One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you. (Luke 17:20-21)
Relate: In response to the Pharisees question about the Kingdom, Jesus answered that it “can’t be detected by visible signs.” What is translated in the NLT as “detected by visible signs” is actually only one word in the Greek. That word is parateresis. It can mean “to observe closely”, “to pay attention”, and also “to research”. Although they get a bad rep thanks to their opposition to Jesus, it would be true and fair to say that nobody at that time in history was more actively looking for the coming of the Messiah than the Pharisees. Their study was in a very large part an attempt to recognize his coming. All the rules that they laid down on themselves and the people was in preparation for that coming. Even the name Pharisee means “those who set themselves apart.” They were citizens in hope of another Kingdom and they were so focused on trying to understand the when and how that Kingdom was to appear that they did not recognize its arrival.
Jesus says to them, “It is already among you.” The Greek word for “among” is entos and it actually means “inside” or “in your midst”. Matthew 23:26 uses the same word when Jesus tells us to first clean the “inside” of the dish. In that command He is using washing dishes as a metaphor for our spirit vs our flesh. He is saying: “Don’t worry about the outside, get the inside cleaned out first.” Take care of your spirit, because that is where the Kingdom of God dwells.
React: I come from a religious background that has used a particular phrase so often that it almost feels cliche’. That phrase is “the now and the not yet.” We say that the Kingdom has already arrived and yet we are still looking towards its arrival. This is all completely true, but almost as soon as we say it, we then completely ignore the “now” aspect and dig right into the “not yet”. I have known many teachers and leaders who just love to sit down with the books of Daniel and Revelation and run their speculations trying to match up current events with those apocalyptic writings. They have their ever evolving charts and timelines. They, we, are looking closely and are ready for Him to come even as we state that we cannot know the day or the hour. I’ve heard more than one man abuse this turn of phrase to then say, “but he didn’t say we couldn’t know the year”. Duct tape liberally applied to the lips is the best response to that idiocy.
All joking aside, we should be ready. We should be alert and sober and vigilant. But part of being alert means keeping one eye on the now, even as the other is looking for that not yet. Part of why it is so easy to get caught up in the not yet is because that lets us off the hook. If God’s Kingdom is within. If it is among me, if it is in my midst, then I have a responsibility. I have a sacred duty to advance His Kingdom through prayer, through action, and through my giving. I have work to do even though I know that it is so much more fun to sit back, buckle up, and wait for that ride to the sky in the sweet by and by.
Help me to know with my heart and my very being what I already know in my mind. Help me to have a greater understanding that Your Kingdom is here, now, in and through me. Help me to take up the responsibility that entails to be Your ambassador, to be Your representative. I am to be bringing You to everyone I meet. Help me to be a tool that will bring Your love and Your justice to my world.