Luke 17:20-37        “Don’t Go There!”

 

            As we read this scripture, we realize that there is one question that the Pharisees are asking of Jesus: When? Simply put, they want to know when they should be ready for the Kingdom of God to be ushered in. This is as if they are taking a flight on an airplane. They want to see the time on their boarding passes. They want to know if they have enough time to get a coffee and pastry before boarding. We all know that this question is moot because you never know how long it will take to get through the TSA checkpoint! 

            The Pharisees have no idea among themselves how to get into the Kingdom of God. They are asking Jesus, therefore, when will the Kingdom be 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? And they must have a huge amount of hubris to think that they are already cleared for boarding that flight. I think most of us would humbly approach Jesus with the question “if I will go to heaven.” These Pharisees are already into the "when will I go" frame of mind.

 

            Now, 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.

            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” 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 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.

This paradox that an entire Kingdom, and that being the Kingdom of God, is invisible and in our hearts, should makes us 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.

 

            So, the disciples are confused by this when Jesus says this. They immediately wonder where the Kingdom of God is. Reading their hearts, Jesus says do not go after those who say that that the Kingdom of God is here or over there. These people are always totally wrong. The latest in this cycle of false predictions are those who say that soon Artificial Intelligence on our computers will bring about the destruction of the planet. I remember my father saying that television was the end of the world. A lot of people have a lot of predictions.

            The important thing to note in this is that Jesus that we do not need to listen to those people because the End of Days will be as plain as a lightening filled sky! You all recall last month that vicious rain and lightening storm we had that one Saturday? You could not miss all of the flashes in the sky and the thunder rolling.

            So, honestly I do kind of imagine the End of Days being like that. Maybe not so bad actually. Do you know the sparkling tags they put on power lines? I have seen them all catch the evening sun all at once. It is really kind of beautiful. Everything above is sparkling. That is how I kind of imagine it. But, who knows? I also imagine it will be raining M&M candies from the sky—the peanut filled ones.

 

                        Keeping this in mind, we run right into this other paradox 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.

            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 cannot save yourselves. We need the Savior sent by God.

            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? 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, either 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. . .  .”

 

Amen.