Luke 17:20-37 “The Coming Kingdom”
As we read this scripture, we realize that there are two distinct questions that the Pharisees are asking of Jesus: When? And Where? Simply put, they want to know where they should be when the Kingdom of God is ushered in. This is as if they are meeting an airplane at the gate. They want their boarding pass. They want to know if they have enough time to get a coffee a pastry before boarding.
One Tuesday as I was waiting to start the bible study at the Regency Puakea senior care home, the residents were in the activity room watching the “Family Feud” game show on the large screen TV. The question was put to the teams, “Name the top seven professions that will get you into heaven.” What do you think the number one response was? That is right, “pastor.” That was followed by “Doctor, Nurse, Teacher, and so on.” For real, Pharisee was not on the list. In other words, they may be waiting at the gate, but they are not going to be on that flight. Not just “when” and “where,” but also “who” must be asked.
The Pharisees have no idea among themselves how to get into the Kingdom of God. They are asking Jesus, therefore, when and where they need to be when the Kingdom is ushered in. I have to say, that I am surprised that they are asking Jesus this. They must have some small bit of faith in him that he would know the answer to their questions, right?
Now, we have what I will call a “double mallard,” which is also known as a “pair of ducks’ (paradox): Jesus states that it is not so much about your getting into the Kingdom of God but rather about the Kingdom of God getting into you! As strange as it may seem, the Kingdom of God starts in our own hearts. That is the “where.”
The answer to when the Kingdom should come is at that moment in time we accept Jesus into our hearts. Jesus is the King; where he is, there is the Kingdom. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Master, the King over our lives, then we are in the Kingdom, or more appropriately said, the Kingdom is in us.
If the Kingdom is inside of us, then it is quite invisible. People have been looking for the “when and where” of the coming Kingdom for millennia. I can share with you two truths about this search for the Kingdom. First, everyone who has predicted the time of the revelation of the Kingdom up until today has been utterly wrong. The other things is that today for sure we are one day closer to the time of the coming of the Kingdom.
In a personal sense, the Where and When for us who have the faith in Jesus is really the time when we have called upon Jesus as our King for the first time. When was that? I want you to think back to that time right now. Go ahead. If perhaps you cannot think back to that exact date, then let it be today that you accept Jesus as the Lord over your life.
Also, I know that some people get a little nervous when I start talking about that moment when Jesus entered your heart. I do know that for some it is as if Jesus has always been in your heart. You cannot recall a time when Jesus was not present in your life. I just want to affirm that. If you have had Jesus in your heart from before you can even remember, then you are just especially blessed. Praise God for your life having his Kingdom always inside of you.
So, beside this paradox that an entire Kingdom, and that being the Kingdom of God is invisible and in our hearts, we should remember that the things that do matter most in our lives are of that very nature that we cannot see them, hold them, touch them, but they are right here inside of us. All the love that we have ever known in this life, is not out there somewhere, it is in our hearts. Right? All of the comfort and joy, peace and glory, all these things that make life worth the living are planted in our hearts. So, of course the Kingdom of God should start there too.
Keeping this in mind, we run right into this other “double mallard” from Jesus. “Those who lose their lives will gain it.” That is even a greater paradox! This is the very story of the king himself. Jesus lost his life on the Cross. He was killed because another King thought that Jesus was going to replace him perhaps one day. When Jesus suffered and died on the Cross, he was dead for three days, then he rose again on the that day we know now as Easter.
Those who try to save their lives will lose it. That is the second part of the paradox. On Wednesday night I got home late from the family camp at Waineke. It was dark in the garage as I got out of the SUV. I closed the driver’s door so the light from inside the car went out, too. All of the sudden my attention was turned to a thumping noise. “Ga-thump, ga-thump, ga-thump,” I heard. At first I thought it was coming from the car, but then I could pin point the thumping to the corner of the garage. “Ga-thump, ga-thump,” the sound sped up as I got closer to it. Finally I could make it out as my eyes adjusted to the darkness in the garage. A frog was in the corner trying to escape by flinging himself against the wall. I just slowly backed away hoping it would stop trying to jump away from me. Nope it just continued on.
Okay, if you think you can escape this world on your own, knock yourself out! Everything and everybody will have to face death one day in this world. You cannot escape it. You are that frog thumping against the wall until you bring about your own demise.
Look around. The truth of the matter is that nothing lives forever. Maybe once in the Garden of Eden we did not have to see death, but since sin came into the world, everything dies. Nothing just keeps growing and growing, and growing. Well, I suppose we could say that our national debt keeps on growing! That was my quasi-political statement for today!
Christianity is not about unchecked constant growth. Jesus never even spoke about such things—ever. Think about the fact that Jesus is not some two thousand year old guy walking around because he never died. No! Jesus spoke about the natural state of things as we still see them today. There is death, and then there is rebirth, or we like to say “resurrection.” So, it is not “life, life and life.” Our faith informs us that there is “life, death, and life.” In this way we are assured that if we lose our life for Jesus’ sake, then we gain that life with him in the Kingdom.
I need to move to Romans 8:28 for a moment. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son, in order that he might be the first-born among the brethren. . . “ Jesus showed us the resurrection in his body, and in so doing gave us also the life that we could not attain on our own.
This last part of my sermon, I must be honest, I really do not want to talk about. We have looked at the questions of “when and where” for the kingdom of God, but the last question is “who?” In our scripture for today we see some numbers that need to be explained. Jesus uses the metaphor first of lightening filling up the sky. It is a wonderful metaphor for who can miss a giant lightening storm? In my wife’s home country of Malaysia, the lightening storms are so magnificent. This scripture brings back memories. Yet, the question is how many people actually get struck by lightening every year? The number I discovered is that you have a one in 500,000 chance of being struck by lightening. That is not a lot.
Jesus continues to explain about Noah’s Ark and how many were saved in that time. That would have been only Noah’s family. Only Lot’s family is saved in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lastly we are told of two women grinding flour and that one would be taken and the other left. The implication is that maybe half will not make it to the Kingdom of God. I still like the idea that half will make it rather than one in half a million.
Once after Jesus had been resurrected and the Apostle John was alone out on the island of Patmos in Greece, an angel came to him and shared a dream of the Revelation of Jesus at the time of the coming of the Kingdom of God. In Revelation 7:9 we read “I looked and behold a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. . . .”
That is my hope. I hope that we all get struck by lightening. I do not want to be missing those whom I have loved in this world when coming to the Kingdom of God, wither by their not being there or my own not making the cut.
You know, in the third grade, we all had to put our lunch pails into the closet until lunch recess. My mother always put a dessert in the lunch pail—cookies or a Twinkie. Many days, I would see that my dessert had been stolen. We could never figure out who had taken it. In the Kingdom of God, I am hoping to finally figure out who the culprit was, but if he is not there, then I will never ever know. Of course, if everyone from my third grade class is there except maybe one person, I might be able to figure it out that way, too!
Since I mentioned the picture of the Kingdom of God in the Book of Revelation, I think I should close with the image we get in Chapter 21 & 22. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, the new Jerusalem, . . .God will wipe away every tear from their eye, and death shall be no more. . . .”