Flashback Episode — Tapping into the Kingdom: Luke 17:20-37

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Have you ever wondered about something Jesus says?

I’m sure I’ve asked this question before, and I’ll probably ask it again, but it is one of the most appropriate ways of beginning this episode as this passage includes some of Jesus’ words that really make me wonder what He meant and what He was thinking.

There are plenty of places in the Bible that challenge me, and a number of these places are in the gospels themselves. Perhaps you’re like me and have been challenged by something the Bible says. We’re in good company, as most people who read the Bible are challenged in some way about what it says, and most of those who are not challenged are reading with a bias, and trying to find verses or passages to support their own agenda.

Our passage for this episode is one that has been misused and/or misunderstood by many people. It has sparked debate among people and has inspired a core belief many Christians hold close.

However, instead of looking near the end at the real touchy verses, let’s focus on the beginning verses that are often ignored because they are a little confusing. We’ll be reading from the gospel of Luke, chapter 17, and starting in verse 20, using the New International Reader’s version of the Bible:

20 Once the Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. He replied, “The coming of God’s kingdom is not something you can see. 21 People will not say, ‘Here it is.’ Or, ‘There it is.’ That’s because God’s kingdom is among you.”

In these opening verses to our passage, Jesus redefines what God’s kingdom is. The Pharisees were looking for a kingdom they could rally around – specifically one that would ultimately overthrow the Romans and give them their independent nation back. They saw Rome as a kingdom, and God’s kingdom must be similar.

But Jesus’ answer confuses them. God’s kingdom is not “coming”; it is already among you. Looking back at other places in the gospels, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist preached that God’s kingdom was “coming”, and even Jesus began by preaching that God’s kingdom was “coming” as well. But now, Jesus is telling these Pharisees that God’s kingdom is now among them, even though they cannot see it.

The question I ask myself first when reading this simple: If the Pharisees missed seeing God’s kingdom that Jesus said was among them, am I missing seeing God’s kingdom that is present today?

This passage pushes me to think a little deeper. God rules the universe, and technically speaking, everything is “His kingdom”. Because of this, Jesus must be talking about something different, or perhaps a different aspect of God’s kingdom that isn’t just His ownership of the universe.

Perhaps a key phrase is “among you”: “God’s kingdom is among you.” Jesus had been present with the disciples for a few years at this point, and Jesus might be referencing a deeper truth in His answer. Jesus might be saying something like, “God’s kingdom is wherever God is.” Since Jesus, a member of the Godhead, was among them, God’s kingdom could then be said to be among them – even if they didn’t accept or recognize Him.

When God is present, lives are transformed, hearts melt, and people return to God. Well, I should probably say that not all lives are affected in this way. When God is present, some hearts are hardened and those people openly reject God.

As I am talking here with you, I wonder if God’s kingdom is wherever the Holy Spirit is moving or present. I hope this to be the case, otherwise when Jesus returned to Heaven, God’s kingdom left with Him. God’s Spirit is not something we can see directly. Just like the wind, we cannot see it, but we are able to feel it and see its effects.

When God’s Spirit is moving in people’s lives, we see the effects I shared earlier: some people’s lives are transformed while other lives are hardened. Perhaps the polarizing of culture is due to the Holy Spirit drawing closer to this world, or maybe I could say He is “turning up the heat.”

As earth’s history moves forward, the closer Jesus’ return gets, the more urgent will be the need for revival, and the closer the Holy Spirit comes, the stronger the life transformation or life hardening will become.

If this is the case, then God’s kingdom is always among us, and it is always within our grasp being at most just a prayer away. Just because Jesus returned to heaven does not mean that God’s kingdom has left. Jesus promised that when He leaves, the Spirit would come and empower His followers. This began with the disciples, and it continues with His followers today.

Some people misunderstand Jesus’ words to mean that the Holy Spirit was not present while Jesus was on earth, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Holy Spirit was definitely present, but He was working in a different way when Jesus was alive on earth than He would be following Jesus returning to heaven. When Jesus returned to heaven, the disciples could then more fully receive the Holy Spirit’s power as they were Jesus’ representatives who were still alive. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they were commissioned to spread God’s kingdom throughout the world.

As followers of Jesus, we are to carry out the commission that Jesus started long ago, leaning into the Holy Spirit while spreading the great news of Jesus to the world. Where the Holy Spirit is, God’s kingdom is, and that means that His kingdom is among us – wherever we are.

So this is leads right into the lessons I want to leave you with at the end of this podcast episode:

Seek God and His kingdom first in your daily life; study the Bible and learn firsthand who God is and what He has blessed you with; and never quit moving forward with God on the adventure He created you to live!

Flashback Episode: Season 1 – Episode 33: Cam unpacks a challenging and often glossed over answer Jesus gives, and shares how it has importance for each of us today!

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