"Thanks," I said. "They're my Jesus Sandals."
"Jesus sandals?" He said.
"Yeah, Jesus told his followers to walk like Him. He wore sandals. So, I assumed he wants me to wear sandals, too. Makes sense, right?"
"Why, what do you think He meant?"
And on the conversation goes.
I've had that conversation at least a dozen times with boys, girls and even teachers. Nobody has any confusion about who's shoes I'm walking in!
72 Pairs Sent Out
Jesus once sent 72 of his sandal-wearing followers to go into towns where He was planning to go in the future. He wanted their visit to prepare the hearts of the people for His arrival. When they arrived in a town, Jesus told them to look for compassionate people to stay with while they visited the town. If they were unable to find anyone willing to invite them to stay, they were to leave the town.
Once they settled in a home, Jesus told them to go into the town, heal the sick, and tell them, "The Kingdom of God is near you now." Near, because they were experiencing the miracle of God's healing. Near, because Jesus would be visiting soon, pouring God's Kingdom into their town.
If they did not find a home to stay in, they were to shake the dust off their sandals as they were leaving town. And they were to say, "Know this--the Kingdom of God is near!" When it happened this way, I wonder if Jesus' followers said these words with anger or in tears. It meant that their sick would not be healed. It meant that this town would not accept Jesus when He came. And perhaps, it meant Jesus would not even attempt to enter their town because so many towns were willing to welcome God's Kingdom as it approached.
Jesus said He came to help the blind be able to see and cause those who thought they saw everything to become blind. These towns were a good example of what He meant. They thought they were doing just fine. They were making perfect sense of the world. Until the Kingdom of God came to town. They rejected Jesus' followers because they refused to see their own sickness.
Towns that recognised their sickness were reassured by receiving miraculous healings. This led to increased faith and desire for the Kingdom of God to come even nearer. And when Jesus came to town, the lame walked, the deaf heard, the blind saw and the dead woke up. In short, the Kingdom of God arrived!
How are we to understand the Kingdom of God being present, effective and powerful in one town and completely invisible and ineffective in a neighbouring town? It is as if there are two realities which are both fully real. People live in the reality they believe in most--the Kingdom of their choosing.
To help explain the concept of God's Kingdom being all around us, and yet unperceived by many, imagine we each have a reality filter through which we view the world. Like a volume knob on a stereo, we each have a slider that adjusts the depth-of-field of our reality filter. The further up the slider is, the more clearly we see the Kingdom of God. The lower the slider, the more earthly and carnal our worldview. The only way it slides up is if God nudges it and we, feeling the nudge, release our hold and allow it to slip into a new vision-field.
There are stories in the Bible that clearly show God changing the depth of field in individual's perception of reality. He adjusts the slider a notch either way, to demonstrate a point, and then takes things back to the way they were. Let's look at an example of each--a time when God turned things down a notch and a time when God turned things up a notch (or three!).
Our example of God turning things down a notch is found in Luke 24:13-35. It is the day of Jesus' resurrection. Two of his followers, believing Jesus to be dead, are walking home from Jerusalem. Jesus joins them on the road and they have a vigorous conversation. He explains everything to them, so much so that their hearts begin to burn within them. And yet, in a seemingly impossible twist, they do not realise that Jesus is Jesus. They think they are just talking to another man walking the same road as them. They didn't recognise Him until He said the blessing for dinner in their house, hours after He joined them on the road. Why didn't they recognise their friend, their mentor, their Messiah? The answer is blindingly obvious. Verse 16 says, "They were kept from recognising him." And Verse 31 says, "Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him." Jesus had pulled their worldview depth-of-field slider back a notch. They saw a man because that's all they were allowed to see. Then, when Jesus slid the knob back they saw Jesus, the King of Heaven--and they jumped for joy!
My favourite example of this worldview slider at work is found in the Old Testament. This time, God cranks the knob to full volume for some and for others takes it back a notch--at the same time!
The story is found in 2 Kings 6:8-23. Elisha, the prophet of God, is telling the army of Isreal every move the enemy army from Aram is about to make. When the enemy king hears of this, he sends his men to capture Elisha, alive, to bring him back and put him to work telling him the future, rather than his enemies. The army of Aram marches by night and surrounds the city of Dothan where Elisha is staying. Early in the morning, Elisha's servant goes outside and sees the massive army surrounding Dothan. In a panic he tells the prophet, to which Elisha says, "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
Can you imagine the look on the servants face? Two of us. Thousands of them. Has the prophet lost his mind?
Realising the problem, Elisha walks to a point where they can see the enemy army and the distant hills beyond. Then he prays, "Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see." On answer, God slides the servant's depth-of-field knob to full. Instantly, the servant sees the rolling hills all around come alight with armies--horses, chariots--of fire. Now he understood the prophet's lack of concern. The army of Aram was surrounded and outsized dramatically.
Then Elisha asks God to make another worldview adjustment--similar to the one Jesus made in the previous example--but this time for more than just one or two people. The prophet asks God to slide the reality knob back a notch for the entire army of Aram. God does and Elisha walks directly to the leader of the army, tells him this is not the right road or the right city and that if they followed him, he will lead them to the man they seek. Spiritually blinded, they could not see the prophet of God for who he was. They saw just another man walking the same road as them. Believing Elisha, they followed him through the army of fiery horses and chariots, down a long road, and into the city of Samaria where the king of Isreal was waiting.
Once the entire army was trapped in the city, Elisha asked God to put their vision back to normal. Suddenly, the army of Aram realises they are trapped and Elisha is standing right in front of them. Elisha then does a worldview altering trick of his own. He tells the king not to harm this army but to feed them and send them home. When the army of Aram returned home and told the king of Aram that they had been trapped, fed and sent home unharmed, the king of Aram stopped attacking Israel. Desert law, even today, states that one who has fed you in your time of need must be fed in return. In effect, a peace treaty was signed for the price of a meal, and two kingdoms stopped their fighting.
72 Pairs Return
When the 72 missionaries returned to Jesus, they had amazing reports to give. They told of the many healings and towns ready for Jesus to come into them. But the most exciting reports came because of something Jesus hadn't told them beforehand.
"Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!"
Jesus didn't seem at all surprised. In fact, he responded that even though demons do flee at His name, that is not what should be exciting. Jesus explains, they should be excited they are each registered as citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus was saying, "If you are casting out demons, you're operating by another Kingdom's power. Your actions prove, you are citizens of God's Kingdom. That should make you rejoice!"
Citizenship in the Kingdom of God isn't about where you are going, but where you are from. Your citizenship declares your allegiance, identity and values. Those who walk in Jesus Sandals overthrow the kingdom of this world as they walk through it--because they have been empowered by their King, Jesus, to do works in the power of His name, to the glory of His Father, and for the presence of God's Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. We have been commissioned to heal the sick and to declare, "The Kingdom of Heaven is near!"
After the year-end break, I returned to school alongside the students. I continued my habit of walking around campus each recess and lunch to have random conversations with students. In the second week, a year 8 girl walked up and said, "Still wearing your Jesus Sandals, I see."
"Oh," I said, looking down at my feet. "They're new. The other ones broke."
"Yeah," she said, raising her eyebrows, "but they're still your Jesus sandals, right?"
I smiled. "Indeed they are! Do you like 'em?"
"Yeah, they're cool."
She had understood, better than I realised, who I really am. My citizenship in God's Kingdom defines any footwear I choose as Jesus shoes.
Once a week, I take bread to school. The bread is leftovers from Baker's Delight. The students make short work of the 100+ rolls during recess. Then I put a display of larger loaves in the staff room for the teachers.
As I finished arranging the bread for the first time this year, I realised all three teachers in the room were new. I said, "This bread is for you guys. I bring free bread once a week. Please cut a slice whenever you want. Or, take a loaf home with you. It's here for you!"
They all nodded and said thank-you. Then, from the far end of the room one of the teachers said, "Where are the fishes?"
"Fishes?" I said.
"Yeah," he said. "You've multiplied the bread. Where are the fishes?"
I smiled and told him the truth. "I'm still in training. Small miracles. He just has me doing bread, for now."
Everyone had a chuckle. This time, just by serving bread, my citizenship was recognised and mentioned by one who inferred greater meaning in my simple gift than I had meant. While I'm still wrapping my head around this Kingdom citizenship idea, others seem to see it easily.
While introducing myself to a class, a student asked why I decided to become a chaplain. I explained to him that I love listening to people and helping them take the next step in being healthy and happy. Later, while walking around at recess, he came up to me and said, "I want your job when I grow up. All you do is listen to people and give them bread!"
I smiled and said, "I want my job, too. I'm changing the world!"