The Kingdom of God – Solidarity That Knows No Bounds

Jesus’ proclamation of Jubilee, ‘the year of the LORD’s favour’, was his response to this ambience. The Kingdom of God which he proclaimed was to bring about the great return, the ingathering of what had been scattered, the ending of the physical and emotional diaspora of God’s People. The Jewish people were fully aware of the call to solidarity, love of neighbour being as fundamental a commandment as love of God. However, where Jesus differed with most of his contemporaries, was in the matter of the limits of this obligation. Clearly, this commandment meant the honouring of parents, the love of family and friends and loyalty to the nation. But Jesus takes away all caveats: Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you; and when you have a party invite the lame and the poor, those who cannot repay the compliment; and (to the Rich Young Man), Go sell all you own and give to the poor and come, follow me.

Jesus ate with tax-collectors and public sinners. He broke the Sabbath regulations because healing was more urgent. He sat with the madman of Gerasa, who lived among the tombs. He touched the leper and allowed himself to be touched by women who were themselves variously ritually impure or notorious or both. No one in the Gospel receives a higher accolade than the woman who anointed him at Bethany: “wherever throughout all the world the gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told as well in remembrance of her.” (Mk 14.9) The leper is sent to show himself to the priests not because there is anything left to be done but because this will represent the completion of his cure, full membership of the People of Israel. Ritual purity, even moral purity, is replaced by the purity of Jesus’ welcome.

The Beatitude of the Kingdom, the forgiveness of sin, the joy of the wedding feast of the Last Days is conferred already with Jesus’ presence. And this foretaste becomes the promise of future fulfilment. The parables speak time and again of the joyful and dangerous crossing of boundaries: the return of the Prodigal, whose father runs down the road to meet him, forgetful of the past, the rich man compelling the poor and the lame to come into his wedding feast when the original guests refuse, the Samaritan enemy who turns out to be the hearers’ good neighbour, the vineyard owner who forgets the fundamental laws of economics and pays even the latecomers a full day’s pay, and, ultimately, the landowner who sends his Son, only to have him murdered by his wicked tenants.