The weakness of the kingdom
In the past couple of blog posts, I have talked about the weakness of the kingdom of God. By this I mean, the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed and inaugurated was a kingdom that was not impressive or powerful. Jesus came to an inconsequential Jewish backwater province as an itinerant preacher, without status, money or military might. He saw the need of the people, and sought to address it, but his kingdom was sorely understaffed. To the disappointment of his little band of followers, the movement he started did not expel the Roman conquerors. Instead, this humble king was arrested and executed as a criminal by these Romans. His poor, uneducated and apparently unreliable disciples, were deemed incapable of carrying on the vision of this upstart king.
But Jesus’ kingdom proved to be remarkably resilient and defied all expectations. Crucifying the King did not destroy the kingdom. In fact, the King’s power to save his people was actually expressed in his moment of greatest weakness.
The cross is not contrary to this King and kingdom, but the center of it. This King has power, but it is a paradoxical power, one of suffering and weakness.
Patrick Schreiner, The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross, p. 153.
But this principle of paradoxical power expressed through weakness is not only seen in Jesus. For many years, I have marveled at Paul’s characterization of his own ministry. On the one hand, he describes his apostolic calling and ministry in the most glorious terms. He compares what he is doing by the Spirit with what Moses did – and Moses comes in a distant second! See 2 Corinthians 3:6-11.
On the other hand, he describes himself as coming in weakness.
I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.
1 Corinthians 2:3
In the same vein, Paul frequently and at some length talks about the trials and hardships of his ministry (2 Cor 4:8-11, 6:4-10, 11:23-29). They almost overwhelm him at times (2 Cor 1:8). His thorn in the flesh will not go away, despite his fervent prayers.