Back in the 1950s, humanity entered into a great age of space exploration as the United States and the Soviet Union battled to be first to the moon. It seems to me that we are now entering into a second great age of space exploration as billionaires battle it out to see who can be first to establish a permanent outpost in space.
We don’t need to push our minds too hard to imagine a scenario in which one of these billionaires announces he is establishing a new nation somewhere beyond earth. We might imagine him making an announcement and saying, “This world is falling apart, the earth is collapsing under the weight of war and epidemic and pollution, so we are going to start over. We are putting out the call to help create Humanity 2.0. Join me as I found the Kingdom of Space.”
The billionaire who is founding this state might explain something like this: “This new nation will be better and greater than any nation or any civilization in the whole history of mankind. Because we are going to recreate humanity, we need to ensure we bring along only the best of the best—only the sharpest minds, only the most impressive personalities, only the most beautiful bodies, only the most accomplished individuals. We need the wise, the winsome, the winners, the well-to-do so together we can fulfill our potential and become all humanity can be. Come to me all who are mighty and self-sufficient. Bring in the rich and the beautiful, the impressive and the accomplished.”
Jesus, too, has founded a kingdom—the kingdom of heaven—and his kingdom could hardly be more different. It’s a kingdom where the call goes out to the low instead of the high. Its king says “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden,” and “bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” But even that’s not enough. He sends his emissaries to the halfway houses and drop-in centers and group homes and says, “Bring them all in!” If the human instinct is to build a kingdom upon those who are strong and mighty, impressive and successful, God’s instinct is to build a kingdom upon those who are weak and lowly, who are meek and merciful.
Keeping these two perspectives in mind, let me present you with two different visions for humanity. Let’s imagine now that our billionaire is ready to blast off to begin his Kingdom of Space. He has chosen the cream of the human crop to accompany him, and now together they are parading toward the great ship will that take them to their new nation.
At the head of the parade is our billionaire himself. He sits tall, proud, and resplendent in an open-roofed limousine. The crowds cry out their praise to this champion among men. Behind him come a whole host of winners of the Nobel Prize, each of them displaying their medal. Behind them walk the founders of the world’s great corporations carrying huge stacks of their money. Next are kings and queens, holding the scepters of their power. Next are athletes clutching their trophies, musicians displaying their awards, actors holding their Oscars and Emmys. It is a parade of the powerful and beautiful, the wealthy and accomplished, the influential and formidable. The crowds stand and applaud as these great people parade by. And soon enough they rise to the stars to found their new nation. But what they don’t know is that their kingdom, too, will end, for though it may be a kingdom beyond the bounds of this earth, it is still within the kingdom of this world. Their medals and scepters and money and trophies and everything else they cling to, everything else they count as a credential, will rust and decay and turn to dust.
But now let’s watch a second march. Let’s watch as the citizens of the kingdom of heaven pass by. At the head of them all come the humble, the ones who can barely lift their faces but can say only, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Their hands are empty. Next come people whose eyes are red with mourning over their sin and sinfulness. They too have empty hands. Some of them limp by on crutches, some roll by in wheelchairs. Behind them are the ones who are meek and the ones who have waged a lifelong battle to become holy. Watch now as people pass by who dedicated their lives to extending mercy to the overlooked and marginalized, then people whose hearts and hands have remained pure in a world that tempted them so sorely. Then see the ones who brought peace where there was conflict, and ones who stood strong even when they were hated and beaten. See how among them there are representatives from every nation, every tribe and people and tongue. See how they each have empty hands, see how each of them wears just a simple white robe, unadorned by medals or ribbons or regalia.
Last of all, comes a simple man all alone who looks despised and rejected. He has no form or majesty that we should look at him, no great beauty that we should desire him. He comes in the form of a servant; he is humble and lowly and riding on a donkey. Look carefully and you will see that his hands and feet are deeply wounded, that blood runs down his forehead from where thorns have been pressed into it. Listen to the crowds as they raise their voices to jeer and hiss and boo.
But look again, look closer, look with eyes of faith, and you will see that as he passes you by he is utterly transformed. Look and see that this lowly servant has become a king, a warrior whose name is Faithful and True. See that his lowly colt has become a mighty white horse, that his crown of thorns has become the crown of a king, that the crowds suddenly fall to their faces before him. See that as he passes by he turns and looks you in the eye and he opens his mouth and he says, “Follow me.”
And so, my friend, if you have not already done so, hear his call, heed his welcome, receive your citizenship, take up your place in his march and follow him into the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom that has now begun but which will never, ever end.