I’ve been reflecting on a passage in Luke 17:20-37 where Jesus responds to a question from the Pharisees. The Pharisees want to know when this kingdom that Jesus has been talking about is actually going to materialise. The Jewish people are expecting God to send them a heroic leader who will rescue them from the oppression of the Roman empire and restore them to their rightful position of being the head and not the tail. They are looking for political power and cultural domination. Jesus has been talking a lot about the kingdom of God but clearly the religious establishment of his day are less than impressed. This certainly isn’t the kind of kingdom they are hoping for. When Jesus says that “the coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed,” he is actually saying that the reign of God is not something that can be found through hostile interrogation. Once again, Jesus refuses to conform to our broken understanding of what God’s rule and authority look like.
And then Jesus says something stunning. He explains that the kingdom of God is not something that the Pharisees need to go looking for because it is already in their midst. He is literally saying that the rule and reign of God is already among them. He is, of course, pointing them to himself. He is saying, ‘look at me, this is what it looks like, this is what it’s like to live in and under God’s good and loving reign.’ In the rest of the passage, Jesus makes it clear that there is still a future judgement and that all is not yet complete and as it should be. But he is nevertheless saying that something of that future reality has already broken into our world and is currently walking around and living amongst them!
Of course, now that Jesus has ascended into heaven and poured out his Spirit in our lives, he sends us into this world in the same way that the Father sent him (John 17:18; 20:21). So when our friends, family, neighbours or colleagues ask where there is any evidence of a God who loves us and cares about this world, the response from Jesus is still the same. “God’s reign is among you,” he replies. And he gestures towards you and me. He points to lives that freely embrace his loving rule and authority. He points to disciples who embrace his holiness. He points to believers who move in power and authority through prayer. He points to his sons and daughters who willingly lay down their lives in service to the lost and the marginalised. Jesus has sent you and me into each and every aspect of our lives so that he can say to everyone we meet, “the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Pioneer Core Team Member | Training & Theological Development