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Luke 17.20-25 (The Message)
Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”
He went on to say to his disciples, “The days are coming when you are going to be desperately homesick for just a glimpse of one of the days of the Son of Man, and you won’t see a thing. And they’ll say to you, ‘Look over there!’ or, ‘Look here!’ Don’t fall for any of that nonsense. The arrival of the Son of Man is not something you go out to see. He simply comes.
“You know how the whole sky lights up from a single flash of lightning? That’s how it will be on the Day of the Son of Man. But first it’s necessary that he suffer many things and be turned down by the people of today.
There is a great danger in taking a few verses out of the Bible, on their own and out of context. The Bible is intended to be viewed as a whole not as isolated fragments. Today’s little excerpt of five verses itself is usually taken with the remainder of the chapter, but you have to wait until tomorrow to hear the rest and it is not for me to steal someone else’s thunder.
So, at least speaking for me, these daily reflections are not so much an exposition of the particular verses, but a series of thoughts inspired by the words. Last Sunday, in the parable of the ten bridesmaids, we heard that ‘we know neither the day nor the hour’ and we were urged to stay alert. Here Jesus faces an outright question of when does the Kingdom of God come?
Theologians love to ponder deeply on phrases and their meaning, and a lot of attention has been given to the sentence shown above as, Because God’s Kingdom is already among you. Some translations say, ‘within you’. And so, some argue, the kingdom is a spiritual, private, interior relationship with God. But Jesus never uses ‘Kingdom of God’ in that fashion.
Others say that it means the Kingdom is present, but hidden, secret and waiting to be discovered. That is better, but perhaps the best way to look at it is not that it is there just passively waiting, but that it is tantalisingly close. All you have to do is reach out and grasp it. It is not the sort of thing to sit back and wait and watch – you have to do something about it. You have to sign up for it.
The Kingdom is here among us – have you signed up?
whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of all:
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.