How to Desire the Kingdom of God

In Mark 10, everyone wants the Kingdom and the King.  Just as in the rest of Mark’s Gospel, however, many people see the Kingdom through their personal idolatries.

In U2’s “The Wanderer,” the main character encounters people with such perverted conceptions:

I stopped outside a church house
Where the citizens like to sit.
They say they want the kingdom
But they don’t want God in it.

The very same dynamic is at work in Mark 10.  It’s not that some people want Jesus and some people don’t.  Everyone wants the Kingdom.  There are constant requests made of Jesus, and Jesus twice asks, “what do you want me to do for you?” (vv. 36, 51).

But there are good and bad ways of wanting the Kingdom.  There’s a desire for the Kingdom that keeps us from it, and there’s a way of desiring the Kingdom that allows us to enter it.

The Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce to determine whether they’ll follow him.  Their distorted reading of the Law allows them to maintain power in their marriages.  They want to hold the threat of divorce over their wives.  But Jesus emphasizes that both husbands and wives are responsible to love one another.

Entering the Kingdom demands power-surrender and self-giving love.

The rich young man wants the Kingdom, too, but he can’t give up his idolatries and goes away disappointed.  Entering the Kingdom demands living with an open hand, sharing possessions with others in God’s family.

Jesus’ disciples want the Kingdom for the promise of prestige and prominence.  But entering the Kingdom demands that we become servants to everyone.

Blind Bartimaeus is the only character commended in Mark 10.  His name, “son of honor,” is a standing reminder of how little honor he has.  He’s despised and treated dismissively by others.

Unlike everyone else in the narrative, however, Bartimaeus wants the Kingdom for the right reasons.  Though he’s blind and wants to have his sight restored, Bartimaeus is the only one with a proper vision of the King and the Kingdom.

He doesn’t want power, prominence, riches, or prestige.  He wants what Jesus is offering—restoration.

Desiring the Kingdom rightly demands love, power-surrender, servant-hood, and longing for restoration.

7 thoughts on “How to Desire the Kingdom of God

  1. jdmoser07

    Hey Tim,

    This reminds me vaguely of a homily you gave at Midtown a couple of years ago. Thanks for this post. Mark 10 is one of the most stirring passages in the gospel accounts for me, and I return to it often for the very reason you wrote this post: so that I/we may desire the kingdom rightly. Reading over it has become a liturgical practice of my own.

    I do have a thought with which I’d like your interaction/thoughts. I’ve been mulling over Jamie Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation” for a few weeks now and reading kingdom-texts like Mark 10, Matthew 5-7, and 18 — all the while thinking about the question of how we can embed the narrative seen in Mark 10 in the liturgical life of the church so that we might desire the kingdom rightly together. I’m not sure if you’ve ever read Smith on this subject, but what liturgical structures/practices do you think are most beneficial for generating churches who can desire the kingdom more deeply? Maybe this question will require you to reflect on what we did at Midtown.

    David Moser

    1. timgombis

      Hey David,

      Good question — I just write the posts, you gotta come up with the answers to those questions!

      It seems that every community needs to figure that out for itself. As an initial thought, I’d point out in Mark 10 the status-renunciation dynamics and the imagery of joining a new family. Jesus says that we must become as children (those with no leverage) in order to enter the kingdom and as a result of leaving all, we inherit an entirely new family.

      It seems to me that churches ought to cultivate practices that effectively draw upon and enliven these very dynamics–the equalizing dynamics that foster our family relationships. For example, eating meals together in ways that embody equality and cultivating other communal practices that lean into similar realities.

      How ’bout you — any ideas?

    2. timgombis

      Okay, a few more ideas. Regular communal prayers, including confession of sins, would remind community members of our need of God and his grace, and our need of one another and one another’s constant forgiveness. What’s more, leadership can establish regular practices of reconcilation so that conflicts regularly are resolved. That’s huge!

      1. David Moser

        I agree, especially with the practice of eating meals together. That reinforces a communal identity of equality and the dynamics of status-renunciation in Mark 10. All are together at the same table.

        I also tend to think that the community’s “space” largely shapes its collective identity, functioning a lot like liturgical structures themselves. The evangelical proclivity to choose spaces for worship in the wealthy suburbs, removing themselves from the poverty of the inner city usually steeps them towards indulgence and building-worship rather than shaping disciples who engage people from other socioeconomic backgrounds in a manner of embrace. Suburban megachurches tend to mimic the signs and symbols of the consumer culture in order to grow and regenerate by employing the same relational dynamics of consumerism. In all, I’ve begun to question the claim that the location, size, and socioeconomic orientation of the building really doesn’t matter in the forming of Christian disciples. I think we can choose spaces that are located in places that are unfamiliar to us, possibly generating disciples who embrace others from different classes and races in the way of Jesus more effectively.

  2. Pingback: Last Week’s Reading: Lent, Politics, and Rowan Williams. « New Ways Forward

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