God’s great universe is not an ethereal, fog-like realm way off in the clouds as a place we access in heaven or, if we’re among the fortunate few, in rare mystical experiences. Nor is it just ideas and principles that are true. It’s the ground of reality. It’s a place to live, the most wonderful place!, under the rule of Christ.
Though the Kingdom of God is unseen by our physical eye, we can know it as spiritual reality through personal experience. The way in is through putting our confidence in Jesus, seeing God and the universe as he does and growing in an interactive and personal relationship with God as Father through him.
Listen to the Heavenly Man
Jesus said that being alive in the Holy Spirit is like responding to the wind. We can’t see the Spirit-wind, but we can hear it and feel it and we can see its effects all around us (John 3:8).
In fact, we can learn to wait for and then join the activity of the Spirit just like the eagle who sits high on a mountain rock or a tree top and waits for a current of wind and then he rides on the back of the wind, letting it lift him and send him soaring so that all he needs to do is turn his feathers slightly to steer himself (Isaiah 40:31).
To the extent that we learn to live today in spiritual reality with the risen Christ, drawing our sustenance and identity from there rather than from our physical bodies and visible circumstances, we will not be overcome by the trials of life nor will we fear the cessation of our bodies. Instead, we’ll be learning to live on planet earth from the unseen heavens and will rejoice to one day completely leave this world for that glorious one.
Jesus, the “heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:49, NLT), says, “[The light of the Gospel that] is hidden is meant to be disclosed… Consider carefully what you hear… Whoever has [revelation] will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken away.” (Mark 4:22, 25)
Lessons on Spiritual Reality from Mark’s Gospel
We see many examples in the Gospels of Jesus illuminating “Little Faiths” like the disciples and us. Here are a few examples from Mark:
- Jesus proclaims his Gospel, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:15)
- He heals the sick with a touch and delivers people of demons with a word. (Many instances all through Mark’s Gospel.)
- Jesus teaches, “[The light of the Gospel that] is hidden is meant to be disclosed… Consider carefully what you hear… Whoever has [revelation] will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken away.” (4:22, 25)
- The fisherman-disciples panic in a life-threatening storm at sea while Jesus naps peacefully in the boat. Finally he calms the storm for them and then says, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (4:40)
- Jairus travels to ask Jesus to heal his daughter, but she dies on his way. Jesus says to him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Then he raises her from the dead! (5:36)
- A desperately sick and dying woman sneaks up on Jesus in a throng of people and touches the hem of his robe and immediately she is healed. She doesn’t just touch his robe she touches his person with her faith and so healing power comes out from Jesus! (5:25-34)
- He feeds five thousand with five loaves and two fishes that the disciples are able to scrounge up. (6:30-44)
- At night the disciples are caught in another life-threatening storm on the sea and Jesus walks on water to them exclaiming, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (6:50)
- He confronts the legalism of the religious leaders and teaches that the source of righteousness is not in rule-keeping, but in offering their hearts to God. The disciples don’t understand and he chides them, “Are you so dull?” He explains that uncleanness is not from eating pork but the evil thoughts in people’s hearts. (7:1-23)
- Again he feeds thousands of people with a few loaves and thankfulness to God (8:1-9)
- He warns the disciples about not eating the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Herod. Being literalistic and self-reliant, they feel guilty because they haven’t brought any bread. Jesus replies, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” He reminds them that he makes bread out of prayer. (8:17-18)
- Jesus tells his disciples that he will be abused and killed but will rise from the dead. Then teaches them to take up their cross, deny themselves selves, and following him, explaining, “What good is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (9:37)
- In his transfiguration he shows us the perfect and complete revelation of God in a human being, a glimpse of our future with him in eternity. (9:2-13)
- He teaches that we have to be curious, open, soft-hearted, and trusting to participate in God’s spiritual world, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (10:15)
- The Rich Young Ruler wants eternal life, but isn’t able to let go of the wealth he’s holding onto. Jesus teaches that the only way into the spiritual reality of God’s kingdom is to let go of worldly things and hold onto God. (10:17-31)
- Again Jesus predicts his death and resurrection, but the disciples can’t grasp this because they’re wanting him to bring a physical kingdom that will defeat the Romans. James and John even ask for the highest positions in the kingdom. Jesus explains that his spiritual kingdom is an inversion of the human order: “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:43-45)
- He shows the power of words spoken with faith in God when he curses a fig tree and causes it to whither and die from the roots up (11:20-26)
- He explains that the poor widow who put two cents in the temple offering put more than all the rich because only she gave her gift in reliance upon God. In other words, a lot from a person without anything from God is nothing at all, but a little bit from a person with a lot from God is HUGE! (12:41-44)
- He teaches that the way to overcome sinful temptations is not to try harder, but to watch and pray by anticipating a future trial and then rely on God to help you become a different kind of person on the inside. (14:32-42)
- Falsely condemned, betrayed, abandoned by those closest to him, scourged, and crucified on a cross, Jesus forgives and loves them all. When one of the centurions who abused and killed him and saw how he died the Roman exclaimed, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (15:39)
- The last verse of Mark (in the longer version) summarizes the story of Acts in which we see that the disciples have learned how to live in the physical world from the spiritual reality of God’s kingdom: “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (16:20)