minor; Antioch had become a great Christian church. It had penetrated to Egypt; the Christians were strong in Alexandria. It had crossed the sea and come to Rome and swept through Greece. Christianity had spread like an unstoppable tide throughout the world. It was astonishingly true that in the lifetime of many there, against all expectations, Christianity had come with power. So far from being mistaken, Jesus was absolutely right.
The amazing thing is that Jesus never knew despair. In face of the dullness of the minds of men, in face of the opposition, in face of crucifixion and of death, he never doubted his final triumph–because he never doubted God. He was always certain that what is impossible with man is completely possible with him.
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