Luke 17:20-25 (ESV)
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
Jesus’ relationship with the Pharisees is not all that simple. They were often hostile to Him but not always. They had heard Jesus talk about the kingdom of God and so they ask him about it. It’s an honest question, which indicates that they’ll respect His answer. It’s not a trick question, nor an attempt to trap him.
So, neither is his response hostile. The NIV has this as, “The kingdom of God does not come with careful observation …” The Greek word here is para-tay-RAY-seos (παρατηρήσεως), which means more than just seeing. It carries the sense of watching or looking out for something.
They can’t see the kingdom of God even though it’s there in the midst of them right now. It’s almost as if Jesus is telling them that they can’t see it because they’re trying too hard. It’s like a lesson in the Zen of the kingdom of God. They just need to relax and stop trying to force their perceptions to conform to some preconceived agenda. Then they’d see the kingdom, and the king who’s been talking to them.
Then Jesus turns to the disciples and speaks about the future. The future will be the opposite; Jesus’ arrival will be as obvious as when the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other.
“But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
The cross is looming larger and larger as He gets closer to Jerusalem. His disciples don’t know what’s coming though Jesus keeps telling them.
The Pharisees couldn’t see the kingdom of God, even though the king was standing in the midst of them, because Jesus wasn’t the kind of king they were looking for. Now people can’t see the kingdom of God because they aren’t looking for a king at all. They see the church as some kind of commune.
The kingship of Jesus is central to what the kingdom of God is, and what the kingdom is all about. We preach this all the time but do we live it? When we evangelize, do we tell people that the point of joining the kingdom is serving the king?
Of course not. We tell people that becoming a Christian is the best thing for them.
It is the best thing for them, but that’s not the point. The kingdom of God is of God.
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